Digital education reading group: The evolving face of OER

January 2024

In our first meeting of 2024, the digital education reading group discusses the evolving face of open educational resources (OER).  Michael Davis is our curator this month and has prepared the following for us.


OER stemmed from developments in open and distance education, and in free software sharing in the 1980s and 90s. The movement was galvanised in 2002 when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published online all of the materials from its degree programmes as part of its OpenCourseWare project, making them freely and openly available to everyone. 

Open educational resources logo

Since then, we have seen myriad (if disparate) initiatives, not least the related phenomenon of MOOCs.  The development of OER and open licensing of educational materials enjoys sustained support from international organisations and governments especially since UNESCO’s Paris OER Declaration 2012 which called on governments to ‘openly license publicly funded educational materials for public use’. However, persistent concerns and challenges around intellectual property, funding, capacity, policy support and above all quality continue to deter uptake beyond relatively specialist (and predominantly anglophone) communities of interest.  

And so, over twenty years on, the promise and potential of OER remains unrealised.  But, given its ability remove barriers to education, to provide opportunity to modify and enhance course material, and to adapt content for different cultures and approaches to learning, the movement remains as relevant as ever in the context of sustainable development, the digital divide and addressing global inequalities.   

Image credit: Open Educational resources image by Jonathasmello – Own work, CC BY 3.0

List of topics discussed at previous meetings