The open education movement is founded on the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet. It is built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint (Casserly & Smith, 2006). Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others (Atkins, Brown, & Hammond, 2007). The advantage of OER lies in its potential to engage teachers, learners and other stakeholders in an interchange of ideas and expertise for collaborative knowledge building.
OER contributes to making education more accessible especially in developing countries where educational resources are scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. Furthermore, opening up education resources can act as a transparency and accountability mechanism (through exposing the courses of the responsible academics to outside peer scrutiny) to ensure good quality content.
There are many examples. MIT’s Open Courseware provides open and free access to ~1800 of MITs courses. Other tertiary institutions are also now moving towards a more open paradigm. The Open Courseware Consortium is a collaboration of more than 200 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model. Another example is Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) – a research and development initiative which creates open educational resources for teachers and teacher educators working in the region. It produces materials aimed at developing and improving access to local school based education and training for teachers. TESSA materials are developed as modules and focus on classroom practice in the areas of literacy, numeracy, science, social studies and the arts and life skills.