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Keynote: D'Antoni - Open Educational Resources: building knowledge societies

Cambridge International Conference on Open and Distance Learning, 25/9/09

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Gráinne Conole
25 September 2009

At the heart of the movement towards OER is the simple and powerful idea that the worlds knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the wwweb in particular provide an opportunity for everyone to share, use and reuse it

Mike Smith and Cathy Casserly

A personal perspective…

Alberto Manguel

Indistinct, majestic, ever-present the tacit architecture of that infinite library (of Alexandria) continues to haunt our dreams of universal order. Nothing like it has ever been achieved, through others libraries (the web included) have tried to copy its astonishing ambition.

The tower of Babel and the library of Alexandria stand as symbols of everything we are about.

A UNESCO perspective

Since wars being in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed UNESCO

The aims associated with desire to build knowledge societies are ambitious. Providing basic education for all promoting lifelong education for all, encouraging the spread of research and development efforts in all countries…

Expenditure for education is one of the most productive investments that a country can make…

We are talking here about opening education

Sir Walter Perry (first VC of Open University)

..standards of teaching in conventional university was pretty deplorable, stuck me if you could use the media and devise course materials that would work for students all by themselves, then inevitably you are bound to affect for good the standard of teaching in conventional universities.

John Seely Brown

The web has just begun to have an impact on our lives. As fascinated as we are with it today, we’re still seeing it in its early forms… My belief is that not only will the web be as fundamental to society as electrification but that it will be subject to many of the same diffusion and absorption dynamics as that earlier medium.

Sir John Daniel

access, cost and quality – the iron triangle which has hindered the expansion of education, he argues that technology transcends this iron triangle.

OER – a vision

Brenda Gourley

The rise of the OER movement is one of the most exciting and indeed critical developments of our time

2002 group of academics met at UNESCO and were presented by early work by MIT, whereby they made their educational materials freely available. Term OER was coined then

Open provision of educational resources enabled by ICT for consultation use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes UNSECO, 2002

Hewlett foundation Fous of this component is on creating exemplars of academic content that are free and accessible to all on the web,, these will help raise the level of quality of academic content by setting a standard of practice… one criterion for our support of education..


  • Rice University Connexions – sharing knowledge and building communities Began in 1999. Authors can create and collaborate, Instructors rapidly build and share custom collections, Learners can find and explore content
  • MIT open courseware, almost 200 courses online, a window into the institution. One of the visions and values of OER is that they provide opportunities for self-paces, directed learning. Now more than 200 institutions are now part of the open courseware consortium
  • Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiatives Open courses backed by learning research. Exemplars of high quality courses, backed by research, courses have assessment embedded in them.
  • Open learning opening access to education Launched in 2006, two sections learning space and labspace provides access to materials for editing or collaborative work, also backed by an extensive body of research.
  • Open University of the Netherlands OpenUniversiteitNederland, blurring the boundaries of formal and informal learning, can choose to get accreditation for the materials you study

Now a network of over 900 people interacting and discussing OER issues

I am very pleased to see the whole wolrd around the table we wil be able to find a lot of expereisne and concerns - great success

UNESCO-IIEP OER forum participant

There is a wiki assoicated with this group and a handbook about how to use OER and a report on access.

Three main aims

  • To advance the OER movement: awareness raising, communities and networks
  • To enable creation and use: developing capacity and quality assurance
  • To remove barriers: sustainability and copyright and licensing

Plan to transfer the community to a UNESCO chair, which is a network, to help share lessons learnt.

To remain human and liveabe knowledge societies will have to be societies of shared knowledge

Koichiro Matsurra, UNESCO Director general

But the library of Alexandria was set up to do more than merely immortalize, it was to record everything that had been and could be recorded and these records were to be digested into further records a endless trail of readings and glossed that would engender in turn new glosses and new readings

Alberto Manguel

Venerabke and calm, with all its treassure safe locked within its breast it (the library) sleeps complacently and will as far as I am concerned so sleep for ever..

Virginia Woolf

Extra content

Issues for discussion

  • With their high quality materials, open and distance learning institutions can make a significant contribution to the OER movement. But what is the potential impact of OER on open and distance learning?
  • Will the OER movement contribute to greater inclusion through reducing the information and knowledge divides or rather exacerbate them?
  • Education can been seen as comprised of 3 components: learning materials, instruction and evaluation and certification. The OER movement is providing learning with growing access to learning materials. What might constitute the most promising new dynamics in education to promote inclusive education system?

Gráinne Conole
09:13 on 25 September 2009

The full paper by Susan D'Antoni can be found here

Giota Alevizou
23:26 on 4 January 2010

Embedded Content


Patrick McAndrew
8:40am 25 September 2009

Very interesting the points that Susan makes setting out the aims of working on open resources. The enabling work that the Hewlett Foundation has supported means that there are now many people involved and resources out there - one challenge now is to spot how to connect those high quality resources into ways that people can use them.

Thanks for the notes.

Dominic Newbould
10:04am 3 October 2009 (Edited 10:10am 3 October 2009)

I've added a link to an interview I gave on OpenLearn last year, which you can watch on YouTube.

My comments were from my professional perspective, working in OU Worldwide to create partnerships and to generate business links. I saw OERs and OpenLearn specifically as a device that promoted the OU's content to a wider international audience, but most of all, an initiative that offers HEIs globally a resource to help them build capacity at relatively little expense.

Overall, OpenLearn is indeed a "public good", although I concede that additional resources may be sometimes required to help other institutions exploit the materials fully and effectively. The investment that the OU has made in creating curriculum content does not need to be re-found and other organisations can work with the OU, as well as with other, independent universities, in LabSpace to maximise the content for their own context and student audiences.

Dominic Newbould
10:46am 6 October 2009

Another link, which I think is very relevant indeed to the OERs discussion.

It's a Guardian article on the International University of the People. Here's the url:


"...its teaching model, which uses open-source technology, the increasing availability of free educational material available online, social networking and more trhan 800 volunteer educators, has also attracted attention because of broader implications for the way higher education will be delivered in the future."

(Guardian Education, 6 October 2009)



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4:13am 30 January 2016

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