• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Background to OER development

Page history last edited by David Porter 12 years, 7 months ago



This section introduces three pioneers in the world of open educational resources (OER).  You can view videos featuring David Wiley (Brigham Young University), Richard Baraniuk (Rice University) and Wayne Mackintosh (Otago Polytechnic - WikiEducator). Each has contributed innovative ideas and leadership to the OER movement.


Watch any of the three videos to identify key attributes of open educational resources and the opportunities for education afforded by free and open digital media.




Activity: The key ideas of the OER movement


Open content


Take 15 minutes to view a video presentation by David Wiley. Listen and note the key attributes of open educational resources. 


David Wiley is currently an Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology & Technology at Brigham Young University. He is also Chief Openness Officer of Flat World Knowledge and Founder of the Open High School of Utah. He was previously Associate Professor of Instructional Technology, and was also the Founder and Director of the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning, (C()SL), at Utah State University.


David Wiley is well known for having coined the term open content.


A video presentation by David WIley at TEDxNY can be found at this link:





Digitization and distribution of open educational resources and open textbooks


Take a few minutes to view an engaging video presentation about open educational resources by Dr. Richard Baraniuk. Listen to Richard explain the opportunities for education offered by digitization of media resources and the creation of open textbooks.


Video link: A video presentation by Richard Baraniuk can be found at this link:



Richard Baraniuk is a professor of Electrical Engineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas. In 1999, Dr. Baraniuk launched Connexions.


Connexions makes high-quality educational content available to anyone, anywhere, anytime for free on the web and at very low cost in print by inviting authors, educators, and learners worldwide to "create, rip, mix, and burn" textbooks, courses, and learning materials from its global open-access repository. Excerpted from Richard Baraniuk's biography.



Open education: OER in institutional contexts


View and listen to another perspective on OERs provided by Dr. Wayne Mackintosh.  Wayne and his colleague Robin Day, Deputy Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand speak about the potential for OER use in an institutional context.


Wayne Mackintosh is Director of the OER Foundation.
Dr. Mackintosh is the creator of WikiEducator which was launched in 2006.



The ideas presented by David Wiley, Richard Baraniuk and Wayne Mackintosh are further elaborated by short excerpts from a UNESCO OER that are included in this section. 


The ideas below are extracted from the UNESCO OER Tool Kit published in 2009. The UNESCO tool kit is licensed as an OER using a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.



The open educational resources movement

The open educational resources movement can be traced back to developments in open and distance learning (ODL) and the emergence of collaborative peer-production communities, such as developer communities for open source software projects.


This section describes briefly how OER combines elements of both. The concept of "open" in open and distance learning expresses an opening up of access to education, especially for groups that have been excluded from traditional higher education. To this concept of "open", OER adds the FOSS [free and open source software] concept of "free".


Web-based open and distance learning holds considerable potential for the sustainable expansion of higher education systems. This expansion is needed to meet the massive increase in demand for higher education — a demand that can be expected to intensify as countries understand the importance of higher education as a driver of national and regional development.


Web-based ODL can lower the cost of higher education, diminish some of the barriers to access and participation, increase the flexibility of education programs and support lifelong learning. OER can go a long way in ensuring that all of the expectations expressed above can be realized.



Free and open source software (FOSS)

Free and open source software programs are distributed under terms that allow anyone to use, study, modify and redistribute the software in any manner they wish. They are often developed by volunteer communities who collaborate online. The core of Free and Open Source Software is expressed in the license that developers apply to their code and which set out the rights of users, as well as restrictions.


Open content and open educational resources


Over the past few years a significant number of initiatives and projects have emerged to support the development and sharing of open educational resources (OER). The term open educational resources describes digitized materials offered freely and openly for use and re-use in teaching, learning and research. The term was first used in July 2002 during a UNESCO forum on the potential of open courseware for higher education in developing countries. Most definitions agree that OER include content, software tools, licenses and best practices.


The authors of an OER grant you the freedom to use and share their materials with others, modify, translate or improve them and, in turn, share these new versions with others (although some licenses restrict modification or commercial use).


Generally OER are made available in digital format to make them easier to share and adapt. Wikipedia, the volunteer-created encyclopedia, is an OER; textbooks can be released as OER; open courseware is a format of OER for publishing course materials. Learning with open educational resources does not generally lead to degrees, or include formal instruction or study groups, assessment or accreditation. OER does not replace existing campus-based or distance education offerings. But it might in the future.


Many incredible OER projects exist, but two have attracted a lot of attention and become synonymous with the movement:



Wikipedia and the MIT OpenCourseWare project

In January 2001, Wikipedia was launched as an online encyclopaedia that anyone could edit. There was skepticism that relying on volunteers for such an undertaking would not work, but its rapid growth surprised even strong supporters. During its first month it collected seventeen articles; by April 2001 it had 1,000; in October more than 10,000. By the end of 2002 it had crossed the 100,000 article mark (Wikimedia, 2009). It is now the largest encyclopaedia in the world and an immense resource for students and lecturers.


In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its Open CourseWare project. It announced that it would publish all of its course material online, open for others to use, modify and share free of charge. The initiative reflected MIT's commitment to its teaching and public service missions, and to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. With financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Institute began to release hundreds of courses to the public.


As of 2011, MIT had published 2054 courses online, which are being used by more than one million users every month (MIT Open CourseWare, 2011). The benefits for MIT, while not easy to enumerate, include positive global media coverage and a greater ability to attract the best students. 


Since Wikipedia and MIT OCW started, many initiatives have emerged to share Open Educational Resources and promote the OER movement. This includes initiatives focused on:


  • Creating royalty free textbooks for primary and secondary schools
  • Making content licensing easier for educators
  • Packaging and indexing educational materials so they are easier to find and use
  • Nurturing online communities for teachers and authors, and growing open education as a field and a movement



Benefits of open educational resources

Open Educational Resources have a range of benefits for users, producers and publishers. OER can help counter the rising costs of developing educational programs. 


"Taking into account the almost total absence of lab equipment and textbooks in our library, I found the solution was use of OERs available on the Internet." OER stories: National University of Rwanda (Rwagasana, 2007) (translated from French).


OER also reduces the cost of searching and uncertainty over whether a particular material may be used legally in a particular teaching and learning context.


"The BCcampus OER initiative seeks to create a source of digital materials that are available free for immediate use, eliminating the weeks and months of time it can take to seek permission to use existing digital materials. Not only can the original developers use the resource, but any educator across BC's public post secondary system can use the asset immediately without having to go through a permission-seeking process." OER stories: BCcampus (Stacey, 2007)


Finally, collaborative models for the development and use of OER allow communities of practice to develop. Open collaborative models have been shown to increase innovation in some areas. Working in communities has the potential to advance learning for students, and increase knowledge sharing and peer-support among academics (Wenger et al., 2002).


"In a country like NZ with limited economic resources, we have more to gain by being an active member in a global community of open educational resource sharing and development. There’s a phrase used in open source: 'What you give, you receive back improved.' Sharing and reusing can cut the costs for content development, thereby making better use of available resources." OER stories: New Zealand OER Project (Wyles, 2007). 




Activity: What is the value of the OER movement for you, your institution or country?


Reflect on the value-add an OER movement can bring for you in your institution/country.


Can you list any open educational resources that is currently available and used in your country/institution?


Do a web search to find out whether you can find any OER from your institution?  


Does your country have a Creative Commons license adapted for its use?


OER used in your institution or country? Potential benefits to OER use in your context?  




Atkins, D.E., Seely Brown, J., & Hammond, A. (2007). "A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities". Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. p. 4. Retrieved 2010-12-03.


Rwagasana G. (2007), National University of Rwanda case-study, Available from http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=OER_stories:_National_University_of_Rwanda


Stacey, P. (2007), BCCampus case-study, Available from http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=OER_stories:_BCcampus


UNESCO (2009). UNESCO OER Toolkit Draft. Available: http://wikieducator.org/ 


Wenger, E., R. McDermott, & W. Snyder (2002), Cultivating Communities of Practice, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.


Wyles, R. (2007), New Zealand OER Project case-study, Available from http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=OER_stories:_New_Zealand_OER_Project




Comments (4)

wayne mackintosh said

at 9:05 pm on Apr 3, 2011

What are the notional learning hours for each module?

Not sure if you've done a workload calculation yet -- but there is 40 minutes worth of video here. If too long, reconfigure the activity to select two of the three videos for watching. Folk who want to watch more will be free to do so ;-).

Just concerned about workload here.

wayne mackintosh said

at 9:03 pm on Apr 3, 2011

I like the idea and flow.

1) Starting with a few videos,
2) Showing a few example projects and
3) Personal value activity

The inductive approach needs to end up with a description /definition of OER - -I would suggest adding a new sub-page, for example "Towards a definition of OER"

You can reuse, adapt and modify extracts from this page in the course: http://wikieducator.org/Educators_care/Defining_OER

wayne mackintosh said

at 8:47 pm on Apr 3, 2011

I suggest using footnotes for the attributions of OER reused / remixed in the unit. Embedding the attribution in the text breaks the flow (eg UNESCO above.) A footnote and link would be more than adequate for attribution purposes.

wayne mackintosh said

at 8:39 pm on Apr 3, 2011

Re the statement referring to David's Open Publication License as "the first open source-style license for non-software resources" is incorrect -- the GNU Free Documentation license pre-dated David's license. David attempted to reduce some of the complexity of the GNU(FDL) for educational settings -- but I don't think this detail around licensing is necessary here. Suggestion - -reword or scrap the reference to David's license.

You don't have permission to comment on this page.