The term open educational resources (OER) was coined at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware and defines OER as:
“teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work.” (UNESCO/COL Paris OER Declaration, 2012)
Education systems around the world are facing pressure to increase access to education and training, while also ensuring it is affordable and meets high quality standards. While governments have signed on to international agreements in support of education as a fundamental human right and as a sustainable development goal (SDG), many are finding that cost and quality factors are making it difficult for them to meet their obligations.
Access to relevant learning resources is an important aspect of lifelong learning and the ability to provide that access at the necessary scale is proving a challenge. Addressing this challenge is essential to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, as outlined in SDG4, as well as supporting citizens in gaining sustainable livelihoods.
COL has identified the development of OER as a potential answer to these challenges. OER provide governments, institutions, organizations and individuals with access to some of the best materials available globally, allow them to adapt the materials to fit the local context and reduce the costs associated with materials and course development.