Case Studies/OpenLearn

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Image, Sound, Text, MovingImage, InteractiveResource
Adoption date unspecified
OER, open, creative commons, education, university


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Page Importance: Start
Page Quality: High
Free and open access to course materials from The Open University UK.

"The decision to place free materials on the web is not easily made. There are often substantial barriers. Intellectual property, language and culture, making different technologies work together and most of all the invisible barrier of an ingrained reluctance to change that exists in many institutions. The Open University has overcome these barriers – its first publication of open material is an extraordinary addition to the growing collection of free and full accessible high quality content. The legacy of this wonderful gift by the OU-UK to the world will be not only be extraordinary original content – it will also be the many future generations of derivative content developed and tested and retested by untold numbers of students, teachers and others around the world." — Dr Marshall Smith, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Content Directory
CC licensed content portal:
CC licensed content feed:
Formats: Text,Sound,MovingImage,Image
Approximate size of the CC-licensed collection: 500

The OpenLearn story started in 2005 with a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Sharing our aim to open access to education for all, they agreed to help us set up the OpenLearn website.

Since 1969, The Open University has been a pioneer in making learning materials freely available through its successful partnership with the BBC. Many of our television and radio programmes are already supported by free internet activities and print materials. We wanted to use our knowledge of the latest technologies in education to extend our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. The vision was free online education.

Website development began in May 2006 and the site was launched in October 2006, with an aim to regularly add new content and features. OpenLearn now offers a full range of Open University subject areas from access to postgraduate level and has seen over 2 million visitors since launch.

The content can be downloaded in eight formats from OUXML to RSS to print. This encourages reuse in other organisation's learning management systems. People are asked to upload amendments, sharing new versions of the course materials with the rest of the world under the same CC licence. This has resulted in localisation of materials, including translations. The aim is to reduce the costs of course development for everyone in education and improve quality by openly sharing quality assured educational materials under a Creative Commons license. Community participation is particularly useful in rapidly developing fields such as technology and science.

In April 2008 OpenLearn reached its target to have 5,400 learning hours of content in the LearningSpace and 8100 hours in the LabSpace. The Open University is committed to making more of its course materials freely available through the OpenLearn website, and has other open content projects in iTunesU, YouTube and is working in Africa with the TESSA project.