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How does OpenLearn deal with older content?

Updated Thursday 2nd March 2017

OpenLearn has a vast archive of content from across the years. Here's our policy for dealing with it.

OpenLearn - in its current and former guise - has been producing content for nearly two decades. Most of this remains online.


We will keep content live unless there is a good reason to remove it.

This is because:

  • Many people and organisations link to our content, both as citation and for discovery purposes; it is best practice to keep these links working where possible and reduce 404 errors/user disatisfaction
  • Content has historical/archival value in its own right - simply being 'old' is not a reason to remove a piece of content

We will remove content if:

  • Keeping it online is potentially dangerous (e.g. safety advice has changed since original publication)
  • Keeping it online is potentially creating a legal issue (e.g. expired copyright; potential libel)
  • Keeping it online is potentially damaging to the OU brand/reputation (e.g. a contributor has been convicted of a crime that undermines their credentials)
  • We have received a valid request to remove a piece of content (e.g. the contributor has been subjected to online harassment and wishes to reduce their digital footprint)
  • It requires technology to access that has become difficult for an average user to acquire (e.g. a piece of content requires a Shockwave player to be able to enjoy)

Our preference is to update content rather than remove a piece entirely. Reasons for updating content may include:

  • The article was correct at the time, but subsequent research or events have made an opinion or statement outdated (e.g. 'no party other than the Tories or Labour has won a national election since the First World War')
  • We have published an article more recently on the same subject that contains more up-to-date information
  • An error made it through the production process

When we remove, or make a significant change to, a piece of content, we will leave a note on the content, or at the URL if the content has been removed, to explain the changes we have made and the reasons for them.

Because OpenLearn consists of thousands of pieces of content, inspecting every piece regularly is time consuming and in most cases will result in no action being taken, we do not routinely audit our entire back catalogue. However, we will check that a piece of content still passes all the tests explained above, under the following circumstances:

  • When a user flags a piece for attention, either through social media (@OUfreelearning) or directly emailing
  • When we are raising the profile of an archive piece of content (e.g. we are linking to it from a page supporting a new TV programme, or to mark an event such as World Book Day)
  • When external events mean that we expect the piece of content will have increased attention - (e.g. the subject of the article is celebrating a significant anniversary)
  • When our analytics show that a piece of content is receiving a sudden spike attention (e.g. a five year old article suddenly gets a boost in traffic as a result of being linked to by Reddit or the Daily Mail)

This policy applies to all content published by the OpenLearn editorial team; the team who produce material described as 'free courses' on the site have their own policies and procedures in place.


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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