Find out about open educational resources(OER)and the benefits that creating, sharing and using OER can provide. Improve the way that you create, share and use OER by using our guide.

A guide to open educational resources


  • What are open educational resources? 
  • Open educational resources – the story so far
  • Finding and sharing open educational resources
  • Open licensing
  • Approaches to releasing, using, reusing and repurposing open educational resources 
  • The rationale for adopting open educational resources
  • Practical guidance: Manage, Find , Use and Reuse, Release, Share, License, Track, Collaborate
  • Benefits case studies: Teacher, Learner, Institution, Communitities
  • What are open educational resources?

    Open educational resources (OER) are learning and teaching materials, freely available online for anyone to use. Examples include full courses, course modules, lectures, games, teaching materials and assignments. They can take the form of text, images, audio, video and may even be interactive.

    Teachers, learners and the general public can access and make use of open educational resources, irrespective of their location or affiliation with any particular institution. Open educational resources are shared via the websites of education providers and through public services like i-Tunes U, SlideShare, YouTube and Jorum.

    Individuals and organisations can create and share their own open educational resources. Once released, the resources can be used by a learner, reused by a teacher, remixed with other resources or repurposed to create new educational materials. While it is not essential to embrace all aspects – release, use, reuse and repurposing – involvement with one aspect tends to lead naturally to another.

    Releasing open educational resources is not simply about putting learning and teaching material online; it involves making the material available in a genuinely open way. Creative Commons or similar licenses are used so that the creator of the resources can retain copyright, while others can copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work.

    OER can be looked upon as a process as well as a set of products. This is because educators need to rethink the way in which they create, use and distribute learning and teaching materials.

    Opening up learning and teaching materials does not equate to providing a free education. Open educational resources are components of a rich educational package which includes staff expertise, institutional facilities, tuition and feedback.

    Open educational resources – the story so far

    "There’s going to be a revolution about how we deliver education, and...a part of that, a big strand of that will be around open education" – Senior Executive, De Montfort University

    Since 2009, the Higher Education Academy and Jisc have received nearly £15m government funding to lead a programme of work on open educational resources in the UK. The aim was not only to promote the creation and use of OER but to examine its potential to transform further and higher education.

    This chronology and subsequent exploration of the themes outlines the major activities and publications which have given rise to developments in OER in the UK, including the key contributions of the UKOER programme.


    Initiatives and events

    Key publications, studies and information sources


    The Hewlett Foundation funds two major OpenCourseWare initiatives:

    • MIT OpenCourseWare, free web-based course materials from subjects taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The university would go on to publish materials from virtually its entire curriculum.

    • Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative, offering online courses for learners and teachers.

    Creative Commons launches its first set of free machine-readable copyright licenses with a view to simplifying the communication of usage rights.

    Jorum, a national repository to collect and share learning and teaching materials, is developed by Jisc.

    Jisc eXchange for Learning (X4L) programme (2002 – 2006) starts to investigate and support the development, sharing and repurposing of learning objects: small units of teaching material created with a view to being repurposed. All materials released as part of the programme are deposited into Jorum.


    Jisc/NSF Digital Libraries in the Classroom   (2003-2008) programme begins. This international programme, run by Jisc in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, examines how technical developments can be integrated with digital content to improve the learning experience of students and provide new models for the classroom.


    A community of higher education institutions and related organisations establishes the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) committed to advancing OpenCourseWare and its impact on global education.

    Jisc Repositories Programme (2006-2009) brings together people and practices from various domains – research, learning, information services, institutional policy, management, administration, and records management – to ensure maximum coordination in the development of digital repositories.


    Jisc Repositories and Preservation Programme
    (2006-2009) is launched with a view to establishing a network of digital resources and services to significantly improve the curation and use of content.

    With funding from the Hewlett Foundation, the Open University launches OpenLearn, a website providing free worldwide access to its educational materials. Over 600 free online courses were to become available.

    Digital Repositories Roadmap
    (UKOLN, Eduserv Foundation)
    Heery, R, and Powell, A


    Creative Commons Education is launched to provide support, guidance and licenses specifically for the growing number of people using open licenses for education. This initiative is later subsumed into mainstream Creative Commons activity.

    The University of Nottingham's OpenCourseWare website, u-Now, launches. It acts as a window onto the university's activities and increases learning opportunities for those who are unable to undertake formal qualifications.

    Open Educational Practices and Resources Roadmap
    Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS)

    Sharing eLearning Content (SELC) report
    Charlesworth, A, Ferguson, N, Schmoller, S, Smith, N and Tice, R (Jisc)

    Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources
    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

    Review of the OER movement
    William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


    Connectivism, an early example of a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), is created. The course sources content from all over the web. It is free, openly-accessible, and promotes interaction and collaboration on a large scale. Other examples include Coursera, Udacity and edX.

    Jisc RePRODUCE Programme (2008-2009) funds 20 projects to develop and run technology-enhanced courses using reused and repurposed learning materials sourced externally to their institution.

    Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education
    Yuan, L. MacNeill, S, Kraan W (Jisc CETIS)

    Good Intentions: Improving the Evidence Base in Support of Sharing Learning Materials
    McGill, L, Currier, S, Duncan, C and Douglas, P (Jisc)

    RePRODUCE - Programme Summary Report
    Williamson, H (Jisc)


    Jisc and the HE Academy commence the first, pilot phase, of the UKOER programme (2009-2010) funded by the Higher Educational Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The programme explores processes, policies, intellectual property, cultural issues, technical requirements and data management issues associated with OER release. More than 80 UK universities are involved, some addressing OER within their own university; some working within subject-based consortia; and others exploring the requirements of individual academics.

    SCORE, the Support Centre for Open Resources in Education, is funded for a three year period to support individuals, projects, institutions and programmes across the higher education sector in England in creating, sharing and using open educational resources.

    Digital Repositories Roadmap Review: towards a vision for reasearch and learning 2013
    Heery, R (Jisc)


    UKOER Programme - Phase 2 (2010-2011) begins. In addition to funding further OER release projects, the programme commences an exploration into the discovery and use of open educational resources, specifically by academics.

    In conjunction with the UKOER programme, the Jorum repository develops JorumOpen, a parallel open area making all resources freely available worldwide and released under Creative Commons licenses. Later, as Jorum itself becomes exclusively 'open', JorumOpen is incorporated into the main Jorum repository.

    The Learning Registry is established in the USA with a view to creating a set of technical protocols to assist educators in quickly finding content specific to their needs. Rather than being a specific destination or portal, the Learning Registry is an open technology framework which allows information such as metadata, ratings, comments and downloads to be shared.

    In the UK, Jisc funds the JLeRN (Jisc Learning Registry Node) to examine the Learning Registry approach in the UK through dialogue and experimentation.

    UKOER Programme: Pilot Phase Synthesis and Evaluation Report
    McGill, L, Beetham, H, Falconer, I and Littlejohn, A (HE Academy and Jisc)

    OER infoKit
    (UKOER programme)


    The UKOER Programme - Phase 3 (2011-2012) turns its attention to the use of OER approaches in the pursuit of particular strategic, policy and societal goals.

    A collaboration of like-minded institutions launches the The OER university. The intention is to provide free learning worldwide using open educational resources. Through the OER university students can gain credible qualifications from recognised institutions and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.

    Unlocking the Gates: how and why leading universities are opening up access to their courses Walsh, T (Ithaka)

    Learner Use of Online Educational Resources for Learning (LUOER)
    Bacsich, P, Phillips, B and Bristow, F

    OER Impact Study Report
    Masterman, L and Wild, J

    UKOER Programme: Phase 2 Synthesis and Evaluation Report
    McGill, L, Falconer, I, Beetham, H and Littlejohn A (HE Academy and Jisc)


    The inaugural Open Education Week is held raising awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Participation in all events and use of all resources is free an open to anyone.

    With a vibrant community of practitioners established and many educational institutions incorporating OER into mainstream activity, specific OER funding in the UK comes to a close.

    Open practices: briefing paper
    Beetham, H, Falconer, I, McGill, L and Littlejohn, A. (Jisc)

    Open practice across sectors: briefing paper
    McGill, L, Falconer, I, Beetham, H and Littlejohn, A. (Jisc)

    Open Educational Resources: a historical perspective
    Kernohan, D and Thomas, A (Jisc)

    UKOER Programme: Phase 3 Synthesis and Evaluation Report
    McGill, L, Falconer, I, Littlejohn, A and Beetham, H(HE Academy/Jisc)

    Technology for open educational resources: into the wild
    Thomas, A, Campbell, L, Barker, P and Hawksey, M (Jisc CETIS)

    Also see: Timeline: key developments in OER in the UK and the role that Jisc CETIS has played.

    Finding and sharing open educational resources

    "The great promise of technology in education was to provide cost-effective access to a high quality education experience, and that's what OER is doing for us" – Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor, Open University.

    Since the 1980s, higher education policy-makers have been advocates for the re-use of teaching and learning materials by educators. Jisc launched its eXchange for Learning (X4L) programme (2002–2006) to explore the development, repurposing and sharing of learning resources. Alongside the programme, Jisc launched Jorum, a repository of UK learning and teaching materials. Participating projects were strongly encouraged to deposit their content into Jorum. At the time, repositories had been used widely to share scholarly publications (such as research papers). However less work had been done with regards to sharing educational resources in this way.

    From the winter of 2005-2006 onwards registered staff from all UK further and higher education institutions were able to deposit and access learning resources via Jorum. By August 2008, more than 400 institutions had registered to use Jorum and approximately 90 institutions had between them deposited over 2200 resources.

    While specialist repositories were, and remain, useful platforms through which content can be shared, Jisc also identified a trend towards the use of social media for sharing educational resources. Jisc RePRODUCE programme (2008-2009) found that academics had a tendency to source educational resources via personal recommendations and popular sites like Google and Flickr.

    One of the aims of the UKOER programme (launched in 2009) was to find out more about how academics share and search for materials for reuse or repurposing. The individuals, discipline-based consortia and institutions who were releasing resources as part of the programme had a wide variety of requirements. So, projects were permitted to use any format and any dissemination platform they chose. No specific tools, descriptive standards or dissemination mechanisms were mandated, other than the requirement to openly license resources. This approach was echoed in a broader worldwide trend away from developing centralised, education-specific tools and services and towards integrating institutional systems with other web services and applications. Lowering the technical and metadata requirements was shown to increase levels of participation in OER release and made the material more readily available online. Yet, conversely, this may have made it harder to identify resources that were specifically open, not least because less metadata and licensing information make automated searches more difficult.

    Work has continued throughout UKOER Phase 3 to improve the discoverability and availability of open educational resources.

    Research has revealed that teachers use all types of digital material, regardless of whether it is intended for educational purposes. Few of the resources used for teaching and learning can be described as open ie shared using Creative Commons or similar licences.

    Open licensing

    "This song is Copyrighted in the U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do." – Woodie Guthrie

    The sharing and reuse of educational resources by academics is not new; however the practice has become much more visible now that these materials are published and shared online. Where once staff and students accessed information primarily from their own institution, they now have access to a multitude of sources. Consequently, it has become ever more important for those wishing to reuse and repurpose educational resources to establish the right to do so. Similarly a need has arisen for creators of educational resources to better understand how to communicate the terms by which they are sharing their work.

    When the first full Jorum service became available, the intention was to provide a safe environment for educational providers to share materials. Accordingly, the licences used focussed more on restricting access than permitting it. The launch of JorumOpen established a new approach, where all resources deposited were done so using an open license. Ultimately, Jorum itself became a repository exclusively for openly-licensed resources.

    During the eXchange for Learning programme (2002–2006) it became apparent that teachers had seldom acknowledged ownership of the content they used, nor did they understood the need to do so.

    Creative Commons had set out to simplify the process of licensing educational resources. In support of this, Jisc worked to challenge perceptions that licensing and copyright was overly complex.

    Research indicated that making learning materials openly accessible was likely to have a significant impact on the sharing and exchange of resources. Nevertheless it was difficult to source teaching and learning materials suitable for legitimate reuse. Not only was there a lack of openly licensed educational resources available, but such materials were difficult to find. If resources were shared more readily using open licenses the process of clearing materials for reuse or repurposing would become much easier.

    The UKOER programme (launched in 2009) set about increasing the availability of openly licensed material. As well as funding projects involving the creation of OER, the programme set out to raise awareness of the issues relating to intellectual property rights and provide tools and information to support the use of open licenses. The OER IPR support project (part of the UKOER programme) resulted in the creation of a website providing advice on IPR and licensing for OER projects. The website includes an IPR starter pack and a range of diagnostic tools. All resources released as part of the UKOER programme used Creative Commons licenses.

    Being able to understand IPR issues has now become recognised as an important part of digital literacy.

    A significant number of open educational resources have been published online as a result of the work of UKOER programme and other initiatives. Yet the amount of licensed OER compared with non-licensed resources remains small. Inevitably, the majority of reuse involves content without open licences. Taking this into account the OER Impact Study recommended that the copyright restrictions be eased where resources are to be used for purely educational purposes.

    Approaches to releasing, using, reusing and repurposing OER

    "U-now [University of Nottingham's open courseware initiative] is very much consistent with what we say our international strategy is – it's knowledge without borders." – Professor Chris Ennew, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Internationalisation, University of Nottingham.

    There have been a variety of different approaches to OER including OpenCourseWare, Re-useable Learning Objects and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC).

    MIT OpenCourseWare (launched 2002) is the earliest and best-known example of OpenCourseWare. Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative launched in the same year. In both cases materials were made available not for repurposing, but for direct use by learners. In the UK the first examples of open educational resources being adopted at an institutional level were the Open University's OpenLearn (launched 2006) and University of Nottingham's U-Now (launched 2007).

    In contrast, Jisc's eXchange for Learning (X4L) programme (2002-2006) and the RePRODUCE programme (2008-2009) focussed on the repurposing of learning resources by educators. One of the findings of this research was that open educational resources were more likely to be reused if made available in smaller modules as opposed to large units.

    The second phase of the UKOER programme (2010–2011) concerned the use of open educational resources by teachers and learners. Projects drew together OER from various sources into collections aimed at identified user groups.

    The OER Impact Study (2011) found few examples where full OER courses or modules were being reused and, if they were, they were more likely to be reused overseas. The study concluded that further research was needed into the best ways to promote reuse of OER by teachers.


    The rationale for adopting open educational resources

    "The most compelling argument for the release of OER is the marketing opportunities that it provides. The more you release the more people know about you," – Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln

    Early research into digital educational resources focussed on how they may create efficiencies through being reused and repurposed by academics. Hence the first phase of the UKOER programme was concerned with exploring which models of OER release would provide the most benefit and be most sustainable with a low set-up cost (compared with OpenCourseWare approaches).

    It became apparent that it was possible to create and use OER comparatively cheaply in a variety of settings. However, unless there was widespread academic reuse, any efficiencies were bound to be limited. When evaluating efficiency, it was necessary to consider who stood to gain: an individual, an institution, or the education community as a whole: savings for one could present a cost for another.

    'Efficiency through reuse' was superseded by much more powerful arguments in support of OER use and reuse . Among other things, open educational resources have the potential to improve quality, raise an individual's or institution's profile, even transform the educational process itself.

    In 2007 the Sharing e-Learning Content report argued that the business case for institutions to share learning materials had not been sufficiently well articulated in the UK, despite evidence in support of it. The Good Intentions report (2008) set about addressing this issue by examining existing and emerging business models including open sharing and highlighting the benefits of each model for different stakeholders.

    Through the UKOER programme, evidence has emerged that benefits can be derived not only from open educational resources themselves but through the process of creating and using them.  This has been made manifest in the emergence of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) where openness is not limited to course material but becomes integral to the whole educational process.

    The first two phases of the UKOER programme, brought to light a relationship between the use of open educational resources and other aspects of open practice. The Open Practices Briefing Paper (2012) argued that, due to the barriers associated with the release of open educational resources, in some cases other open practices may be more easily and readily adopted. Taking this into account the report recommended that future funding should address the development and management of open educational resources within the wider landscape of educational practices.

    The UK Government has been instrumental in funding developments in open educational resources and open practice in general. However open practice is also seen as part of the resistance to changes in the Government's funding model for higher education. For many it is an antidote to increased competition between institutions and the financial barriers to accessing tertiary education.

    Practical Guidance


    "I was cautious about putting our materials on open access, and free of charge – it felt like giving away our family silver! However, with the opportunity provided by Jisc to work with the team at the University of Nottingham, I am convinced. It’s given us the opportunity to share our information and educational services to those who really need them and to use the chance to introduce them to other services we have which may be useful to them." – Sue Archbold, CEO, The Ear Foundation

    This section of the is intended to help managers in universities and colleges to; plan, manage, support and encourage the adoption of open educational resources (OER) across the institution and embed open educational resources into educational practice.

    Benefits of OER

    • Building the institution's reputation

    • Marketing the institution or individual courses

    • Efficiency, particularly when creating a resource which can be used across a number of courses

    What our research tells us

    • Open educational resources projects are more likely to be successful and sustainable with senior management support

    • The use and reuse of online educational materials is widespread. However, very few of these resources are truly open. There are distinct advantages to creating and using educational resources which have an open license (see Share section)

    • There are different cultures of openness at different educational institutions. This is not as simple as a single dimension from closed to open but many different ways in which institutions can support open educational practices and start to move towards more open policies

    • Getting academics and marketers to align their aims and create open educational resources that work well as both educational tools and publicity material can be both challenging and rewarding

    • Staff awareness, engagement and support for ongoing involvement is crucial to the success of an open educational resources project

    • Staff development, reward and recognition and maintaining communities of practice are all important for sustainability

    Tips for successs

    • Develop a clear rationale along with credible business and benefit cases, perhaps using examples from elsewhere in your institution

    • OER may be of interest to almost anyone in your organisation from library staff to learners through to academics or marketing professionals

    • Build on previous work, tap into staff expertise and capitalise on the enthusiasm that already exists
    • Help staff develop the necessary skills and knowledge to create and use open educational resources

    • Support changes in teaching practice through awareness-raising, workshops, capacity building and communities of practice

    • Create a culture of openness across the institution

    • Find ways to reward and recognise staff members who create and use open educational resources

    • Consider building open educational resources into the approval processes for your virtual learning environment

    • Take an incremental approach starting with the low-hanging fruit

    • Adapt existing policies (relating to intellectual property, learning, teaching and assessment) where they already exist to create a gentle, less threatening transition towards openness

    • Alternatively, initiate a new special open educational resources policy to act as a powerful signal that the institution is fully committed to supporting implementation

    • Embed the creation and use of open educational resources into other institutional activities to make it more sustainable

    Things to watch out for

    • Don't expect major efficiency gains, especially in the short term, there are many more compelling reasons to adopt open educational resources


    Help and further information

    OER an introducation for managers and policy makers  (UKOER 2012)

    Open Educational Resources - an overview for senior managers in further and higher education (OER infoKit)

    Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (OECD 2007)

    Open Courseware Consortium Toolkit

    Support Centre for Open Resources in Education

    UKOER Phase 2 Final Report: institutional issues

    UKOER Phase 2 Final Report: practice change

    Open Practices briefing paper

    UKOER Phase 3 'Themes' projects working towards particular strategic, policy and societal goals

    Diagnostic tool: How open are you? (Web2Rights)



    This section is intended to help you to search for and find open educational resources (OER). It will introduce you to the issues relating to locating and identifying openly licensed material and help others to find your open educational resources.

    Benefits of easy to find OER

    • Increased range of resources available

    What our research tells us

    • There are a huge number of online resources that can be used for education. However, relatively few of them could be described as open educational resources, ie shared using Creative Commons or similar licences to allow for reuse and repurposing

    • Difficulties in finding open educational resources are due to:

      - Lack of consistent metadata
      - Repositories using differing APIs (protocols for communicating with other software)
      - Lack of clear licensing information so it is difficult to distinguish open educational resources from other digital content
      - Broken links

    • Sometimes non-open materials are included in collections of open educational resources. This is because a critical mass of resources is needed to avoid search results becoming sparse or irrelevant

    • Subject discipline may affect how likely academics are to find open educational resources online

    • Academics feel confident in judging content and view it as a core competency. They value trusted sources such as the BBC, NASA, iTunes U and academic websites (ending Peer networks and offline suggestions are also important sources of OER recommendations

    • Students are often unsure about their ability to select and evaluate critically the abundance of materials available online

    Tips for success

    • A range of online services provide access to open educational resources, for example Flickr (images), YouTube (video), Scribd (the written word) and iTunes U (educational materials)

    • Creative Commons Search is a gateway to search services provided by other organisations. There is no guarantee that the resources found using these searches are openly licensed, so this should be viewed just as a starting point

    • There are also more specialist services. UK further and higher education communities share learning and teaching resources via Jorum – all resources in Jorum are openly licensed
    • Learners and educators can use XPERT (Xerte Public E-learning ReposiTory) to search a growing database of open learning resources suitable for students at all levels of study in a wide range of different subjects.  XPERT, which is based at The University of Nottingham now provides access to the biggest collection of OER in the world.

    • Some educational institutions have OER repositories. These and discipline-specific websites can also be useful for finding specialist resources for a particular subject area

    • Developing effective techniques for finding, evaluating and using digital resources should be seen as a key digital literacy for both staff and students

    • Help students to identify suitable resources. This may be as simple as providing a list of links

    Things to watch out for

    • Effective search and selection of open educational resources can take time

    • When you find a resource, take care to check the terms of the licence before using it


    Help and further information

    Finding OERs (OER infoKit)

    Creative Commons Search

    UKOER Phase 2 Activity Area C: the discovery of OER

    Support with using Jorum

    Use and reuse

    This section is intended to help you to consider how teachers can reuse the open educational resources (OER) of others and help you encourage learners to use open educational resources.

    Benefits of use and resuse of OER

    • Inspiration for teaching methods or pedagogical structures

    • Sourcing material teachers would find time-consuming to produce or where they may lack the relevant media production skills: e.g. videos

    • Professional benchmarking

    • Giving learners a different perspective on a particular subject

    • Providing non-traditional learners with access to a curriculum which is more flexible, visible, and integrated with real life experience

    What our research tells us

    • Reuse of others' content is an established part of teaching practice

    • The most common form of reuse by academics is to use small items of content to address a specific teaching need

    • Academics are most likely to use a resource unchanged, but many provide additional information to contextualise the resource for students

    • There are indications that those actively engaged in a professional community are more likely to reuse resources

    • Our evidence suggests that students see the use of online resources as a normal part of their experience of study. They can benefit from different perspectives and access more material but they may also feel that it is the teacher's job to provide this

    • Students appear to have a low level of awareness of open educational resources and related IPR issues

    • Students may be uncertain how to reference multimedia sources such as videos and podcasts. Although common citations styles such as APA, Chicago and Harvard do cover these new media, it is possible that students are not taught the relevant bibliographic formats

    • It is possible that students are nervous about the risk of plagiarism and have trouble distinguishing plagiarism from copyright issues

    Tips for success

    • You can use open educational resources as a core resource or supplementary material

    • Open educational resources can be integrated into the wider teaching and learning experience making them effectively invisible within the course

    • Provide opportunities for students to share, discuss and critique the online resources they have discovered themselves – evaluating these alongside their teacher could become a useful part of the learning process

    • Work needs to be done to train staff and students to search for and use open educational resources

    • When setting out students expectations and entitlements in relation to their learning experience, provide appropriate justification and assurances regarding the incorporation of resources from other institutions

    Things to watch out for

    • There is little incentive to use genuinely 'open' educational resources when other non-open materials are freely available, especially if a Google search finds relevant resources more easily than does a search of an OER repository. It is important therefore to communicate the benefits of using openly licensed materials (see License and Release sections for more information)

    • Increased tuition fees may have implications for the deployment of open educational resources from a student's perspective, in that they might not welcome paying for resources that are freely available

    • Factors that are likely to deter would-be users of open educational resources are:

      - Poorly indexed materials

      - Inadequate searches

      - The requirement to register for access

      - Unreliable hardware or software on the host website

      - Lack of licensing information (preventing people reusing or knowing they can reuse material)

    Help and further information

    OER Impact Study report – Masterman L, Wild J (2011)

    UKOER Phase 2 Activity Area C: the discovery of OER

    UKOER Phase 2 Activity Area B: the use of OER

    Learning and Teaching Considerations (OER infoKit)



    "Wider communication is the main point. Most academics want to communicate things; most conventional publishing fails to do that substantially" – Academic participant, Oxford University

    This section is intended to help you to remix and repurpose the open educational resources (OER) produced by others; create open educational resources of your own and encourage teachers to repurpose and create open educational resources.

    Benefits of releasing OER

    • Reputation building for the institution, subject area, or individual

    • The process of creating open educational resources mirrors effective learning design: taking into account quality assurance, permissions to use third party materials, accessibility, appropriate file formats, logical structure and clear learning outcomes

    • OER encourages open educational practice' allowing teachers to share, reflect upon and get feedback on their work

    What our research tells us

    • There is already a culture of informal sharing amongst academic staff. However, given that open educational resources are distributed more publicly, there are concerns about the time and expertise required to develop high quality, accessible content that meets the additional quality criteria for open release

    • The adoption of open educational resources requires a change in attitude towards content. Teachers must view resources as artefacts of the educational process, rather than a constituent of the curriculum

    • The kind of teacher who is likely to create open educational resources: sees teaching as (among other things) helping students to become active independent learners

      - has a collaborative outlook

      - sees value in combining their own teaching materials with relevant materials from other sources

      - is confident in their teaching skills and their command of subject matter

      - has a readiness to develop their professional practice both from engaging from other people's resources and obtaining feedback on the resources they have shared with others

    • While it is more sustainable to empower individual academics and departments to release educational resources themselves, it is wise to provide some centralised technical support

    Tips for success

    • Before you start:

      - Decide what you intend to achieve and who the resources will be for

      - Consider how your resource might be used, reused or repurposed

      - Choose the most appropriate format

      - If you are adapting or incorporating pre-existing materials, confirm or obtain the necessary permissions so that your new resource can be openly licensed

    • Smaller snippets might more easily be reused or repurposed by other teachers, whereas more elaborate resources could be used in marketing or for direct use by learners

    • It is helpful to include pedagogical context to communicate to others:

      - how the OER might be used

      - the target audience

      - potential outcomes

      - how you set up learning activities using the resource

      - ways in which learners could interact with the resource

    • Be aware of relevant accessibility issues

    • If you're creating audio or visual media, include transcriptions to aid selection, evaluation and accessibility

    • Attention to details such as sound quality can make all the difference

    • Teachers may need to develop new skills to enable them to create effective open educational resources

    Things to watch out for

    • Open educational resources tend to enhance practice rather than speed up the development of course materials

    • Projects have described IPR issues, cultural practice and traditions,  a lack of necessary expertise and, to a lesser extent, technological challenges as significant barriers to the release of open content


    Help and further information

    Open educational resources: the value of reuse in higher education – Jisc

    UKOER Phase 1: institutional, individual, and subject-based OER projects focussing on OER release

    UKOER Phase 2 Activity Area A: the release of OER

    Accessibility (OER infoKit)


    "Improvement in post secondary education will require converting teaching from a solo sport to a community based research activity." – Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

    This section is intended to help you to gather together and manage a collection of open educational resources (OER) to share them with others and to consider the various technical aspects associated with storing and sharing your open educational resources.

    Benefits of sharing OER

    • Managing digital assets

    • Preserving knowledge is subjects where resources are not widely available

    What our research tells us

    • Depositing content in more than one place improves search engine ranking and ultimately makes it easier to find

    • Teachers value resources with an education-related provenance

    • Sometimes people include 'grey' or 'non' OER in order to generate a critical mass of resources – otherwise search results become sparse or irrelevant

    • Users expect to search for OER as easily as they search for something using Google or Amazon

    Tips for success

    • As well as publishing the resource itself, include metadata and supplementary information describing the resource to make it more findable in (human and machine) searches

    • You may wish to create a collection of open educational resources comprising your own materials, that of others, or a mixture of both

    • Criteria for inclusion in your collection might include: provenance; peer recommendation; subject relevance; adaptability; level of interest; pedagogical value; licence terms; accessibility; ease of use; date created; user feedback; format and/or relevance to user needs

    • You'll need to decide whether your collection is to be:

      - Static: containing actual copies of the resources

      - Dynamic: providing links to resources elsewhere

      - Automated

      - Based on human input (you could gather an expert group for selection and quality control

      - A combination of these

    • Open educational resources can be uploaded to or accessed from:

      - your institutional website

      - a website provided by a wider community

      - Jorum

      - another online location such as a blog, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), content management system, or a website created specifically for this purpose

    • The more places your resources can be found the more likely they will be discovered and used. You can place your resources in a single place and link to them from other locations. Alternatively you can place your resources in a number of different locations

    • Take into account workflow, version control, access and communication to ensure your open educational resources collection is manageable, useful and sustainable

    • Consider these questions when choosing a platform:

      - Are people are familiar with it?

      - Is it well used?

      - Is it likely to be sustained? 

      - Does it have an open ethos?

    • Allow for different methods of discovery: pull (ie search) and push (ie feeds)

    • Create clear intelligible access pages to encourage and ease use
    • Create a hook to draw people towards your collection of open educational resources

    Things to watch out for

    • If you're creating a collection of open educational resources, consider how this will be kept up-to-date. Creating a collection of links to resources can get around uncertainty about licensing, but links may change and therefore break

    • There is a lack of standardisation and machine readability of licence information so searches for OER are difficult to automate

    Help and further information

    Describing OERs (Jisc Cetis)

    UKOER Phase 2 Final Report: development and release issues

    John Robertsons's Jisc CETIS blog - educational resources, ed tech, standards, metadata and repositories

    Digital Repositories Roadmap Review: towards a vision for reasearch and learning 2013  Heery, R

    Technical and Data Management (OER infoKit)

    OER Tech: resource management (Jisc Cetis)

    OER Tech: resource description (Jisc Cetis)

    OER Tech: resource discovery (Jisc Cetis)



    This section is intended to help you to discover why it is important to use open licenses when sharing open educational resources (OER); better understand the issues around open licensing and how to release your open educational resources using open licences.

    Benefits of using open licences for sharing OER

    • Resources are more easily discovered

    • Effective management of intellectual property

    • Contributes to sustainability of materials

    • Makes reuse and repurposing of material simpler and safer

    • Speeds up the process of seeking permission to use and repurpose the resources of others

    • Clarifies the distinction between resources that can be 'used for free' and those with which we are 'free to do as we choose'

    What our research tells us

    • The most commonly used form of open licence is Creative Commons

    • Only a copyright owner can give permission for material to be openly licensed. So the provenance, ownership and permission to use material must be established before resources are released under an open licence

    • Clearing materials for open release can be difficult particularly when dealing with third-party materials. This issue can be resolved by reusing and repurposing open educational resources

    • With higher education institutions increasing their income from non-government sources, non-commercial licences need to be clarified

    • At present there are many different ways in which licences are represented in metadata. Clearer guidelines are needed for this

    Tips for success

    • Be clear about licensing as this will make your open educational resources simpler to reuse or repurpose

    • If you plan to include non-open resources in your collection make clear which are openly licensed and which are not

    • Aim to integrate copyright and licensing into standard practice. This can be achieved through:

      - Staff development

      - Student study skills

      - Developing tools to easily add Creative Commons licenses to digital materials

      - Encouraging everyone in your institution who produces educational resources to assign an open license to them


    Things to watch out for

    • Open platforms and open document formats increase accessibility. However be aware that open document formats may be seen as a barrier if it means downloading new software

    • General legal advice regarding licensing may not be sufficient as licensing may need to be tailored to your institution. Ongoing specialist legal support may be needed

    Help and further information

    Animation: turning a resource into an OER (Web2Rights)

    Animation: Intellectual Property Rights in the Web 2.0 world (Web2Rights)

    OER IPR Support website (Web2Rights)

    UKOER 2 licences and encoding John Robertsons' blog post (Jisc CETIS)

    Creative Commons website

    Intellectual Property Rights (OER infoKit)

    Legal Aspects of OER (OER infoKit)

    OER Tech: licensing (Jisc Cetis)


    This section is intended to help you to plan how to track the use and measure the impact of your open educational resources (OER).

    Benefits of tracking your OER

    • As resources are more visible it is easier to track use and measure impact

    What our research tells us

    • Google Analytics stood out as the key tracking software used by UKOER projects

    Tips for success

    • From the outset establish how you will track the use of your open educational resources. Methods include:

      - Analysing web statistics

      - Monitoring comments made about the resources

      - Embedding tracking information within material

    Things to watch out for

    • Bear in mind that monitoring usage is not a straightforward task because your resources can be passed on and repurposed

    Help and further information

    Tracking OERs: technical approaches to usage monitoring for UKOER (Jisc Cetis)

    OER Tech: tracking OERs (Jisc Cetis)

    OER Tech: paradata - activity data for learning resources (Jisc Cetis)

    OER Evaluation



    "It was great to be part of the fantastic work of the UKOER programme as part of the PORSCHE project. MEDEV's leading work on Open Education Resources has had a significant and on-going impact on the NHS eLearning Repository project." – Richard Osborn, Strategic Library Services Development Manager, NHS London

    This section is intended to help you to work with others to release open educational resources (OER) and to gain an appreciation of how OER can support collaborative working.

    Benefits of OER

    • Greater collaboration:

      - within subject disciplines

      - across discipline boundaries

      - between educational institutions and employers

      - between educational institutions and other organisations

    • More opportunity for teachers to:

      - engage in reflective practice

      - get feedback

      - get ideas from others

    What our research tells us

    • In many ways the process of releasing open educational resources and the resulting community-building activities have become more important than the resources themselves

    • Working with other organisations outside the institution can create different challenges but can increase understanding and result in some excellent outputs

    • Emerging communities and those strengthened through open educational resources are seen as important to sustainability

    • Collaboration across professional boundaries is critical if sharing and release of educational content is to become embedded into academic practice

    • New professional responsibilities are emerging demanding new kinds of expertise

    Tips for success

    • Capitalise on opportunities to become involved with networks and like-minded individuals

    • Adopt an open approach to academic practice seeking to share resources and ideas both within your discipline community and beyond it

    Things to watch out for

    • When collaborating with other organisations agreement is needed on domain registration, branding, website terms and conditions, accessibility, privacy policy, shared site administration and data sharing

    Help and further information

    WikiEducator an evolving community involved with collaborative OER projects

    UKOER Phase 2 Final Report: cultural considerations

    STEM OER: guidance on open educational resources in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

    Proposing a Consent Commons in open education





    Case studies / project reports

    Links to OER examples

    Inspiration and ideas for ways of teaching

    University of Cambridge – Open Resource Bank for Interactive Teaching (ORBIT): Existing expertise on teacher education has been made more widely available by creating a bank of OERs. ORBIT includes lesson ideas and plans linked to pedagogical principles and subject information.

    University of Wolverhampton – Active Engagement: OER used to support inclusive teaching and academic engagement.

    Jorum user story – inspirational OERs: Dr Viv Rolfe, Principle Lecturer Anatomy and Physiology, De Montfort University, describes how she uses open educational resources for inspiration, to supplement student learning or to enhance existing lecture materials.


    A wider pool of resources to draw on

    Jorum user story – learning to share and sharing to learn: Dr Luke Sloan, Lecturer in Quantitative Methods, School of Social Science, Cardiff University, explains how he used the Jorum repository to pool resources with other lecturers, gain feedback and build reputation.

    Search for SPSS in Xpert

    Fills gaps in the teachers expertise or media production skills eg video for production

    University Centre Doncaster – Supporting the Learning of Qualitative Data Analysis: Using OER from another institution (Huddersfield University) alongside existing teaching resources.

    Learning Qualitative Data Analysis

    Personal reputation building.

    University of Oxford podcasts: There are many examples of lecturers who have raised their personal profile through OER. One such lecturer, Marianne Talbot, openly released her philosophy lectures as podcasts as part of Oxford University's OpenSpires project. Her lectures have since been heard by millions, two of the podcasts achieving iTunes U's global number one.


    Philosophy for Beginners

    Allows for feedback from peers and learners and for comparing work with others.

    University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford – The Politics in Spires blog: a blog-style website created through a collaboration between the politics and international studies departments at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

    Politics in Spires

    More opportunities to collaborate with others across institutions, sectors and subject disciplines.

    The Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry & Veterinary Medicine (MEDEV) working in partnership with NHS services: Higher education providers, NHS services and online repositories collaborated to share a collection of clinical and academic healthcare learning materials as open educational resources (OER). Healthcare students learn much of the same material in many workplace settings, so OER has the potential to deliver considerable savings. Through their creation, the resources provide a platform from which future developments and debate can be derived.


    Greater awareness of open educational practices and intellectual property issues.

    Southampton Solent University – OER for Blended Learning: Lecturers undertaking the PG Cert Blended Learning course were introduced to OERs and encouraged to use them in their own work.


    More learners can be reached.

    The Periodic Table of Videos – University of Nottingham: The periodic table has been brought to life with a series of light-hearted yet informative videos exploring each of the 118 elements. The YouTube channel has over 170,000 subscribers worldwide and the videos have been viewed more than 33 million times! Increased visibility has led the creators to improve upon and extend this resource.

    Marion Talbot's University of Oxford podcasts

    The Periodic Table of Videos



    Case studies and project reports

    Links to the OER examples

    A clearer idea of what it's like to study within a particular institution, subject area or course prior to application.

    De Montfort University – Virtual Analytical Library: Laboratory skills required for a range of science courses are taught through simple explanatory videos. Future, new and returning students can brush up on old skills and learn new ones – as and when they need to.

    Virtual Analytical Library

    Free-of-charge access to a wide range of educational resources worldwide.

    OER Africa, launched by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) with support from the Hewlett Foundation, aims to increase access to knowledge, skills and learning across the African

    continent. To this end it has established networks of like-minded educators to develop, share and adapt open educational resources to meet the needs of African societies.

    OER Africa

    Access to supplementary resources to support study skills.

    Open University – Maths Help Modules: enabling inbound and new students to gain or revise basic maths skills.

    Maths Help

    The ability to benefit from varied perspectives on, and approaches to, a single subject.

    University of Nottingham – Setting a Fashion for Practical Reuse: a quick-to-produce online 'hand-out' covering the SPSS statistical package using Xpert, a distributed repository of e-learning resources.


    A curriculum which is integrated into real life experience.

    Southampton Solent University – Opening up a Future in Business: Resources for 16 to 19-year-olds making decisions about studying on courses with a business element, using the work of small and medium sized enterprises.


    Resources can be accessed in a variety of settings - useful for non-traditional and work-based learners.

    University of Oxford – Podcasts 'Not Shakespeare: Elizabethan and Jacobean Popular Theatre’: podcasts of live lectures for a core literature course in the English Faculty.

    University of Oxford podcasts

    Free access to educational resources without being required to enrol in an institution.

    Oxford University senior management supported the open release of video and audio material online via iTunes U to provide inspiring and engaging learning experiences to those who chose to download them. The podcasts achieved significant worldwide attention.




    Case studies and project reports

    Links to the OER examples

    Marketing and reputation building through showcasing the work of the institution.

    Open University – Open Learn: OpenLearn has reached more than 23 million people, giving access to a wide range of open educational resources including course materials, expert blogs, videos and games. Hundreds of people accessing these free resources go on to enrol on paid-for courses, thus generating a return on investment for The Open University.


    Extending the institution’s reach internationally.

    University of Nottingham – Buliding Exchanges for Research and Learning in Nottingham (BERLiN): Expanding Nottingham's existing educational repository (uNow). The University's international campuses in China and Malaysia are key strategic drivers for sharing learning resources.


    Social responsibility in line with the academic traditions of sharing knowledge.

    Nottingham University's work with the Ear Foundation: Improving learning opportunities for children living with cochlear implants. The project produced open educational resources to help children with an implant to communicate and develop spoken language.


    Improved public engagement

    The Open University – Open Engagement through Open Media: Open access and open licensing of content, coupled with different channels and social media technologies, are opening up new ways for a university to engage with various publics from around the world.


    Widening access and participation.

    University of Oxford – Sesame project identified existing and created new online resources to support adult and part-time learners. The resources were made freely available for others to use, repurpose, and incorporate in to their own learning and teaching.


    More opportunities to collaborate within and beyond the institution.

    University of Liverpool – CORE-SET: OER in science, engineering and technology based on resources already in the possession of non-HE partners including private, public and third-sector organisations.

    Doncaster College - REaCTOR (Renewable, Environmental and Construction Technology Open Resources): Creating a set of 3d teaching and learning resources for use by Built Environment lecturers and students; the project involved the College establishing a commissioning process with environmental, educational and private sector organisations.


    Preserving knowledge in disciplines where resources are not widely available.

    University of the Arts London – Arts Learning and Teaching Online (ALTO): OER creation and sharing is challenging in art and design – there is a strong tradition of studio-based practice and learning and traditional teaching resources, such as lecture notes and project briefs, can be scarce. The ALTO project has created an online library of learning resources for art and design subjects. Staff and students can use this library to manage, store and share their content in the long-term.


    Improved intellectual property management.

    Newcastle University – Publish OER: Exploring new business models to enable sustainable release of OER by conceptualising, planning, piloting and testing different approaches to embedding third party rights.


    New opportunities for staff development.

    University Centre Blackburn College – Staff development in the OER era: How University Centre Blackburn has been transforming teaching practice and staff development for higher education lecturers teaching in a further education college.






    Case Studies and Project Reports

    Links to the OER examples

    Strengthens relationships between educational establishments and other organisations (such as government organisations, charitable trusts, businesses and employers).

    De Montfort University – Health and Life Science Open Educational Resources (HALS OER): Working with a number of external partners including the local constabulary, the National Health Service, Oxford University Press and professional bodies to create OERs based on real-life scenarios.


    Facilitates subject-based collaboration.

    Humbox is the result of a collaboration between four Higher Education Academy subject centres and a consortium of UK universities' humanities departments. It is a repository of humanities resources free to download and share. As well as building a bank of resources, the aim was to create a community of humanities specialists willing to share teaching materials, collaborate with each other and peer-review resources.

    Similarly LanguageBox is a place where students and teachers of languages can publish and share handouts, exercises, podcasts, videos and other learning resources on the web.



    Enables cross-disciplinary collaboration.

    Coventry University - Coventry Open Media Classes (COMC): Classes in which open educational resources are generated and curated by academics, researchers, practitioners and students. The classes give access to communities of subject specialists, professional practitioners and wider learning communities.


    Promotes a fresh look at curriculum and course development.

    Sheffield Hallam University – Digital Futures in Teacher Education: An open text book covering digital literacies for creative learners and digital literacies in the context of professional development. The intention is to encourage reflective practice and embed OERs within professional development of FE and HE teachers.


    Enhances discussion and debate about academic ideas.

    There has been substantial discussion on OER and its effect on academic practice – via the #UKOER hashtag and the blogs of David Wiley, Joss Winn and a number of others.


    Greater efficiency through producing generic materials suitable for a variety of courses or disciplines.

    Nottingham Trent University – Research ethics OER: An exploration of how 'research ethics', a subject area taught across all programmes at all levels of study, might be taught using OERs.


    Enables new kinds of collaboration

    Coventry University – #Phonar (photography and narrative) course: is a free and open undergraduate photography class. Enrolled degree students are inspired and challenged through sharing their work and engaging in discourse with non-paying online attendees.


    Provides opportunities for profile raising

    University of Southampton - Finding a Voice through Open Resources (FAVOR): demonstrates how OER has been used to showcase the excellent and often unrecognised work of part-time, hourly-paid language teachers.


    Allows educational institutions to collaborate more easily with each other.

    The Open University - Collaborative development of Open Educational Resources for open and distance learning: How open licensing is making it easier to share the effort and costs involved in developing educational resources between institutions.


    Further information about benefits:

    Compelling reasons to adopt open educational resources (OER infoKit)

    Stakeholders and Benefits (OER infoKit)

    Good Intentions: improving the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials
    McGill, L, Currier, S, Duncan, C and Douglas, P (2008)

    UKOER Phase 2 Final Report: impacts and benefits






    Clare Groom
    Publication Date
    27 March 2013
    Publication Type
    Strategic Themes