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1.2 Why should I be interested in OER?

Whilst the ideas had been discussed previously, the profile of OER was raised dramatically in 2002 with the launch of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) OpenCourseWare initiative. This bold move saw MIT make the materials from its entire catalogue of courses freely available online (D’Oliveira et al., 2010). That same year, UNESCO first adopted the term Open Educational Resources, and then in that December, the first set of Creative Commons licences were produced (you will learn more about Creative Commons later in this week’s materials).

Today, the open education space is occupied by both individual educators who reuse and share materials, and large educational enterprises with varying interpretations of what ‘open’ means. The rapid growth of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from the likes of FutureLearn, edX, Coursera and Udacity are important in the story of open education. Although these courses may be ‘open’ in terms of not restricting registration, the materials used are not necessarily licensed as OER and may be subject to copyright. MOOCs and other forms of online learning can be studied in detail through other course offerings from The Open University. See the ‘next steps’ section on the course Conclusion page.

The OER logo.
Figure 2 The OER logo

One form of OER that has rapidly gained popularity in recent years is Open Textbooks. These can reduce the cost to learners of acquiring course texts, and could increase access to education. Given the high costs of education and the challenges of providing learning to all those who want it, many educators are excited by the idea of free, high-quality texts, which can save money, be collaboratively produced and reviewed, and be customised to the needs of a particular class (Ozdemir & Hendricks, 2017). There is also the potential that open textbooks can increase student satisfaction (Pitt, 2015).

An image of six books which appear as if they are birds flying in the sky.
Figure 3 Open textbooks

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