Whatever happened to learning objects? Well, they’ve been replaced (or rather swallowed up) by open educational resources. Increasingly, more and more institutions are making online educational resources and course materials available free of charge for educational or non-profit purposes. So will content be free in education in the future? I think this deserves a blog entry to itself! (to come).

In the meantime, I list here web sites that provide access to free material. If you are intending to make use of any of this material, be sure you pay attention to the copyright conditions. They may be free, but only under certain conditions.

I am also looking for someone to manage the open content segment of this web site, including developing a selected bibliography on this topic. If you are interested please contact me at tony.bates@ubc.ca.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT was the first institution to offer its courseware online for free, without having to register as a student. In 1999, the Faculty considered how to use the Internet in pursuit of this goal, and in 2000 proposed OpenCourseware (OCW). MIT published the first proof-of-concept site in 2002, containing 50 courses. By November 2007, MIT completed the initial publication of virtually the entire curriculum, over 1,800 courses in 33 academic disciplines. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity. However, their web site also states:

  • 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.

For an article on the development of the MIT OCW initiative, see ‘Spreading the Wealth‘, in Inside Higher Education, April 22, 2005

Yale University, USA

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. All lectures were recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript format. Registration is not required and no course credit is available.

The Open University (United Kingdom)

The OpenLearn site was launched in October 2006, with an aim to regularly add new content and features.  OpenLearn now offers a full range of Open University subject areas from access to postgraduate level and has seen over 2 million visitors since launch. In April 2008 OpenLearn reached its target to have 5,400 learning hours of content  in the LearningSpace and 8100 hours in the LabSpace.

The Open University of Hong Kong

The Open University of Hong Kong offers free opportunities for interested learners to have a genuine experience of distance education. Materials are available both in English and Chinese.

The course units offered through their free courseware website are actual parts of courses that their registered students are enrolled in. The only difference is that because the units are only parts of courses, the users do not earn credit points towards acquiring a qualification.

The Open University of Catalonia

UOC OpenCourseWare is the website used by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain) to offer its teaching materials to the Internet community: teachers, students and self-learners. The courses available to date in English are primarily in the computer sciences.

The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that offers over 1,500 YouTube videos on mathematics, finance, biology, physics and history, mainly aimed at the k-12 sector, but some of the material is certainly useful at a post-secondary level as well.


FHSST (Free High School Science Texts) is a project that aims to provide free science and mathematics textbooks for Grades 10 to 12 science learners in South Africa. The project was initiated by young South African scientists, and now brings together scientists from around the world who are willing to contribute to the writing of the books.
* To provide a free resource, that can be used alone or in conjunction with other education initiatives in South Africa, to any/all learners and teachers
* To provide a complete high school science text that can be used for free anywhere else in the world as nde a detailed, accurate and interesting text that adheres to the South African school curriculum and the outcomes-based education system
* To provide a text that is easy to read and understand even for second-language English speakers
* Make a difference in South Africa through helping to educate the next generation


Budapest Open Access Initiative

The Budapest Open Access Initiative
arises from a meeting convened in Budapest by the Open Society Institute (OSI) on December 1-2, 2001. The purpose of the meeting was to accelerate progress in the international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the internet. The result is the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration arises from a meeting convened in Cape Town in September 2007. The aim of this meeting was to accelerate efforts to promote open resources, technology and teaching practices in education. Convened by the Open Society Institute and the Shuttleworth Foundation, the meeting gathered participants with many points of view from many nations. This group discussed ways to broaden and deepen their open education efforts by working together. The first concrete outcome of this meeting is the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. It is at once a statement of principle, a statement of strategy and a statement of commitment. It meant to spark dialogue, to inspire action and to help the open education movement grow.

For an article on these two initiatives, see ‘International Call for Open Reources‘ in Inside Higher Education, Jan 22, 2008

The Swansea Declaration on Open Edutainment

David Berry gives a typically British/Welsh view of the open source movement. The Swansea Declaration aims ‘to encourage open education resources,  the expansion of the commons in educational materials and the freeing  of easy to swap content on licenses that allow major American software  corporations to build huge repositories of the World’s freely  available material. Corporations can then easily wrapper it with  services, advertising and so on making huge profits.’ Read on…!
Commonwealth of Learning

A number of online databases of learning content – or Learning Object Repositories (LORs) – have been created around the world. To find content, however, can be a lengthy process. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) provides a handy tool for seeking appropriate open content within a given context. COL indexes all the content it finds into an online service called the COL Knowledge Finder. Within the knowledge finder are a range of specialised databases of content to support educators and learners, including one focussing on free learning content.

OER Commons

Open Educational Resources that can be accessed on OER Commons are created, developed, housed, and maintained through institutions, collections, and authors that are partnering with OER Commons. In addition, OER Commons is actively engaged in encouraging institutions, archives, and creators to open their educational resources for all to use, with appropriate and well-defined conditions of use and re-use. OER Commons is created and produced by ISKME, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.

The Public Knowledge Project

The Public Knowledge Project operates through a partnership among the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, the Simon Fraser University Library, the School of Education at Stanford University, and the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. It is an active player in the open access movement, as it provides the leading open source software for journal and conference management and publishing.


Connexions is a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc. Anyone may view or contribute:

* authors create and collaborate
* instructors rapidly build and share custom collections
* learners find and explore content

Their Content Commons contains educational materials for everyone — from children to college students to professionals — organized in small modules that are easily connected into larger collections or courses. All content is free to use and reuse under the Creative Commons “attribution” license.

Video on Connexions: Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions, his open-source, online education system. It cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify course materials freely, anywhere in the world.

onewisdom FreeOnlineEducationalSites has a large number of sources for open content focused mainly on sites in the USA. It is run by Christopher D. Sessums, a doctoral student at the University of Florida.

e-subjects.co.uk is run by Darren Smith. Here you will find a wide range of courses that can be used in a Moodle installation. The material is mainly British and focused more on school and vocational education. All of these courses are released under a Creative Commons License and are free of charge.

Creative Commons

The essential site for anyone wanting to create, share, make available or use free educational materials. As its site says ‘Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.’

Articles on OER

The European eLearning Papers has a special issue dedicated to the thriving work around Open Educational Resources (OER) by committed individuals, institutions and user communities. Five selected papers by the guest editors investigate the organisational, social, cultural, pedagogical and technical aspects of implementing OER. (Thanks to Burkhard Lehmann for this).

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning has a special edition, Vol. 10, No. 5, on openness and the future of higher education, edited by David Wiley and James Hilton III.

Also search this site using <open educational resources> for many more articles.



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