Are OER both open and innovative

How innovative is OpenLearn?

Looking at OER through the lens of OpenLearn ( to answer the question “Are OER both open and innovative?”

How to judge OpenLearn in terms of my definition of innovation?

My definition of innovation in this context: facilitating a change in practice with technology as the enabler as “technology shapes practice and practice shapes the way technology is used” (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012) which in turn challenges an established educational norm.

OpenLearn is innovative in the following ways;

  • free of direct cost to the learner
  • openly accessible online
  • individuals can study at their own pace
  • individuals can structure their studies how they wish
  • there is no formal assessment
  • can earn badges and a statement of participation
  • can share some courses with a wider audience through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
  • some courses enable discussion with fellow students but these usually have a start and finish date for the material although individuals can complete at their own pace as they stay ‘open’

What key challenges facing the OER movement can be dealt with more quickly than others?

Legal: further development of loosening copyright through CC. One high profile example is the Google Library Project which is an attempt to digitalise books held in five major university libraries. There are issues with copyright and some books will only be able to be sampled and reviewed and another – the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty, guaranteeing reproduction rights for blind / VI people.
Practical; providing access to content. 2.4 billion users of the web worldwide. (UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy, 2014), but this has to be seen against the back drop of a current world population of 7.3 billion people (The Population Institute, 2014). Whilst the user figure is remarkable given the relatively short lifetime of the web, there remain issues of inclusion, whether it is lack of access, lack of digital skills, lack of motivation or restrictions on participation or knowledge control by government. Though there is an assumption here that the remaining 4.9billion people have an interest in using the web.

There is work in progress to address some inclusion issues. Governments and institutions are beginning to make their educational resources available online, as of June 2012 45% of governments had an OER policy, (Hoosen, 2012). The UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration called on all governments to make these publicly funded educational resources openly available online. Governments are also active in creating policy to improve digital literacy e.g. the UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy (2014) has been initiated with an aim that “by 2020 everyone who can be digitally capable, will be”.

Technical: developing an environment for open access. Technological developments and developments in practice progress hand in hand; e.g. multiple devices through which to access the web and the knowledge stored within it, fast connection and downloads, online practices of sharing, editing and disseminating information and collaborating with others and therefore opportunities for individuals to own and take responsibility for their learning.

How do open educational resources challenge conventional assumptions about paying for higher education modules?

  • cost
  • culture of setting personal study goals, own pace at any time – no need to be at the same stage as everyone else
  • individuals sharing what they know through social media, therefore content is unprotected.
  • consumed and published in different ways – content can be mashed up, reused, developed and republished
  • development of badges and certificates of participation. Substitutes for assessed qualifications.


McAndrew and Farrow (2013), Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical

OpenLearn available at (last accessed 5th February 2016)

Veletsianos, G, & Kimmons, R 2012, ‘Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship’, International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 13, 4, pp. 166-189, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 February 2016


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