Open Educational Resources

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= The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for noncommercial purposes. - Unesco 2002 [1]


Intro at


0. From the Wikipedia:

"Open educational resources (OER)[1] are teaching, learning, and research materials intentionally created and licensed to be free for the end user to own, share, and in most cases, modify.[2] The term "OER" describes publicly accessible materials and resources for any user to use, re-mix, improve, and redistribute under some licenses.[3] These are designed to reduce accessibility barriers by implementing best practices in teaching and to be adapted for local unique contexts.[4][5]

The development and promotion of open educational resources is often motivated by a desire to provide an alternative or enhanced educational paradigm."


1. Stephen Downes:

Open educational resources are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone. [2], p. 133

Important: please read, Defining Open Educational Resources. by Stephen Downes.


Open Educational Resources are defined as "technology-enabled, open provision of educational resources for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes". They are typically made freely available over the Web or the Internet. Their principal use is by teachers and educational institutions support course development, but they can also be used directly by students. Open Educational Resources include learning objects such as lecture material, references and readings, simulations, experiments and demonstrations, as well as syllabi, curricula and teachers’ guides."


3. The Industrial Cooperation Project:

"The philosophy of open educational resources (OER) places educational materials as common and public goods from which all should benefit, especially those who receive the least benefit and support from current systems of education (whether publicly or privately funded). This view is supported by the notion that sees knowledge itself as a collective social product that naturally forms a commons. OER's philosophy finds fertile ground to bloom on the Internet, where the expansion of digital technologies ruptures pre-network barriers of space, time, and money, allowing socially beneficial consequences such as new forms of knowledge production and distribution to emerge.

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration addresses this philosophy by stating three main strategies for the OER community:

  • Collaborative production: Educators and students are encouraged to participate in creating, using, adapting, and improving
  • Open content licenses: OER should be freely shared through open licenses, which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement, and sharing.
  • Open education policy: Governments, school boards, colleges, and universities should ideally make taxpayer-funded educational resources OER. (Cape Town Open Education Declaration 2008)

That said, the definition of OER currently most often used is “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research” (CERI 2007, 38). "OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licenses" (CERI 2007, 10)."


Recent History of the definition of OER

From the Wikipedia:

“Often cited is the 2007 report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation which defined OER as "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. "The Foundation later updated its definition to describe OER as "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions." Of note in that definition is the explicit statement that OER can include both digital and non-digital resources, as well as the inclusion of several types of use that OER permit, inspired by 5R activities of OER. In a 2022 overview of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's activities supporting open education since 2002, the Foundation describes OER as "freely licensed, remixable learning resources", further including the Creative Commons definition of OER as "teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities – retaining, remixing, revising, reusing and redistributing the resources.”


Tensions within the OER definitions

From the Wikipedia:

“The tensions that exist with OER:

  • Nature of the resource: Several of the definitions above limit the definition of OER to digital resources, while others consider that any educational resource can be included in the definition.
  • Source of the resource: While some of the definitions require a resource to be produced with an explicit educational aim in mind, others broaden this to include any resource which may potentially be used for learning.
  • Level of openness: Most definitions require that a resource be placed in the public domain or under a fully open license. Others require only that free use to be granted for educational purposes, possibly excluding commercial uses.

These definitions also have common elements, namely they all:

  1. cover use and reuse, repurposing, and modification of the resources;
  2. include free use for educational purposes by teachers and learners
  3. encompass all types of digital media

There is also a tension between entities which find value in quantifying usage of OER and those which see such metrics as themselves being irrelevant to free and open resources. Those requiring metrics associated with OER are often those with economic investment in the technologies needed to access or provide electronic OER, those with economic interests potentially threatened by OER, F or those requiring justification for the costs of implementing and maintaining the infrastructure or access to the freely available OER. While a semantic distinction can be made delineating the technologies used to access and host learning content from the content itself, these technologies are generally accepted as part of the collective of open educational resources.“



As proposed by David Wiley, and include:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)"


Graphic representation here: [3]


Norm Friesen [4] details two approaches:

The Wiki Model

"The first OER model we discuss is the creation of open educational content from scratch in online Wiki environments specially designed for the organization and collaborative development of such resources. The Wiki-based approach is primarily associated with the Wikiversity and WikiEducator initiatives. Both initiatives were founded in 2006 and share many points of commonality in terms of process, form and content.

Wikiversity was launched with the aim of “...empower[ing] people to achieve their educational goals using resources produced by the free culture movement. The to create a community of people who support each other in their educational endeavors.” WikiEducator has set itself a slightly more ambitious and specific task: To work “collaboratively with the Free Culture Movement towards a free version of the education curriculum by 2015.” It is significant that both make clear reference to the free culture movement associated primarily with Creative Commons and other alternatives to common copyright restrictions. WikiEducator departs from Wikiversity in emphasizing the development of contents for formal education.

WikiEducator and Wikiversity are not limited to addressing post-secondary learning needs, but are designed to serve many educational levels. Both provide separate portals for primary, secondary, tertiary, and other categories of education. Wikiversity's portals offer a number of resources such as courses, discussions, essays, handouts, lesson plans, presentations, reading groups, study guides and syllabi. WikiEducator's portals contain a variety of resources with varying forms of organization and content types.

The ambitious range of resources, services and educational forms and levels encompassed by Wikiversity and WikiEducator is evident in their recent articulations of their surprisingly congruent primary priorities and goals:

build capacity in the use of Mediawiki and related free software technologies for mass-collaboration in the authoring of free content (WikiEducator, 2009)

create and host a range of free–content, multilingual learning materials and resources, for all age groups in all languages (Wikiversity, 2006)

WikiEducator is sponsored, in part, by the Commonwealth of Learning, “an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.” WikiEducator places significant emphasis on international development. Wikiversity is a brainchild of the Wikimedia Foundation, which is also responsible for Wikipedia. Wikiversity and Wikipedia currently share eight sister projects ranging from Wikimedia Commons to Wikispecies. Wikiversity aims for an impact that could not be more general and widespread, covering both formal and informal types of education, for learners in wealthy as well as developing countries.

Wikiversity and especially WikiEducator sponsor workshops to build capacity and enable volunteers to create content using the Mediawiki content development and management software. At the time of writing, WikiEducator has delivered over 100 workshops to over 2,000 participants. Wikiversity boasts that it has over “10,537 learning resources and growing”.

The Open Courseware Model and MIT

The second approach we discuss is the conversion of existing classroom course content to make it freely available on the Web. MIT's OCW initiative focuses on the conversion of conventional classroom resources. Announced in 2001, the project's goals were originally described in the press as follows: "[MIT] announced plans to post on the Internet materials for nearly all of its courses. Access to the materials, which will include lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments, will be open to the public and free of charge. The information posted could be used as reference material, as a source for curriculum development, or as a foundation for independent study".

This approach to OER has met with considerable success. MIT met its own ambitious goal of posting “virtually all” of its courses online by 2007. The MIT project is also noteworthy for its emphasis on MIT's own institutional products and for being one of the few early, high-profile online initiatives announced by a campus-based institution to survive to the present day. The project effectively pioneered the notion of free access to course materials, and popularized the term “open courseware.” The OCW Consortium, founded in 2005, takes MIT’s OCW approach to a consortial level, bringing together MIT’s courses with those of many other universities internationally. At the time of writing, this consortium includes over 200 members and affiliates and has brought together about 10,000 courses. The consortium defines its principle goals as follows:

  • extend the reach and impact of open courseware by encouraging the adoption and adaptation of open educational materials around the world
  • foster the development of additional open courseware projects
  • ensure the long-term sustainability of open courseware projects by identifying ways to improve effectiveness and reduce costs"



Read: the current state of OER, at

A Brief History of OER

In 1994 Wayne Hodgins coined the term "learning object" and this term quickly entered the vernacular of educators and instructional designers. One role of learning objects in the history of OER is its popularization of the idea that digital materials can be designed and produced in such a manner as to be reused easily in a variety of pedagogical situations. Along with its emphasis on reuse, the learning object movement spawned several standards efforts aimed at detailing metadata, content exchange, and other standards necessary for users to find and reuse digital educational content (ARIADNE, IMS, IEEE LTSC / LOM, SCORM, &c.).

In 1998 David Wiley coined the term "open content" and while targeted at the educational community (and learning object creators specifically), the term quickly entered the vernacular of internet users. One role of open content in the history of OER is its popularization of the idea that the principles of the open source / free software movements can be productively applied to content, and the creation of the first widely adopted open license for content (the Open Publication License).

In 2001 Larry Lessig and others founded the Creative Commons and released a flexible set of licenses that were both a vast improvement on the Open Publication License’s confusing license option structure and significantly stronger legal documents. One role of Creative Commons in the history of OER is the increase in credibility and confidence their legally superior, much easier to use licenses brought to the open content community.

Also in 2001 MIT announced its OpenCourseWare initiative to publish nearly every university course for free public access for noncommercial use. MIT OpenCourseWare has played many roles in the history of OER, including being an example of commitment at an institutional level, working actively to encourage similar projects, and lending the MIT brand to the movement.

Finally, in 2002 UNESCO held a Forum comprised of some of the many people who "wish[ed] to develop together a universal educational resource available for the whole of humanity". (


Overview of projects by the Wikipedia:

"SkillsCommons was developed in 2012 under the California State University Chancellor's Office and funded through the $2 billion U.S. Department of Labor's TAACCCT initiative. Led by Assistant Vice Chancellor, Gerard Hanley, and modeled after sister project, MERLOT, SkillsCommons open workforce development content was developed and vetted by 700 community colleges and other TAACCCT institutions across the United States. The SkillsCommons content exceeded two million downloads in September 2019 and at that time was considered to be the world's largest repository of open educational and workforce training materials.

A parallel initiative, OpenStax CNX (formerly Connexions), came out of Rice University starting in 1999. In the beginning, the Connexions project focused on creating an open repository of user-generated content. In contrast to the OCW projects, content licenses are required to be open under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY) license. The hallmark of Connexions is the use of a custom XML format CNXML, designed to aid and enable mixing and reuse of the content.

In 2012, OpenStax was created from the basis of the Connexions project. In contrast to user-generated content libraries, OpenStax hires subject matter experts to create college-level textbooks that are peer-reviewed, openly licensed, and available online for free.[101] Like the content in OpenStax CNX, OpenStax books are available under Creative Commons CC BY licenses that allow users to reuse, remix, and redistribute content as long as they provide attribution. OpenStax's stated mission is to create professional grade textbooks for the highest-enrollment undergraduate college courses that are the same quality as traditional textbooks, but are adaptable and available free to students.[101]

Other initiatives derived from MIT OpenCourseWare are China Open Resources for Education and OpenCourseWare in Japan. The OpenCourseWare Consortium, founded in 2005 to extend the reach and impact of open course materials and foster new open course materials, counted more than 200 member institutions from around the world in 2009.[102]

OER Africa is an initiative established by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) to play a leading role in driving the development and use of OER across all education sectors on the African continent.[103] The OER4Schools project focusses on the use of Open Educational Resources in teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa.

Wikiwijs (the Netherlands) was a program intended to promote the use of open educational resources (OER) in the Dutch education sector;[104]

The Open Educational Resources Programme (phases one[105] and two[106]) (United Kingdom) was funded by HEFCE, the UK Higher Education Academy and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), which has supported pilot projects and activities around the open release of learning resources, for free use and repurposing worldwide.

In 2003, the ownership of Wikipedia and Wiktionary projects was transferred to the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to collect and develop free educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally. Wikipedia ranks in the top-ten most visited websites worldwide since 2007.

OER Commons was spearheaded in 2007 by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), a nonprofit education research institute dedicated to innovation in open education content and practices, as a way to aggregate, share, and promote open educational resources to educators, administrators, parents, and students. OER Commons also provides educators tools to align OER to the Common Core State Standards; to evaluate the quality of OER to OER Rubrics; and to contribute and share OERs with other teachers and learners worldwide. To further promote the sharing of these resources among educators, in 2008 ISKME launched the OER Commons Teacher Training Initiative, which focuses on advancing open educational practices and on building opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning.

One of the first OER resources for K-12 education is Curriki. A nonprofit organization, Curriki provides an Internet site for open-source curriculum (OSC) development, to provide universal access to free curricula and instructional materials for students up to the age of 18 (K-12). By applying the open source process to education, Curriki empowers educational professionals to become an active community in the creation of good curricula. Kim Jones serves as Curriki's Executive Director.[107]

In August 2006 WikiEducator was launched to provide a venue for planning education projects built on OER, creating and promoting open education resources (OERs), and networking towards funding proposals.[108] Its Wikieducator's Learning4Content project builds skills in the use of MediaWiki and related free software technologies for mass collaboration in the authoring of free content and claims to be the world's largest wiki training project for education. By 30 June 2009 the project facilitated 86 workshops training 3,001 educators from 113 countries.[109]

Between 2006 and 2007, as a Transversal Action under the European eLearning Programme, the Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) project carries out a set of activities that aim at fostering the creation, sharing and re-use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in Europe and beyond. The main result of OLCOS was a Roadmap,[110] in order to provide decision makers with an overview of current and likely future developments in OER and recommendations on how various challenges in OER could be addressed.[111]

Peer production has also been utilized in producing collaborative open education resources (OERs). Writing Commons, an international open textbook spearheaded by Joe Moxley at the University of South Florida, has evolved from a print textbook into a crowd-sourced resource for college writers around the world.[112] Massive open online course (MOOC) platforms have also generated interest in building online eBooks. The Cultivating Change Community (CCMOOC) at the University of Minnesota is one such project founded entirely on a grassroots model to generate content.[113] In 10 weeks, 150 authors contributed more than 50 chapters to the CCMOOC eBook and companion site.[114]

In 2011–12, academicians from the University of Mumbai, India, created an OER Portal with free resources on Micro Economics, Macro Economics, and Soft Skills – available for global learners.[115]

Another project is the Free Education Initiative from the Saylor Foundation, which is currently more than 80% of the way towards its initial goal of providing 241 college-level courses across 13 subject areas.[116] The Saylor Foundation makes use of university and college faculty members and subject experts to assist in this process, as well as to provide peer review of each course to ensure its quality. The foundation also supports the creation of new openly licensed materials where they are not already available as well as through its Open Textbook Challenge.[117]

In 2010 the University of Birmingham and the London School of Economics worked together on the HEA and JISC funded DELILA project, the main aim of the project was to release a small sample of open educational resources to support embedding digital and information literacy education into institutional teacher training courses accredited by the HEA including PGCerts and other CPD courses.[118] One of the main barriers that the project found to sharing resources in information literacy was copyright that belonged to commercial database providers[119]

In 2006, the African Virtual University (AVU) released 73 modules of its Teacher Education Programs as open education resources to make the courses freely available for all. In 2010, the AVU developed the OER Repository which has contributed to increase the number of Africans that use, contextualize, share and disseminate the existing as well as future academic content. The online portal serves as a platform where the 219 modules of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, ICT in education, and teacher education professional courses are published. The modules are available in three different languages – English, French, and Portuguese – making the AVU the leading African institution in providing and using open education resources[120]

In August 2013, Tidewater Community College become the first college in the U.S. to create an Associate of Science degree based entirely on openly licensed content – the "Z-Degree". The combined efforts of a 13-member faculty team, college staff and administration culminated when students enrolled in the first "z-courses" which are based solely on OER. The goals of this initiative were twofold: 1) to improve student success, and 2) to increase instructor effectiveness. Courses were stripped down to the Learning Outcomes and rebuilt using openly licensed content, reviewed and selected by the faculty developer based on its ability to facilitate student achievement of the objectives. The 21 z-courses that make up an associate of science degree in business administration were launched simultaneously across four campus locations. TCC is the 11th largest public two-year college in the nation, enrolling nearly 47,000 students annually.[121]

During this same period from 2013 to 2014, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) also created two zero-cost OER degree pathways: one an associate degree in General Studies, the other an associate degree in Social Science. One of the largest community colleges in the nation, NOVA serves around 75,000 students across six campuses. NOVA Online (formerly known as the Extended Learning Institute or ELI) is the centralized online learning hub for NOVA, and it was through ELI that NOVA launched their OER-Based General Education Project. Dr. Wm. Preston Davis, Director of Instructional Services at NOVA Online, led the ELI team of faculty, instructional designers and librarians on the project to create what NOVA calls "digital open" courses. During the planning phase, the team was careful to select core, high-enrollment courses that could impact as many students as possible, regardless of specific course of study. At the same time, the team looked beyond individual courses to create depth and quality around full pathways for students to earn an entire degree. From Fall 2013 to Fall 2016, more than 15,000 students had enrolled in NOVA OER courses yielding textbook cost savings of over 2 million dollars over the three-year period.[122] Currently, NOVA is working to add a third OER degree pathway in Liberal Arts.

Nordic OER is a Nordic network to promote open education and collaboration amongst stakeholders in all educational sectors. The network has members from all Nordic countries and facilitates discourse and dialogue on open education but also participates in projects and development programs. The network is supported by the Nordic OER project co-funded by Nordplus.

In Norway the Norwegian Digital Learning Arena (NDLA) is a joint county enterprise offering open digital learning resources for upper secondary education. In addition to being a compilation of open educational resources, NDLA provides a range of other online tools for sharing and cooperation. At project startup in 2006, increased volume and diversity were seen as significant conditions for the introduction of free learning material in upper secondary education.[123] The incentive was an amendment imposing the counties to provide free educational material, in print as well as digital, including digital hardware.[124]

In Sweden there is a growing interest in open publication and the sharing of educational resources but the pace of development is still slow. There are many questions to be dealt with in this area; for universities, academic management and teaching staff. Teachers in all educational sectors require support and guidance to be able to use OER pedagogically and with quality in focus. To realize the full potential of OER for students' learning it is not enough to make patchwork use of OER – resources have to be put into context. Valuable teacher time should be used for contextual work and not simply for the creation of content. The aim of the project OER for learning OERSweden is to stimulate an open discussion about collaboration in infrastructural questions regarding open online knowledge sharing. A network of ten universities led by Karlstad University will arrange a series of open webinars during the project period focusing on the use and production of open educational resources. A virtual platform for Swedish OER initiatives and resources will also be developed. The project intends to focus in particular on how OER affects teacher trainers and decision makers. The objectives of the project are: To increase the level of national collaboration between universities and educational organisations in the use and production of OER, To find effective online methods to support teachers and students, in terms of quality, technology and retrievability of OER, To raise awareness for the potential of webinars as a tool for open online learning, To increase the level of collaboration between universities' support functions and foster national resource sharing, with a base in modern library and educational technology units, and To contribute to the creation of a national university structure for tagging, distribution and storage of OER.

Founded in 2007, the CK-12 Foundation is a California-based non-profit organization whose stated mission is to reduce the cost of, and increase access to, K-12 education in the United States and worldwide.[125] CK-12 provides free and fully customizable K-12 open educational resources aligned to state curriculum standards and tailored to meet student and teacher needs. The foundation's tools are used by 38,000 schools in the US, and additional international schools.[125]

LATIn Project[126] brings a Collaborative Open Textbook Initiative for Higher Education tailored specifically for Latin America. This initiative encourages and supports local professors and authors to contribute with individual sections or chapters that could be assembled into customized books by the whole community. The created books are freely available to the students in an electronic format or could be legally printed at low cost because there is no license or fees to be paid for their distribution, since they are all released as OER with a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. This solution also contributes to the creation of customized textbooks where each professor could select the sections appropriate for their courses or could freely adapt existing sections to their needs. Also, the local professors will be the sink and source of the knowledge, contextualized to the Latin American Higher Education system.

In 2014, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation started funding the establishment of an OER World Map that documents OER initiatives around the world. Since 2015, the hbz and graphthinking GmbH develop the service with funding by the Hewlett Foundation. The first version of the website was launched in March 2015[127] and the website is continuously developing. The OER World Map invites people to enter a personal profile as well to add their organization, OER project or service to the database.

In March 2015, launched the crowdsourcing of OER courses under CC licence. The platform expects to collect 5000 courses during the first year that can be reused by teachers worldwide.[128]

In 2015, the University of Idaho Doceo Center launched open course content for K-12 schools, with the purpose of improving awareness of OER among K-12 educators.[129] This was shortly followed by an Open Textbook Crash Course,[130] which provides K-12 educators with basic knowledge about copyright, open licensing, and attribution. Results of these projects have been used to inform research into how to support K-12 educator OER adoption literacies and the diffusion of open practices.[131]

In 2015, the MGH Institute of Health Professions, with help from an Institute of Museum and Library Services Grant (#SP-02-14-0), launched the Open Access Course Reserves (OACR). With the idea that many college level courses rely on more than a single textbook to deliver information to students, the OACR is inspired by library courses reserves in that it supplies entire reading lists for typical courses. Faculty can find, create, and share reading lists of open access materials.

Today, OER initiatives across the United States rely on individual college and university librarians to curate resources into lists on library content management systems called LibGuides.

In response to COVID-19, the Principal Institute has partnered with Fieth Consulting, LLC, California State University's SkillsCommons and MERLOT to create this FREE online resource hub designed to help Administrators, Teachers, Students, and Families more effectively support teaching and learning online.

Several universities of higher education, initiated OER : notable OER sites are Open Michigan, BCcampus Open Textbook collection, RMIT, Open access at Oxford University Press,[133] Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T.),[134] OpenEd@UCL, OER initiative by the University of Edinburgh, etc. There were several initiatives taken by faculties of higher education, such as Affordability Counts by faculties across Florida state universities and colleges and Affordable Learning Georgia which is across public Georgian institutions. The North Dakota University System was appropriated funding from the North Dakota state legislature to train instructors to adopt OER[135] and has a repository of OER.[136]

There were several initiatives taken by faculties of higher education, such as Affordability Counts by faculties across Florida state universities and colleges[137] and also by individual faculties offering free textbooks affordable by initiating Green tea press."


International Programs

From the Wikipedia:

"High hopes have been voiced for OERs to alleviate the digital divide between the global North and the global South, and to make a contribution to the development of less advanced economies.

Europe – Learning Resource Exchange for schools (LRE) is a service launched by European Schoolnet in 2004 enabling educators to find multilingual open educational resources from many different countries and providers. Currently, more than 200,000 learning resources are searchable in one portal based on language, subject, resource type and age range.

India – National Council Of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) digitized all its textbooks from 1st standard to 12th standard. The textbooks are available online for free. Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), a constituent Unit of NCERT, digitized more than thousand audio and video programmes. All the educational AV material developed by CIET is presently available at Sakshat Portal an initiative of Ministry of Human Resources and Development. In addition, National Repository for Open Educational Resources (NROER) houses a variety of e-content.

US – Washington State's Open Course Library Project is a collection of expertly developed educational materials – including textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments – for 81 high-enrolling college courses. All course have now been released and are providing faculty with a high-quality option that will cost students no more than $30 per course. However, a study found that very few classes were actually using these materials.

Japan – Since its launch in 2005, Japan OpenCourseWare Consortium (JOCW) has been actively promoting OER movement in Japan with more than 20 institutional members.

Dominica – The Free Curricula Centre at New World University expands the utility of existing OER textbooks by creating and curating supplemental videos to accompany them, and by converting them to the EPUB format for better display on smartphones and tablets.

Bangladesh is the first country to digitize a complete set of textbooks for grades 1–12.[142] Distribution is free to all. Uruguay sought up to 1,000 digital learning resources in a Request For Proposals (RFP) in June 2011.

In 2011, South Korea announced a plan to digitize all of its textbooks and to provide all students with computers and digitized textbooks by 2015.

The California Learning Resources Network Free Digital Textbook Initiative at high school level,[145] initiated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Michigan Department of Education provided $600,000 to create the Michigan Open Book Project in 2014. The initial selection of OER textbooks in history, economics, geography and social studies was issued in August 2015. There has been significant negative reaction[146] to the materials' inaccuracies, design flaws and confusing distribution.

The Shuttleworth Foundation's Free High School Science Texts for South Africa.

Saudi Arabia had a comprehensive project in 2008 to digitize and improve the Math and Science text books in all K-12 grades.

Saudi Arabia started a project in 2011 to digitize all text books other than Math and Science.

The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the U.S. State Department launched an Open Book Project in 2013, supporting "the creation of Arabic-language open educational resources (OERs)".

With the advent of growing international awareness and implementation of open educational resources, a global OER logo was adopted for use in multiple languages by UNESCO. The design of the Global OER logo creates a common global visual idea, representing "subtle and explicit representations of the subjects and goals of OER". Its full explanation and recommendation of use is available from UNESCO."



Open University (UK) Open Content Initiative

Rice Connexions

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

UNESCO Open Training Platform


National Repository of Online Courses


Open Access to the means of instruction is critical

David Wiley:

"we have to understand that content is infrastructure to see current “open educational resources” projects and initiatives from the proper perspective. The OpenCourseWares, the Connexions, the GLOBEs, and all the other repositories of open educational resources in the world are critical infrastructure. As such, they are necessary conditions for revolutionizing education. The revolution can not happen without them. However, open content itself is by no means a sufficient condition for the revolution to succeed. So much more is needed! The list above includes only a handful of what needs to be worked on (localization, translation, low-bandwidth delivery, accreditation, degrees, certificates, support, tutors, study group locators).

To say that content, and therefore these projects, are necessary but not sufficient conditions is not to say that content is unimportant. Anything but! Every piece of the system, including content, is critical.

Content is infrastructure. An important beginning step that absolutely must be completed, and there is much more to follow." (

Open Educational Resources should be Free as well

"As mentioned previously, the adjective "open" does not express the essence of this freedom to engage. It is also possible that the term OER, defined in terms of "intellectual property", was more acceptable at the time to those who would allocate funding to the initiatives. OCW and most prominent OER initiatives are institutionally focussed. Would the movement have been as successful to date if OER and OCW had been promoted as "Free Educational Resources" or "Libre CourseWare" etc.? This is similar to the "open source" versus "free software" situation described above.

Times change, awareness of global issues is growing, and it is more important than ever to inspire action towards holistic and well thought out visions of a sustainable future to inform and guide our efforts. For OER and other "open" initiatives, it is time to transform.

Recognise the need for universal participation in the global knowledge society, understand the perspective of development as freedom (Sen, 1999), and respect the freedom of local communities to localise, adapt, mix and share knowledge resources. Quality and utility is context-specific.

The "Open" communities are invited to re-assess their stated goals - for the most part, these are already orientated towards libre knowledge - and consider relabelling resources and titles "Libre" or "Free". At the very least, use these terms when freedom to use, copy, modify, mix and share is the intended meaning." (

Comparison with Open Source Sofware


Monica Mora [5]:

"OER and OSS are similar in that both rely heavily on sharing materials, publicly accessible repositories of open assets, and licenses that allow the use, modification and redistribution of assets.

OSS relies on collaborative development much more so than OER. With OSS, collaborative development makes the code progressively better. Many eyes decrease the number of bugs in software. However, few OER rely heavily on collaborative development. Two examples of OER that do rely heavily on collaborative development are Curriki and Wikieducator.

OER and OSS differ in terms of their quality assurance, business models, reuse, and skills required to make changes. OSS strives to be defect free with no errors in the code. There are well established tools and processes that help developers produce defect free software. These tools and processes can not be used to improve open content. The quality of OER is associated with accuracy of facts and the pedagogical methods it supports while the quality of OSS is associated with errors per line of code and the fit between function and customer requirements.

The ways to make money from OER production and distribution are not well understood. Large companies are not making money from OER development. We have a much better understanding on how companies and individuals make money from OSS. Large companies like IBM, SUN and HP invest in OSS projects with the expectation to make money.

File type and pedagogical structure determine the extent in which an OER can be reused, edited or extended. For example, many OER are built so the content is open; however, the file type and structure may make the reuse of the content closed. OSS that runs on one platform but not on others has a similar problem.

Users with no skills in development can make changes to the content of an OER. However, users can't make changes to the OSS unless they have the requisite development skills." (


Jenna McWilliams gives many detailed reasons why OER differs from FLOSS, and proposes the alternative concept and approach of Community Source Software as more appropriate for collaborating institutions.


OER Project Sustainability

1. Monica Mora [6]:

"OER projects involve the production and sharing of OER and the use and reuse of OER by end users. The OECD defines sustainability of an OER project as the ability of the project to accomplish its goals and continue operations. Sustainability issues are not exclusive to OER. However, what is unique about OER projects is the "determination to give away the results of all these efforts, with no cost recovery mechanisms". The reports 'What makes an Open Education Program Sustainable? The case of Connexions' and 'Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources' list some of the ways used to sustain OER projects. These include:

  • Endowment: interest generated from the investment of base funding
  • Membership: organizations make a one lump sum contribution or annual contributions
  • Replacement: funding using proprietary platforms are diverted to fund OER projects
  • Foundation: governments or foundations donate money to support the OER project
  • Segmentation/conversion: the organization responsible for the OER project provides free content and charges for value added services
  • Contributor pays: contributors pay for the cost of maintaining the distribution, while the content provider makes content available for free

OER resources are free for the users but there are technical and monetary requirements that should be covered to be able to produce and share the asset. The cost to maintain OER projects can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to several millions of dollars per year.

Infrastructure requirements are linked to OER project goals. OER projects require hardware, software, connectivity, human resources, workflow processes, technical support and license policies among other resources.

Most OER projects are either funded by non profit organizations such as the William and Flora Hewlett foundation and the Wellcome Trust or by the universities that established the projects.

Connexions, an OER initiative at Rice University, emphasizes that before considering revenue models for OER projects, the focus of the organizers should be on increasing the aggregate value of the initiative to the users. If users do not perceive value, no revenue model will work in the long term. To provide value for the user, a vibrant OER user community anchored around the OER must exist. One aspect that encourages OER communities is the accessibility to content not only for use, but for modification and distribution.

In his report 'On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education', David Wiley explains that there can be many types of interactions between the type of reuse and the publication formats of OER. These interactions will affect the adaptation of OER. The formats that are suitable for publishing might not be the best adaptable by users. Therefore, conflicting goals such as publishing OER efficiently and supporting end-user reuse of OER should find a middle position.We do not have good ways to measure the health of OER projects yet. Basic metrics such as number of unique visitors and number of downloads are used to assess the health of OER projects." (

2. Norm Friesen:

"Sustainability, the capacity of an initiative to outlive its initial startup phase and the associated short-term project funding, is a major concern for OER projects. Both wiki-based resource sets and collections of courseware must find long-term support or revenue. They must develop their particular work from the status of a project to become a program, organization or consortium. It is disquieting to read in a recent report on OER that “the majority of OER development” are generally still being “undertaken on a project basis”.

OER activities, specifically when they follow the OCW model, present a relatively clear alternative to project funding: the financial support of the educational institutions with which the courses are associated. Reasons for providing ongoing funding can be compelling for an institution. A number of motivating factors are outlined in the findings of a 2005 Program Evaluation Findings Report produced as a part of MIT’s OCW project:

1. The majority of the use of MIT courses is for self-directed, informal learning: namely, to “improve” or “enhance personal knowledge” or to “explore areas outside [one’s] professional field”. In other words, the majority of materials use occurs outside of institutional settings. This helps to explain a contradiction apparent in the MIT initiative: it is educationally valuable but does not detract from the educational value of the face-to-face activities on which the collected content is based. The informal users of this material, generally located outside of North America, would not be potential on-campus students or “customers” of the institution generating the material.

2. A second finding is connected to the relationship of the project to MIT itself as an institution. It provides clear evidence of multiple areas of significant benefit accruing to MIT from the OCW project, and provides the strongest motivating factor for long-term local support. The report states that “OCW use is centered on subjects for which MIT is a recognized leader,” with areas in technology and science accounting for 62% of traffic. Majorities of students and faculty at MIT use the site to support their study and teaching, and 32% of faculty say that putting materials online has improved their teaching. Finally, the role of the project in student recruitment is significant: 16% of student users employ the MIT courses to “plan a course of study,” and “35 percent of freshmen who were aware of OCW prior to deciding to attend MIT indicate the site was a significant or very significant influence on their choice of school”. Significantly, this percentage of students more than quadrupled from the year before.

Commenting on this rapidly growing awareness of student recruits, David Wiley presents a conclusion that may be of the utmost significance for OER: "The time will come when an OpenCourseWare or similar collection of open access educational materials will be as fully expected from every higher education institution as an informational website is now”." (

Two kinds of OER approaches


"I feel that there is an ideological divide in the Open Educational Resources community. I see that there are two major Parties. I call them (1) content-people and (2) human-people.

The content-people believe that Open Educational Resources should primary be some kind of independent “courses” people study. Studying the OER courses will then lead to enlightenment. This approach can be compared to reading a religious text leading to deep religious belief and certainty.

The content-people are relying on non-questioning epistemology and to social philosophy of “equality of opportunity”. These two things are very much interconnected.

The non-questioning epistemology leads to action where people are aiming to create non-bias OERs that are representing universal truth. When you hold the universal truth it is fair to offer everyone an equal opportunity to access the truth. Take a course and the test: you made it!

The human-people see that the Open Educational Resources should primary be only reference materials that are used in a human-centered teaching and learning process. The OERs are never “courses” and one should never “take them”.

The human-people’s hold social epistemology where different interpretations of the world and the truth are in a continuous conflict. To promote equality people should be empowered to be active subjects in the process of defining the “truth” of their time. Because of this providing people with an access to the OERs is not enough. One must empower people to create their own OERs, modify them, break them, dishonor them. I call this intervention.

I also see some kind of difference in the two parties’ way of seeing tradition.

Same time when the content-people believe on universal truth, they do not give a lot of weight to tradition. At least I haven’t heard about any great OER projects focusing on classical philosophy or national epics.

The human-people who are more or less critical on everything are still more open to build on tradition and native wisdom. The fact that someone before found some content valuable is seen as a sign of the content’s high quality." (

Using a Open Copyright License for OER

David Wiley:

"An “open copyright license” is an irrevocable copyright license which grants the following permissions to everyone at no cost: permission to reuse the artifact (e.g., publicly display or perform), permission to copy and redistribute the artifact (e.g., share), permission to revise the artifact (e.g., translate or localize), and permission to remix the artifact with other artifacts (e.g., mashup or collage). This grant of permissions may come with restrictions. For example, a license may restrict these permissions to (1) those who agree to attribute the author of the OER when exercising the permissions, (2) those who agree to relicense any derivative works based on the OER under precisely the same license, or (3) those who agree to exercise the granted permissions in only noncommercial ways. The Creative Commons BY, BY-SA, and BY-NC-SA licenses are examples of open licenses.

“In the public domain” means that, while the nature of the artifact qualifies it for copyright protection, the artifact is not subject to copyright restrictions.

A benefit of defining an “open educational resource” in terms of copyright status is that the definition implies that all OER belong to the universe of copyrightable things. This explicitly precludes ideas, concepts, methods, people, places, events, and other non-copyrightable entities from being OER. (This helps us avoid some of the nonsense that went on with “learning object” definitions.)

For many high-level purposes this definition may be sufficient. However, there is a significant amount of nuance hiding beneath this quick-and-dirty definition. While adopting a blunt definition of OER may be common practice, understanding the underlying nuance would likely be valuable. One way of exploring this additional meaning is asking, “What would the ideal OER look like?” (

More Information

  1. OER Blogs: common access to various blogs on the topic
  2. OER Wiki
  3. See the video by Todd Richmond on Open Educational Resources
  4. Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012
  5. A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities (Atkins, Brown, and Hammond, 80 pages)
  6. Essay: Say "Libre" for Knowledge and Learning Resources. Kim Tucker.
  7. Journal: Special issue of elearning papers:


Finding OERs

"Because of the rapid growth in the development of OERs, there are many online repositories that contain OER material. The question for educators who want to use OERs is how to find them. There are a variety of methods to do this, including:

  • searching through OER compilations such as:
         o OCW Consortium
         o Creative Commons search
  • subscribing to an education-related listserv such as:
         o [email protected]
  • browsing through OER journals like:
         o The International Journal of Open Educational Resources
  • conducting searches in UMUC library databases such as:
         o ERIC, Education Research Complete, Professional Development Collection, and/or Teacher Reference Center (using search terms like "open education* resources")
  • conducting general Web searches using search engines such as Google Scholar"

For access to the links for above resources, go to

OER Collections

Some OER collections focus on particular subjects, while others are multidisciplinary.

Subject-specific OERs include:

   * Berkelee Shares (music)
   * Chemistry Collective
   * HEAL (Health Education Assets Library)
   * SERC (sciences)
   * Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Multidisciplinary OERs include:

   * Connexions
   * Open Learn
   * Open-of-Course 

For access to the links for above resources, go to


  1. OLCOS 2012 Roadmap on Open Education Resources: excellent introduction and overview for European audience
  2. OECD Report: Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources
  3. Open Educational Resources: What are they and why do they matter

Ikka Tuomi:

"A report written for the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.

This report describes ongoing initiatives and underlying concepts in the area of open educational resources (OER). The aim of the report is to elaborate the concept of open educational resources, and provide a practically useful and theoretically solid definition of open educational resources." The link is to the the final draft.

I think the main contribution is on pp. 30-36. Three interrelated concepts need to be defined: one for learning (I use a pedagogic view that combines individual and social development), one for openness (I distinguish three levels), and one for resource (for the OER definition I distinguish traditional goods, common pools, and non-rival fountains of goods). In practice, there are many valid and coherent ways of using the term openness in the OER context. Openness at "level 3" is perhaps most interesting, as it assumes collective contributions.

The final OECD summary report (Giving Knowledge for Free, OECD 2007) skipped my argument about a Mertonian process for defining such collective contributions, probably because its relevance was not very clearly argued. Social evaluation of contributions is necessary, however. This is because, in my view, knowledge exists only as a social phenomenon. "Contribution" can only be distinguished from a "non-contribution" using social quality criteria implemented in a social process. I use the Mertonian approach to put a social theory of knowledge back into the theory of development and learning, without making extra assumptions about the "truthfullness," "empirical validity" etc., of the contributions. Knowledge, therefore, can be local to a specific culture and social practice, historical, and context dependent, but only if it is validated using the internal criteria available in the social practice in question. That’s how Wikipedia, for example, can distinguish spam and forgeries from real contributions."

Sustainability of OER

  1. What makes an Open Education Program Sustainable? The case of Connexions
  2. Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources
  3. On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education