Open Education

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David Wiley
Brigham Young University


In 1985 Richard Stallman launched the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to support the "free software" movement. The free software movement is a copyleft-based movement which aims to promote the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software. Later, in 1989, Stallman published the GNU General Public License (GPL) for use with programs released as part of the GNU project. The GPL could be applied to software to override normal copyright and provide users of GPL-licensed software with the "four freedoms:"

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). (Access to the source code is a precondition for this.)
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). (Access to the source code is a precondition for this.)

In 1997, Eric Raymond published The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a reflective analysis of the hacker community and free software principles. The paper received significant attention in early 1998 and was one factor in motivating Netscape Communications Corporation to release their popular Netscape Communicator Internet suite as free software. This code is today better known as Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

Netscape's act prompted Raymond and others to look into how to bring free software principles and benefits to the commercial software industry. They concluded that FSF's social activism, which focused on freedom as a principle, was not appealing to companies like Netscape. They instead looked for a way to rebrand the free software movement to emphasize the practical benefits and business potential of sharing source code. The new name they chose was "open source," and quickly Bruce Perens, publisher Tim O'Reilly, Linus Torvalds, and others signed on to the rebranding. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was founded in February 1998 to encourage use of the new term and evangelize open source principles. Stallman and the FSF harshly objected to the new organization's approach. They felt that, with its narrow focus on source code and pragmatics, OSI was burying the philosophical and social values of free software and hiding the issue of computer users' freedom.

Inspired by the new term open source and the new focus on practical benefits, in the summer of 1998 David Wiley announced the Open Content project. The project's goal was to apply the basic principles of free software / open source software to non-software creative works like texts, images, music, and video. While Wiley wanted the idea to take off across all forms of content, he exposed his own interest in open educational content when he wrote, "One of the most significant uses [of open content] may be supporting instruction and helping people learn" (1998 version of the site at Because software is substantively different from other creative works, the Open Content project released the Open Publication License specifically for use with content (the GPL contains language about compiling computer source code, executable or object code, etc.).

The term "open educational resources" was first applied to open content at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Through the Hewlett Foundation's significant funding of research and other projects in the areas of open content and education, "open educational resources" has become the most popular term describing open content used in the service of teaching and learning.

Wiley wasn't a lawyer, and was quick to stop recommending the OPL when Creative Commons produced its own licenses based on the OPL's framework. "I'm closing OpenContent because I think Creative Commons is doing a better job of providing licensing options which will stand up in court" he wrote in 2003. The launch of Creative Commons was pivotal in the popular emergence of OER. As of 2010, the implicit, operational definition of an "open educational resource" is any piece of content which uses a Creative Commons license. While only approximately 100,000 pieces of online content were using the OPL when Wiley stopped recommending it, over 350 million pieces of online content use a Creative Commons license as of the end of 2009 (Creative Commons, 2010).


What does the "open" in open educational resources mean? Our commonsense, every day experience teaches us that "open" is a continuous (as opposed to a binary) construct. For example, a door can be wide open, half open, cracked slightly open, or completely closed. So can your eyes, so can a window, etc.

The open in open educational resources is a similarly continuous construct. In this context, open refers to a granting of copyright permissions above and beyond those offered by standard copyright law. An open educational resource, then, is a piece of content that is licensed in a manner that provides users with the right to make more kinds of uses than those normally permitted under the law. Importantly, these rights must be granted at no cost to the user.

Put simply, the fewer copyright restrictions are placed on the user of a piece of content, the more open the content is. The primary permissions or usage rights OER are concerned with are expressed in the "4Rs Framework" (Wiley, 2007; Hilton et al., 2010):

  • Reuse - the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form (e.g., make a backup copy of the content, )
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

An educational resource is open to the extent that its license allows users to engage in the 4R activities. Content is less open to the extent that its license places restrictions (e.g., forbidding derivatives or prohibiting commercial use) or requirements (e.g., mandating that derivatives adopt a certain license or demanding attribution to the original author) on a user's ability to engage in the 4R activities. In this chapter, I will consider any educational resource licensed in a way that freely provides 4R privileges to end users to be an open educational resource.

However, as with its intellectual predecessor the learning object, there is no standard definition have been suggested for the term.

The UNESCO Forum final report suggests:

"The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes."

Wikipedia defines the term through examples:

  • Learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals.
  • Tools: Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
  • Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.

The Hewlett Foundation website reads:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality, openly licensed educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge.

The OLCOS Roadmap states:

OER are understood to comprise content for teaching and learning, software-based tools and services, and licenses that allow for open development and re-use of content, tools, and services.

The OECD report [ Giving Knowledge for Free] provides two definitions:

The definition of OER currently most often used is "digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research". OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences [sic]. This report suggests that "open educational resources" refers to accumulated digital assets that can be adjusted and which provide benefits without restricting the possibilities for others to enjoy them.

Important Early OER Projects

In January 2001, Wikipedia was launched as an online encyclopedia that anyone could edit. While the Mediawiki software provides the technical capability for anyone to edit the encyclopedia, the legal permission for everyone to edit everything is provided by an open license. (As of 2010 Wikipedia uses a Creative Commons license.) During its first month Wikipedia accumulated 17 articles, by April it had 1,000, in October more than 10,000 and by the end of 2002 it crossed the 100,000 article mark (Zachte, 2008). It is now the largest encyclopedia in the world and a tremendous resource for students and lecturers. Between 12 and 13% of all internet users globally visit Wikipedia each day (Alexa, 2010).

In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its OpenCourseWare project, announcing plans to freely publish a collection of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT. The world of higher education was shocked - many couldn't believe MIT would give away educational materials when the rest of the world was actively trying to commercialize educational content. The MIT OCW website points out that:

  • OCW is not an MIT education.
  • OCW does not grant degrees or certificates.
  • OCW does not provide access to MIT faculty.
  • Materials may not reflect entire content of the course.

To date (2010), MIT has published over 2000 courses online and has more than one million users visit the site every month. (Carson, 2010).

In 2005, the OpenCourseWare Consortium held its first meeting. The OCWC is a collaboration of higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model. The model is based on MIT OCW's process of capturing and digitizing classroom resources. (MIT OCW estimates their process to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 per course for courses without video content, and double that for courses with video.) As of 2009, 100 OCWC member institutions worldwide had openly published over 13,000 courses and another 150 institutions had projects underway (Carson, 2009).

Other institutional open education projects of note include Utah State University OCW and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OCW (the second and third OCWs to open), Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (which deploys cognitive tutors in its open courses), and the [ Open High School of Utah (the first secondary school to commit itself to use open educational resources exclusively across its curriculum).

Dozens of open education projects currently exist outside traditional educational institutions as well. Any attempt to publish a comprehensive list would be immediately outdated, but important projects in this space include Academic Earth (a site that aggregates video from multiple open education initiatives), [ Connexions (a site that allows anyone to create and remix OER), Flat World Knowledge (the first commercial textbook publisher to place its entire catalog under a Creative Commons license), and CK12 (a nonprofit organization producing Creative Commons-licensed science, mathematics, and engineering textbooks for high schools). OER Commons is a site which attempts to catalog the world's OER and provides both a searchable and browsable interface to its catalog.

Sustainability of Formal OER Programs

How do you provide long-term financial support for a project whose primary goal is giving things away for free? In the early 2000s, grant money for open educational resources projects was relatively easy to come by. However, as grant funding ran out many projects underwent significant changes or temporarily suspended operations altogether (e.g., Foothill-De Anza's Sofia and Utah State University OpenCourseWare). In a 2007 whitepaper commissioned by the OECD, Wiley defined sustainability in the OER context as "an open educational resource project’s ongoing ability to meet its goals."

While Wiley compared and contrasted the content development and release models in place at MIT OCW, USU OCW, and Connexions, Downes (2007) reviewed more general business models and how their relevance for OER projects at the time:

  • Endowment Model – on this model, the project obtains base funding. A fund administrator manages the base funding and the project is sustained from interest earned on that fund. At the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, where organizers reasoned that a subscription based model would cost more than it would earn (because volunteers would have to be paid), funds ($3 to 4 million USD) were raised from a variety of charitable foundations, generating in interest the service’s $190,000 USD operating budget (Zalta, 2005).
  • Membership Model – on this model, a coalition of interested organizations is invited to contribute a certain sum, either as seed only or as an annual contribution or subscription; this fund generates operating revenues for the OER service. The Sakai Educational Partners Program, for example, is a for-fee community that is open to educational. Members contribute $10,000 USD and in turn are granted a set of privileges, including early access to roadmap decisions, code releases and documentation (Sakai, 2005). Beshears (2005) describes how this model could replace user-pay models of textbook distribution.
  • Donations Model – on this model, a project deemed worthy of support by the wider community requests and receives donations. Donations are in turn managed by a non-profit foundation, which

may apply them to operating expenses or, if amounts are sufficient, seek to establish an endowment. Numerous open source and open content projects are funded in this manner, including Wikipedia (Foote, 2005) and the Apache Foundation (Apache, 2005b). It is worth noting that such donations are often supplemented with purchases of branded products; the Spread Firefox initiative is a good example of this (Mozilla Foundation, 2005). Variations of this model exist. For example, contributions to the Apache project are owned by the contributor and licensed to the project. However, in another model (sometimes called the conservancy model), property is assigned to the organization, which then acts as a steward (Everitt, 2004).

  • Conversion Model – as summarized by Sterne and Herring (2005) "In the Conversion model, you

give something away for free and then convert the consumer of the freebie to a paying customer." This approach, they argue, is needed because "there is a natural limit to the amount of resources the Donation model can bring to an open source project, probably about $5 million per year." Linux distributors, such as SuSe, RedHat and Ubuntu, where the software is available for free under an open source license, have adopted this model. Subscribers receive services (such as installation and support) or advanced features. In the educational community, the conversion model has proven popular, having been adopted by Elgg and LAMS.

  • Contributor-Pay Model – adopted by the Public Library of Science(PLoS), Doyle (2005) states that the ‘PLoS Open Access Model: One Time Author-Side Payments’ consists of a mechanism whereby contributors pay for the cost of maintaining the contribution, and where the provider thereafter makes the contribution available for free. Interestingly, this is a model that has earned some support from publishers, particularly in view of foundations, such as the Wellcome Trust, that have begun to require that materials funded be freely available. Thus, in the 'open choice option' offered by publishers, "research articles and supporting documentation will be made freely available online to view immediately upon publication. The charges for this process will be met by funding bodies, such as the Wellcome Trust - who calculate it will represent approximately

1% of their annual spend." (Wellcome Trust, 2006)

  • Sponsorship Model – this model underlies a form of open access that is available in most homes: free radio and television. The sponsorship model can range from intrusive commercial messages, such as are found on commercial television networks, to more subtle ‘sponsorship’ message, as are found in public broadcasting. In online educational initiatives, various companies have supported OER projects on a more or less explicit sponsorship basis, often in partnership with educational institutions. Examples include the MIT iCampus Outreach Initiative (Microsoft) (China Open Resources for Education [CORE], 2005). And the recently announced Stanford on iTunes project (Apple) (Stanford, 2005). It is worth noting that GNU EPrints adopted this model as a direct result of a move by Research Councils UK to mandate open access for all funded research (Yeates, 2005).
  • Institutional Model – a variation, perhaps, on the sponsorship model is the case in which an institution will assume the responsibility itself for an OER initiative. Probably the most well known of these is MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, where funding for the project represents a part of the universities regular program, justified as constituting a part of its organizational mission. MIT (MIT OpenCourseWare, 2005) states "It is an ideal that flows from the MIT Faculty's passionate

belief in the MIT mission, based on the conviction that the open dissemination of knowledge and information can open new doors to the powerful benefits of education for humanity around the world."

  • Governmental Model – similar to the institutional model, the governmental model represents direct

funding for OER projects by government agencies, including the United Nations. Numerous projects sustained in this manner exist, for example, Canada’s SchoolNet project. Partnerships and Exchanges – though perhaps not thought of as a funding or financing model, partnerships and exchanges nonetheless play an important role, or potential role, in the development of OER networks. Partnerships depend not so much on exchanges of funding as on exchanges of resources, where the output of the exchange is an OER. For example, at a recent UNESCO conference an Open Source Congress was proposed, which "would be a voluntary, collaborative effort by interested higher education institutions to lend their expertise - both technical and functional - to begin the high-level design and planning for what will become the next generation, open source, administrative systems." (UNESCOb, 2002) Such partnerships are often more or less ad hoc and bilateral; examples include that between Memorial University of Newfoundland and The Federal University of Ceará UFC in Brazil (Barreira, 2002) and even the International Fellowships at the Open University (Open University, 2006).

Two significant events since Downes and Wiley 2007 reviews bear special mention in connection with sustainability. The first is MIT OCW's move to a split funding model, where approximately half of the project's funding comes from the institution's core budget and the other half comes through contributions from external donors. MIT OCW states, "We currently project that OCW reserves will run out in FY2012 without significant changes in our current funding model. Our challenge is to offset the loss of grant funds with substantial increases in revenues such as donations, endowments, corporate sponsorships, and alternative sources of revenue." Consequently, each course homepage at MIT OCW features a large, red "Donate Now" button. Time will tell how well this split strategy works for MIT OCW.

The second is new work on applying the conversion model to open educational resources projects. In the literature review contextualizing their study, Johansen and Wiley ([WAITING FOR LINK 2010]) report:

The OpenLearn Initiative at Open University in the United Kingdom (OUUK) was the best comparable program to use when considering the impact opening courses could have on BYU IS. The OUUK has approximately 200,000 course enrollments and 130,000 students each year, similar in scale to BYU IS. In two years of offering course samples, 7,800 enrollments have come from people who used the “enroll now” button in the OUUK’s course samples to convert to a fully paid enrollment (A. Lane, personal communication, December 5, 2008). This means that approximately 1.95% of the OUUK’s enrollment over the past two years has come through conversions from free OCW users into paid course enrollments. Approximately 33% of those conversions were people who were new to the OUUK system, meaning that approximately 0.64% of OUUK’s entire enrollment for a given year were new users that converted to paid enrollment from a free course sample. That equates to an average of approximately 1,280 new paying students converted through course samples each year. Similarly, the Open University of the Netherlands reported that 18% of OCW users were “inspired to purchase an academic course” based on their interactions with OUNL OCW (Eshuis, 2009). The University of California-Irvine (UCI) also launched an OCW offering in November 2006 with a “click to enroll” feature. They report that their OCW site has consistently generated more site traffic and more sales leads than any other form of advertising (K. Tam, personal communication, June 4, 2009).

Johansen and Wiley report a study examining whether providing OER versions of for-credit online courses will increase or decrease paid enrollments in the credit-bearing version of the courses. After demonstrating that publishing OER versions slightly increased enrollments, they then asked if new revenue generated by those additional enrollments could pay for the process of publishing the OER versions of the courses:

Enrollments that can be weakly attributed to OCW generate enough additional revenue that the profit margin for university courses would need to be 0.11% of tuition to cover the cost of opening a course (this assumes that the entire margin would be dedicated to funding OCW courses). Taking a more conservative approach and only attributing to OCW those enrollments that occurred when an OCW user clicked the “enroll now” button inside a course, the required profit margin for sustainability of university OCW courses increases to 1.00%. High school courses were more expensive to convert to OCW. Depending on the revenue from weakly attributable enrollments would require a marginal profit of 0.79% over four years to recover the cost of opening a course. Relying solely on the strongly attributable enrollments would require a marginal profit of 11.80% over four years to break even. When the data for university and high school courses are combined, the overall BYU IS [Independent Study] profit margin required for sustainability under the strongly attributable model is 3.81% and the margin required for sustainability under the weakly attributable model is 0.36%. If BYU IS’s profit margins are higher than those required for sustainability, then a long-term OCW initiative at BYU IS could be revenue positive.

The conversion model appears to hold great promise for OER projects. Wiley (2009) went so far as to predict that "every OCW initiative at a university that does not offer distance courses for credit [providing the opportunity for conversion] will be dead by the end of calendar 2012." But again, only time will tell.

From Sharing to Adopting

The first decade of work in open educational resources involved laying the groundwork of copyright licensing and demonstration projects. Before anything else could be done, it had to be legally possible to share teaching and learning materials, and we had to demonstrate that sharing these materials would not put universities out of business. While this infrastructure work has largely succeeded (e.g., Creative Commons licenses have been both widely adopted and upheld in court), infrastructure is typically deployed in order to be used - not just for the sake of deployment. Consequently, emphasis in the field of open educational resources is beginning to move from sharing OER to adopting OER. Like the first decade of work in OER, this first involves helping adoptions happen, and then demonstrating that they do no harm educationally.

Flat World Knowledge (FWK) was not the first organization to produce Creative Commons-licensed textbooks, but they seem to be the first to take widespread adoption of their materials seriously. As a for-profit publisher, FWK provides their complete textbooks online for free under a CC license and sells copies of their textbooks in other formats (e.g., paperback, audiobook, etc.). By employing a full-time sales team and working in harmony with the traditional university textbook adoption process, FWK has gotten their open textbooks in front of tens of thousands of students. According to a FWK press release:

This Fall [2009] semester, 38,000 college students at 350 colleges are enrolled to utilize Flat World textbooks, up from only 1,000 in Spring 2009 at 30 colleges. The increased adoption of Flat World’s free and low-cost open source textbooks follows two semesters of successful in-classroom trials. During Spring 2009 trials, Flat World textbooks were shown to reduce average textbook costs to only $18 per student per class, an 82% cost reduction compared to traditional printed textbooks averaging $100 per student per class. “We’ll save college students and their families nearly $3 million in textbook expenses this semester,” said Eric Frank, Flat World Knowledge co-founder. “We’re on track to expand to 50,000 students in Spring 2010 and 120,000 students in Fall 2010. By the conclusion of 2010, Flat World will have conservatively saved 200,000 students over $15 million.”

While statements about how many courses an OCW project shares can be impressive, statements like Frank's that demonstrate a concrete, positive benefit on learners begin to indicate the real power of open educational resources.

Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative, a collection of complete, online courses licensed as open educational resources, has gone well beyond showing that OER do no harm. In a study authored by Lovett, Meyer, and Thille (2008), OLI demonstrated that OER can be used both to decrease the amount of time necessary to learn statistics and improve student learning:

During the Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 studies, we collected empirical data about the instructional effectiveness of the OLI-Statistics course in stand-alone mode, as compared to traditional instruction. In both of these studies, in-class exam scores showed no significant difference between students in the stand-alone OLI-Statistics course and students in the traditional instructor-led course. In contrast, during the Spring 2007 study, we explored an accelerated learning hypothesis, namely, that learners using the OLI course in hybrid mode will learn the same amount of material in a significantly shorter period of time with equal learning gains, as compared to students in traditional instruction. In this study, results showed that OLI-Statistics students learned a full semester’s worth of material in half as much time and performed as well or better than students learning from traditional instruction over a full semester.

The Open High School of Utah was the first accredited school in the world to commit itself to using open educational resources exclusively across its entire curriculum. OHSU opened for 9th grade in 2009-2010 (with additional grades opening in subsequent years), and demonstrated conclusively in its first year that OER can support learning effectively in a high school context. In the three core areas measured by the state's ninth grade Criterion Referenced Tests (i.e., English 9, Algebra I, and Earth Systems Science), the percentage of OHSU students achieving proficiency was well above state averages. Having demonstrated that its OER-based curriculum effectively supports student learning, the OHSU began sharing its curriculum back to the world in late summer 2010.

The thoughtful student of instructional design will notice that, in showing instructional gains, both the OLI and OHSU studies employ a hybrid instructional strategy. Both models include students working with OER online in an asynchronous manner and later having strategic interaction with instructors. As with any other instructional technology, the manner in which OER are used contributes significantly to their effectiveness.

From OER to Open Education

If access to good quality content were all that was necessary to support education effectively, libraries would never have evolved into universities. Recognizing that even informal learners need a place to turn to ask their questions as they work their way through OCWs and similar material, in 2004 the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded the "Open Learning Support" (OLS) project. According to the project's (archived) website, Open Learning Support:

  • Is a space where individuals can connect to share, discuss, ask, answer, debate, collaborate, teach, and learn.
  • Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting program.
  • Does not provide formal access to university faculty.

The OLS approach depended on content providers like MIT OCW providing links from their courses to the OLS site. This dependency and variety of other implementation problems prevented the service from succeeding on a large scale.

In the following years, a variety of other tools tried to fill the social study gap identified by OLS in different ways. Tools like CourseFeed (which is implemented as a Facebook application) and Nixty relied on the open licenses of OERs to copy course content into a single space they controlled. This allowed them to integrate social interaction tools directly in place with the content. In 2010, an NSF-funded project called OpenStudy came back to the approach of working directly with content providers, announcing that MIT was linking MIT OCW users to their online study group tool. No approach or model for providing learning support to users of OERs has yet proven effective at scale. This remains an active and exciting research area in the field.

Open Accreditation

With the proliferation of open educational resources and multiple possibilities for receiving open learning support, many have asked if the accreditation process itself could be "opened."

The first steps in this direction involved opening courses being taught at universities to participation by people not formally enrolled in the courses. For his 2007 Introduction to Open Education course at Utah State University, Wiley used technology to teach a face-to-face course in a way that allowed non-registered students to participate from a distance. He offered personal certificates of completion to those following the course informally (no university credit - just a sheet of paper with his signature). Wiley also helped students at other universities enroll in independent study courses at their local university in order to receive credit for work they did in his open course.

Wiley's course was a face-to-face course redesigned so that individuals at a distance could participate. This was more open than university courses had traditionally been, but left ample room for improvement. In 2008 many people would take this idea and advance it significantly. For example, Blackall and Hegarty opened their course on Flexible Learning form informal participation with credit available from Otago Polytechnic. Couros took his fully online course called Social Media & Open Education and opened it for broad participation. Course credit was available through the University of Regina for anyone who wanted to register. Downes and Siemens added course credit through the University of Manitoba’s Extended Education Faculty as an option to what had previously been a completely informal online course they facilitate called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. This pattern of opening university courses for informal participation by people outside the university is an active and growing segment of the field of open education.

In 2009, two formal initiatives began that attempt to leverage open educational resources in order to provide learners with a credential for their learning. The first, University of the People, describes its tuition-free, OER-based teaching model as follows:

Comprised of students from around the world, the student body will learn through the peer-to-peer teaching method with the support of Instructors. Within the online study communities, students will share resources, exchange ideas, discuss weekly topics, submit assignments, and take exams.

The curriculum itself is supported by respected scholars who participate in class discussions and oversee the assessment process. They also develop ongoing procedures for curriculum development and evaluation.

While the University of the People intends to always remain tuition-free, they plan to begin charging "nominal fees" at some point:

In the future, UoPeople plans to charge nominal Application and Exam Administration fees ($10-$50 and $10-$100 respectively) that may be adjusted on a sliding scale based on the economic situation of each student’s country or place of residence.

Shortly after the official opening of the University of the People, another initiative called P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University) opened its <a herf=" virtual doors]:

The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities.

P2PU is also completely free currently. On the topic of possible future fees, the website states:

Studying is free. After the pilot phase, the community will decide if it makes sense to charge a very small sign-up fee. We would like participants to be committed and willing to invest the time needed, and a small fee may help to solidify that commitment. In addition, there are some course organizers who can't afford to volunteer their time, but would like to be involved - a small part of the fee could be used to offset their time. However, our primary motivation for P2PU is unrestricted access to high-quality, peer-learning experiences on topics of interest, so we will never restrict access to the educational resources themselves.

Many alternate models for recognizing learning and awarding a credentials for learning done through open educational resources are sure to emerge in the future. This is another extremely active area of work in the field currently.


The young field of open educational resources is about a decade old. In that time, attitudes have changed from "You'd have to be crazy to give away your intellectual property!" in 1998, to mandates for the open licensing of educational resources produced as part of federal grants in 2010. The first decade of effort has laid a critical groundwork for the improvement of education. Legal mechanisms supporting sharing are now in place, business models supporting OER initiatives are succeeding, and a movement is occurring from "only sharing OER" to "adopting OER." There are decades of work still ahead of us, but if initial experiences of cost savings and increased learning are replicated at larger scales, OER will provide the foundation of educational reform efforts for decades to come.

About the Author

Dr. David Wiley is Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. His research interests include open educational resources and the business models and pedagogical models that support their effective long-term use, and educational data mining and learning analytics.


Material from the following sites is remixed throughout this chapter: