Towards an OER university: Free learning for all students worldwide

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Media Release: Open Education Resource (OER) Foundation / UNESCO Office for Pacific States

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The Open Education Resource (OER) Foundation is to host a strategic international meeting in Dunedin on 23 February, to commence planning for the provision of free learning to all students worldwide.

Support from the United Nations Science and Education Organisation (UNESCO) to stream the meeting on the internet will allow the participation of education leaders and interested persons from around the globe. Join the meeting as a virtual participant.

Pre-meeting SCOPE Seminar for the OER university. 16 February to 2 March 2011 - BCcampus

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The meeting will focus on the OER for Assessment and Credit for Students project which aims to provide flexible pathways for learners from across the globe who have accessed open education courses to be assessed and earn formal academic credit for their work at reduced fees. This will be a first step towards building an OERu.

"OER is the means by which education at all levels can be more accessible, more affordable and more efficient"
Phil Ker, Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand
The OER Foundation is collaborating with anchor founding partners Otago Polytechnic (New Zealand), the University of Southern Queensland (Australia) and Athabasca University (Canada) on the project, and welcomes the participation of the wider community.

We extend an open invitation to all post-secondary institutions that care about sharing knowledge as a core value of education to join us in planning these sustainable learning futures.

—Dr Robin Day
Chair of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation and Deputy Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic


Open Education Resources (OER) encapsulates a simple but powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good. The internet provides unique opportunities for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge.

The flagship initiative of the OER Foundation is WikiEducator, which facilitates the development of educational resources that are open for educators worldwide to re-use, adapt and modify.

WikiEducator also administers Learning4Content – the world's largest training project, which has successfully enabled thousands of educators from 140 countries to access training in the ‘wiki skills’ they require to contribute to the development of OER.

"The challenge is to find robust mechanisms for academic credit for these OER learners."
Sir John Daniel
President and Chief Executive Officer, Commonwealth of Learning
"The Learning4Content model demonstrates that OER is cost effective and infinitely scalable."
Wayne Mackintosh, OER Foundation.
The marginal cost of replicating digital courses is near zero. By sharing the costs of OER course development among institutions we can expand access to free learning by an order of magnitude.

Dr Wayne Mackintosh, Director, OER Foundation

Students seek flexible study opportunities, but they also want their achievements recognised in credible credentials. This important meeting will tackle the challenges of combining flexibility with rigour, which requires clarity in conception and quality in execution.

Sir John Daniel
Chief Executive, Commonwealth of Learning.

The concept of free learning for all students is well aligned with UNESCO's global mission to provide education for all which now seems imminently more doable with the mainstream adoption of OER in our formal education institutions.

Dr Visesio Pongi
Director of the UNESCO Cluster Office, Apia


"This is not theoretical speculation, it is entirely viable."
Professor Jim Taylor AM, University of Southern Queensland
"Collaborative approaches to the creation of learning content is the best way forward."
Professor Rory McGreal, Associate Vice President, Research. Athabasca University
The OER for assessment and credit for students project aims to create a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional models through effective collaboration networks

—Professor James Taylor, University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

The growth in the creation, deployment, sharing and reuse of OER signals a tipping point wherein institutions globally can profit both formally and informally from the massive creative commons that has been made available on the Internet.

—Professor Rory McGreal

OER is a sustainable and renewable resource. However, meaningful collaboration among education institutions will be a prerequisite for success.

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Web Resources

About Athabasca University

Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, is dedicated to the removal of barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study and to increasing equality of educational opportunity for adult learners worldwide.

About the Commonwealth of Learning

The Commonwealth of Learning is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.

About the Open Education Resource Foundation

The Open Education Resource Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides leadership, international networking and support for educators and educational institutions to achieve their objectives through open education approaches.

About Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic is a world leader in open education and is the first New Zealand tertiary education institution to sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. It is the first tertiary education institution in the world to approve and implement an intellectual property policy that uses the Creative Commons Attribution license by default, and is committed to education for sustainability as embodied in their strategic plan.

About the University of Southern Queensland

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is one of Australia's leading providers of on-campus and distance education. With more than 75 per cent of students studying via distance or online, USQ is at the cutting edge of flexible delivery of resources and technology.

About UNESCO’s Office for Pacific States

The UNESCO Office for Pacific States is responsible for implementing UNESCO’s programme and supporting policy and research in 15 pacific countries. The term Open Educational Resources was first coined by UNESCO.