Giving Knowledge for Free – THE EMERGENCE OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

01/06/2007 – The burgeoning Open Educational Resources (OER) movement is bringing higher education resources within reach of growing numbers of potential users around the world, but education authorities will soon have to grapple with new challenges such as copyright issues and the sustainability of business models, according to a new OECD study.

Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources ( pdf here ) identifies more than 3,000 courses made available openly in 2007 to outside users by more than 300 universities worldwide. All kinds of institutions are involved, as are researchers and teachers from a wide range of disciplines. While English is the dominant language so far, translations are gradually catering for greater language diversity and increased global use.

“The potential number of users is enormous,” says Tom Schuller, head of the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, which carried out the study. “Open educational resources can expand access to learning for everyone, but most of all for non-traditional groups of students, thus widening participation in higher education. “

Open educational resources can be an efficient way of promoting lifelong learning, both for individuals and for governments. They can also help to bridge the gap between informal and formal learning.

At the same time, however, the OECD points to a need for clearer management of such projects. Few of today’s initiatives display a clear idea of how they will be sustained in the future, once initial funding from public or charitable sources is exhausted. What’s more, the OECD notes, higher education institutions will need to develop effective information technology strategies to manage innovations in the way students and teachers work.

The report is a follow-up to studies on e-learning in higher education produced by the CERI. It has been supported by the Hewlett Foundation (http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/Education/).  Marshall Smith, the Hewlett Foundation’s Education programme director and a former Dean of Stanford University School of Education, welcomed the report: “this is a significant contribution to identifying key issues in a major new field, which could help to bridge the worldwide digital divide….”

For further information, journalists are invited to contact:
– at CERI/OECD: tom.schuller@oecd.org (00 33 1 4524 7901) or francesc.pedro@oecd.org (00 33 1 4524 8083)
–  at Hewlett Foundation: Marshall Smith (MSmith@hewlett.org) or Cathy Casserly (ccasserly@hewlett.org)

To obtain a copy of the report, journalists may contact Louise Fietz in the OECD’s Media Relations Division.