Open Education Resource

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Open Education Resource

Maureen Wilson, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Definitions and background

In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), openly discussed the online sharing of faculty-created courseware for free public use to allow for fair access to all. In 2002, UNESCO officially coined the term Open educational resources (OER). OER have since been defined as the “technology-enabled, open provision of educational resources for consultation, use and adaption by a community of users for non-commercial purposes” (Kanwar, 2010, p. 66). OER allow users to adapt, consult and share information and communication technology for personal use (Rolfe, 2012).

According to Chen and Panda (2013), OER provides a platform in which users can share knowledge, materials, tools and techniques encouraging open collaboration, communication and co-construction. OER are continually evolving and being amended to demonstrate the growth in productivity and “the sharing of best practices” (Rolfe, 2012, p. 1).

Wilson (2008) maintains that OER provide opportunities to people who are employed, travel extensively, are from differing educational backgrounds, or from differing socioeconomic circumstances. Wilson concludes that OERs have the potential to be life-changing and can lead to the advancement of lifelong learning and self-improvement (2008).


OER support the Social Constructivist theory which advocates the importance of social interaction, active participation in learning activities, and the opportunity for authentic learning. In this way, the purpose and focus is for active members to contribute learning experiences, along with meaningful examples, while being mentored and supported by coordinators using an inclusive method for communication (Jesse & Jesse, 2013).

Ally and Samaka (2013) proposed that OER represented a convenient and flexible way to access resources from anywhere in the world at any time allowing learners flexibility to work at a convenient time and pace. Mobile online learning allows flexible delivery of course materials as instructors or tutors are able to circulate information without having face-to-face interaction. (Alley & Samaka, 2013). Similarly, Kanwar (2010) postulated that OER foster collaboration with the potential to exchange information around the globe and “supports capacity building” (p. 67). This can also raise the quality of education being shared and used, and save time and costs for its users, especially in under-privileged nations (Cobo, 2013).

The use of OER also supports active participation and can add richness to first-hand learning experiences (Kumar, 2005). They provide students’ access to course materials either through full or part time study and, allow instructors to quickly distribute materials, feedback, and grades (Egan, Frindt and Mbale, 2013). OER also allows for peer interaction through chat sites, social media, discussion forums, project learning, and group email (Egan, Frindt and Mbale, 2013). Students may also have the opportunity to work with others they would not normally have had an opportunity to due to location; therefore, globalization enables “the overcoming of distance [and] the compression of space and time” (Willems & Bossu, 2012, p.185).

Kumar (2009) observed that India is becoming an active player in open source software as well as open educational resources with an emphasis on e-content, curriculum, and acquisition of more resources, particularly in the fields of science and technology, medicine and public health. OER allows for students to “overcome educational inequities in access, participation, and outcomes across a broad spectrum of formal learning contexts…” (Willems & Bossu, 2012, p. 185).


There are no known studies to support and validate the nature of who exactly is accessing these OER sites according to Schmidt-Jones (2012). Statistics of use of OER come from voluntary anonymous surveys in the form of general comments made from users and may not be representative of the typical user of the site (Schmidt-Jones, 2012).

Wilson (2008) observed that, while OERs have the potential for equalizing educational opportunities, there are many issues to consider when setting up the repositories of information, maintaining the site, overseeing technical issues, assessing sources for reliability and suitability, and dealing with subject and property rights, and copyright issues. Richter (2012) identified major obstacles that need to be overcome in order for OER to reach their full potential. These obstacles include the not providing resource information in English, not providing sufficient information about the resource such as an abstract or description and/or not providing resources that can be altered or changed.

Petrides and Jimes’ (2008) study in a high school in South Africa claimed that in order for OER to be successful, the content should adapt to the context and learning needs of the specific community. Petrides and Jimes concluded that having a set structure and practices put into place that are aligned with the project goals will help ensure the sustainability of OER (2008).

Ossiannilsson and Creelman’s (2012) Swedish study in higher education concluded that although OER have many advantages, they also have many disadvantages such as the lack of a tagging and classification system for searching educational resources, no identified level of education provided for resources, no context for the information, no related sources suggested, no learning outcomes listed and no feasible search option for video or audio material apart from the title (2012).


Vimeo: Open Educational Resources [1]

Edutopia: Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup [2]

Open Educational Resources [3]

Creative Commons: Education: Open Educational Resources [4]

The OERs - Open Educational Resources [5]

Works Cited

Ally, M., & Samaka, M. (2013). Open education resources and mobile technology to narrow the learning divide. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 14(2), 14-27.

Chen, Q., & Panda, S. (2013). Needs for and utilization of OER in distance education: A Chinese survey. Educational Media International, 50(2), 77-92.

Cobo, C. (2013). Exploration of open educational resources in non-English speaking communities. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 14(2), 106-128.

Egan, J., Frindt, T., & Mbale, J. (2013). Open educational resources and the opportunities for expanding open and distance learning (OERS-ODL). International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 8(2), 57-61. doi:10.3991/ijet.v8i2.2312

Jesse, K., & Jesse, R. (2013). Mobile Authoring of Open Educational Resources as Reusable Learning Objects. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 14(2), 28-51.

Kanwar, A. (2010). Toward sustainable open education resources: A perspective from the global south. The American Journal of Distance Education. 24(2), p. 65-80.

Kumar, M. (2005). From open resources to educational opportunity. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 13(3), 241-247. Retrieved from

Kumar, M. (2009). Open educational resources in India's national development. The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 24(1), 77-84. doi:10.1080/02680510802627860

Ossiannilsson, E. I., & Creelman, A. M. (2012). OER, resources for learning--experiences from an OER project in Sweden. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (1).

Petrides, L., & Jimes, C. (2008). Building open educational resources from the ground up: South Africa's free high school science texts. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Retrieved from Date accessed: 16 Sep. 2014.

Richter, T., & McPherson, M. (2012). Open educational resources: Education for the world? Distance Education, 33(2), 201-219. Retrieved from

Rolfe, V. (2012). Open educational resources: Staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, 20(1), 1-13. doi:10.3402/rlt.v20i0/14395

Schmidt-Jones, C. (2012). An open educational resource supports a diversity of inquiry-based learning. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 13(1), 1-16.

Willems, J., & Bossu, C. (2012). Equity considerations for open educational resources in the glocalization of education. Distance Education, 33(2), 185-199. Retrieved from

Wilson, T. (2008). New ways of mediating learning: Investigating the implications of adopting open educational resources for tertiary education at an institution in the United Kingdom as compared to one in South Africa. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(1), 1-19.