Free Learning for Everyone…With a Wireless Connection

January 12, 2015 Bob Nilsson


Open educational resources (OER) are quickly gaining traction in education and are becoming a part of the move to global open content. In fact, a recent survey by the Babson Survey Research Group found that 77.5 percent of faculty members in the U.S. anticipate they either will or might use open resources in the next three years, and a mere 6.2 percent are not interested. That’s because 73.4 percent of faculty members find that open resources offer the same or better quality as traditional textbooks. The OER Research Hub, at the Open University in the United Kingdom, found 55.7 percent of students in 180 countries said open resources improve student satisfaction. Another 60.1 percent said they were more interested in the topics taught in courses using open resources.​

What are OER and how are they successfully helping school systems?

For starters, OER are shared teaching, learning and research resources that are freely available for people to reuse, revise and share with peers and students, among other audiences at little or no cost. These resources oftentimes include textbooks, course readings, simulations, games, syllabi, quizzes and assessment tools. OER enable users to find, use and create openly-licensed materials to supplement teaching and learning. Moreover, the adaptability of these resources allows users to translate content into local languages, adapt content to specific learning needs and connect with collaborators at institutions around the world.

From a faculty perspective, OER eliminate the need to create content from scratch by empowering faculty to supplement their lectures and learning materials with content that is readily available for sharing. Conversely, OER also encourages faculty to promote their own work to a global audience and increase both the impact and visibility of their skills and knowledge across the global learning community. By providing quality resources available at the click of a mouse, OER has the potential to save teachers significant time and effort.

The benefits of OER from a student perspective are wide-ranging, but generally speaking, these resources benefit students by giving them the opportunity to advance learning inside and outside of the classroom. The easy-to-find and access nature of OER affords students independent and flexible learning opportunities. Additionally, OER help students determine what classes or programs to enroll in and how to better prepare for those courses by allowing them to explore materials before they even arrive in the classroom.

Established in 2002, MIT’s OpenCourseWare project is one of the longest-running and highest-profile OER initiatives, and today features materials from roughly 2,000 courses. This model has been replicated by dozens of colleges and universities worldwide, who are following suit by putting full course materials online for anyone to use. It’s important to note that institutions are not making these resources available online as an alternative to taking a course at that institution; rather these resources are intended to supplement or direct individuals’ learning.

It’s clear that OER stands to benefit teachers, students and anyone with a penchant for learning. With that being said, OER generally refers to digital resources and tends to focus on online or hybrid learning environments. In today’s digital age, the Internet has become an easy way to create and disseminate information, but connectivity is imperative for leveraging the power of these open educational resources.


  • Project Gutenberg offers over 46,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.
  • Open Educational Resources (OER) in the K-12 Classroom is a professional learning community (PLC) that helps educators select and make better use of OER, and provides a collaborative forum for continuing dialogue and support.
  • The Open Education Consortium is a worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing open education and its impact on global education.
  • Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.
  • EdWeb webinar: Concrete Ways to Use OER in the Classroom
  • LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then we release the audio files back onto the net for free.
  • OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials.


Free eBooks: The Ultimate Guide links and downloads of classics, contemporary, and specialty eBooks at no charge.

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