Open educational resources are generally available resources (handbooks, courses, lesson plans and other) shared freely and without charge with the right of their use, re-use and adaptation.
The term Open Educational Resources (OER) was used for the first time during the UNESCO Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries in 2002.
Open educational resources are mainly defined as materials that are publicly available on the Internet (without access control), published with the right of their use and re-use and developed in an open manner so as to give beneficiaries a possibility of their co-editing (for which the use of the so-called free licences is recommended).
The idea of building open educational resources has given rise to the formation of the international OER movement which covers a large number of various educational initiatives all over the world organised both in a traditional and innovative way, with different objectives and groups of beneficiaries. There is no central organisation grouping, managing or standardising the OER procedures. However, there is a consensus as to what the open educational resources are and the existence of the multitude of centres contributes towards a fast development of the movement and knowledge. The OER movement draws from the experience of the earlier Open Access movement concentrating on the promotion of open science. The Council of Europe in its Recommendation no. 1836 (2008) has recommended the use of OER as a method to combat digital exclusion and create educational opportunities for all.
The role and the potential of the OER movement and resources has been confirmed by the reports published by international institutions. The most important include:
- the UNESCO report “OER: The Way Forward” – original version plus appendices;
- an OECD report “Giving knowledge for free”;
- a Hewlett Foundation report “A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement”;
- a Salzburg Research report “Open Educational Practices and Research”.
and in other publications:
- a Harvard White Paper “The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age”,
- MIT Press anthology “Opening Up Education”.
In January 2008 the Cape Town Open Education Declaration was published, one of the key documents defining the objectives and methods of OER movement. For more information on the Declaration and the full text of the document visit Cape Town Declaration.
The OER idea and movement is supported by international organisations such as: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Shuttleworth Foundation, Open Society Institute, Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe and other. There is a number of universities involved in the creation of OER materials including the Massachusets Institute of Technology, Rice University and other. An American organisation Teachers Without Borders is developing an open OER website aimed at providing equal educational opportunities globally.
An intensive debate is led by the UNESCO International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP), aiming at the exchange of experiences, developing best practices and creating a set of models for the creation of OER projects.
The important events for the movement were the iCommons iSummit meetings and conferences that took place in 2007 in Dubrovnik and in 2008 in Sapporo.