Ict@innovation: Free your IT Business in Africa/6-4

Module 6.4: Open Educational Resources and Open Content




2 hours

Open Educational Resources



Open educational resources (OER) are an Internet empowered worldwide community effort to create an education commons.

The term "open educational resources" was first adopted at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute. Open educational resources include:

  • Learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals.
  • Tools: Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organisation of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
  • Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localisation of content.



From 24 October to 2 December 2005 the UNESCO on-line Forum Open course content for higher education took place.

In September 2006, the Third Annual Open Education Conference (Community, Culture and Content) was held in Logan, Utah. The last conference was held on September 24-27, 2007 in Logan, Utah.

In June 2007, educators at the iCommons iSummit in Dubrovnik joined the open movement worldwide to showcase emerging open education initiatives and to explore ways to better create, share and evolve open educational materials.

In January 2008 The Cape Town Open Education Declaration was published.

OER and Open Source


Since 2005 there has been a marked increase in the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement and in Open Educational Licenses (like Creative Commons). Many of the projects on OER were funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and partly also by the Shuttleworth Foundation that focuses on projects concerning collaborative content creation. There has been a strong international debate on how to apply OER in practice and the UNESCO chaired a vivid discussion on this through its International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP).

Alignment With Open Source Software Community


By the second half of 2006 it also became clear to some of the forerunners that OER and Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) do somehow belong together. As a result, the discussion groups of IIEP on OER and FOSS were merged and forces were further joined through mergers with a related OECD campaign.What has still not become clear by now to most actors in the OER domain is that there are further links between the OER and the Free / Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) movements, beyond the principles of “FREE” and “OPEN”. The FOSS model stands for more than this and, like e.g. Wikipedia, shows how users can become active “resource” creators and how those resources can be re-used and freely maintained. In OER on the other hand a focus is still on the traditional way of resource creation and participant roles.

Best Practices and Communities for OER Contributors


FOSS communities are today known for producing good quality software using a different development approach than proprietary software producers. FOSS is built by a community of volunteers and might be backed by companies that generate their revenues by providing services related to the software. In more recent years FOSS communities also gained attention for their community production and support models and regarding their way of knowledge creation and learning. FOSS communities possess many characteristics that educational communities could benefit by adopting:

  1. Open and inclusive ethos: everyone can participate, no charges, no deadlines, life long participation
  2. Up to date content; everyone can add, edit and update the content
  3. Materials are usually the product of many authors with many contributions from people other than authors
  4. Frequent releases and updates where product features and community structures are the result of a continuous re-negotiation / reflection process within a continuous development cycle
  5. Prior learning outcomes and processes are systematically available through mailing lists, forums, commented code and further instructional materials (re-use)
  6. A large support network; provided voluntarily by the community member in a collaborative manner nearly 24/7
  7. Free Riders (lurker) welcome paradox – the more the better
  8. New ICT solutions are adapted early by the community

Education professionals may be aware that FOSS-like principles can benefit education, but there has been no systematic and comprehensive approach to map and transfer those principles, or to develop new educational models and scenarios around them. The European Union funded FLOSSCom project is likely to be the first attempt to map the open source landscape from an educational point of view, but further research and work still remains to be done.

However, Teachers Without Borders, a non-profit based in Seattle, is currently developing a new OER website where members can take courses, discuss their findings with people around the world, and publish their work, all on the same website. Their goal is to connect educators and learners from around the world and give free access to a wide variety of courses, thus helping to close the education divide.

Open Content



Open content, a neologism coined by analogy with "open source", describes any kind of creative work published in a format that explicitly allows copying and modifying of its information by anyone, not exclusively by a closed organization, firm or individual. The largest open content project is Wikipedia.

Technical Definition


Work on a technical definition for open content has been undertaken by the Open Knowledge Foundation. The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) gives a set of conditions for openness in knowledge - much as the Open Source Definition does for open-source software. Content can be either in the public domain or under a license which allows re-distribution and re-use, such as Creative Commons Attribution and Attribution-Sharealike licenses or the GFDL. It is worth noting that the OKD covers open data as well as open content.



It is possible that the first documented case of open content was the Royal Society, which aspired to share information across the globe as a public enterprise. The term "open content" was first used in the modern context by David Wiley, then a graduate student at Brigham Young University, who founded the Open Content Project and put together the first content-specific (non-software) license in 1998, with input from Eric Raymond, Tim O'Reilly, and others.


  1. Define Open Educational Resources.
  2. Define Open Content.
  3. What does Open Educational Resources include?
  4. What can educational communities learn from FOSS communities?
  5. Contrast Open Educational Resources with Open Content.



Participants should brainstorm in groups of 5 the importance of open educational resources open content for the advancement of free/libre and open source software.  A rapporteur will provide feedback in a plenary.

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