Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges
Dr. Jan Hylén
OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation
Although learning resources are often considered as key intellectual property in a
competitive higher education world, more and more institutions and individuals are
sharing their digital learning resources over the Internet openly and for free, as Open
Educational Resources. The OECD’s OER project asks why this is happening, who is
involved and what the most important implications are of this development. In the
following paper some preliminary findings are presented.
The OECD/CERI study on OER
There are many critical issues surrounding access, quality and costs of information and knowledge over
the Internet as well as on provision of content and learning material. As it becomes clearer that the growth
of Internet offers real opportunities for improving access and transfer of knowledge and information from
universities and colleges to a wide range of users, there is an urgent need to clarify these issues with
special focus on Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives. There is also a need to define the
technical and legal frameworks as well as business models to sustain these initiatives. That is the
background to the OECD/CERI study which aim to map the scale and scope of Open Educational
Resources initiatives in terms of their purpose, content, and funding and to clarify and analyse four main
questions: How to develop sustainable costs/benefits models for OER initiatives? What are the
intellectual property right issues linked to OER initiatives? What are the incentives and barriers for
universities and faculty staff to deliver their material to OER initiatives? How to improve access and
usefulness for the users of OER initiatives? (http://www.oecd.org/edu/oer)
What is OER? – a conceptual discussion
OER is a relatively new phenomenon which may be seen as a part of a larger trend towards openness in
higher education including more well-known and established movements such as Open Source Software
(OSS) and Open Access (OA). But what is meant by “open” and what are the arguments for striving for
The two most important aspects of openness have to do with free availability over the Internet and as few
restrictions as possible on the use of the resource. There should be no technical barriers (undisclosed
source code), no price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and as few legal
permission barriers as possible (copyright and licensing restrictions) for the end-user. The end-user
should be able not only to use or read the resource but also to adapt it, build upon it and thereby reuse it,
given that the original creator is attributed for her work. In broad terms this is what is meant with “open” in
all three movements. It is also what is more or less covered in the definition used by The Open
Knowledge Foundation when they say that knowledge should be legally, socially and technologically
The term Open Educational Resources first came to use in 2002 at a conference hosted by UNESCO.
Participants at that forum defined OER as: “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.”
The currently most used definition of OER is: “Open Educational Resources are digitised materials
offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and re-use for teaching,
learning and research.” To further clarify this, OER is said to include:
• Learning Content: Full courses, courseware, content modules, learning objects, collections and
• Tools: Software to support the development, use, re-use and delivery of 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 of best practice, and localization of content.
Although the most used, this definition needs further refinement. To start with it is not obvious what is
meant by “open”. Walker defines “open” as “convenient, effective, affordable, and sustainable and
available to every learner and teacher worldwide” and Sir John Daniel speaks of “the 4 As: accessible,
appropriate, accredited, affordable” (Downes, 2006). Downes argues that “the concept of ‘open’ entails, it
seems, at a minimum, no cost to the consumer or user of the resource” and goes on:
It is not clear that resources which require some sort of payment by the user – whether
that payment be subscription fees, contribution in kind, or even something simple, such
as user registration, ought to be called ‘open’. Even when the cost is low – or ‘affordable’
– the payment represents some sort of opportunity cost on the part of the user, an
exchange rather than sharing. (Downes, 2006)
He also argues that there is no consensus the term “open” should mean “without restrictions” as is
apparent from the Creative Commons license, where authors may stipulate that use requires attribution,
that it be non-commercial, or that the product be shared under the same license. So while “open” may on
the one hand may mean “without cost”, it does not follow that it also means “without conditions”.
Furthermore the term “educational” is not unambiguous. Does it mean that only materials produced with
the intention of being used within formal educational settings should be included? If so it would exclude
resources produced outside schools or universities but used in formal courses, and materials produced
inside such institutions but used for informal or non-formal learning outside. One alternative is to say that
only materials actually used for teaching and learning should be considered. (OLCOS, 2006) The
advantage with this option is that it avoids making an a priori stipulation that something is, or is not, an
educational resource. The disadvantage would be the difficulty to know whether a resource is actually
used for learning or not, be it formal or non-formal learning settings.
Finally it is also open to debate what the term “resources” should mean. It is possible to distinguish
between the type and the media of the resource. Resource types might be courses, animations,
simulations, games etc. and resource media might be web pages on the Internet, radio, television or
paper. In this paper only digital resources will be considered although this limitation is not obvious in the
general discussion on OER.
The ambiguous situation regarding the conceptual issues is probably due to the fact that OER as a
concept is still in its infancy. Earlier on the OA and OSS movements have had the same kind of – often
heated – discussions regarding conceptual issues. The conceptual discussion is an important part of the
OECD/CERI study and by the end of the project we hope to be able to present a more clear-cut definition.
Mapping OER – who is the user and the producer?
It is still early days for the OER movement and at the moment it is not possible to give an accurate
estimation of the number of on-going OER initiatives. All that can be said so far is that the number of
projects and initiatives is growing fast. Side-by-side with a number of large institution-based or institution
supported initiatives; there are numerous small scale activities. Building on Wiley (2006) the following
brief overview can be given over the OER movement in post-secondary education:
• Over 150 universities in China participate in the China Open Resources for Education initiative,
with over 450 courses online.
• 11 top universities in France have formed the ParisTech OCW project, which currently offers 150
• 9 of the most prestigious universities in Japan are engaged in the Japanese OCW Alliance that
offers over 250 courses in Japanese and an additional 100 in English.
• 7 universities in the United States have large scale OER programmes (MIT, Rice, Johns Hopkins,
Tufts, Carnegie Mellon, and Utah State University).
• Altogether there are over 2 000 freely available university courses currently online. And more
OER projects are emerging at universities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, India, Iran,
Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, the UK, the US, and
There are also several translation efforts underway to broaden the impact of OER initiatives. These
include Universia’s Spanish and Portuguese translations and China Open Resource for Education’s
simplified Chinese translations and the traditional Chinese translations by OOPS. Universities in South
Korea and Thailand are also considering launching additional translation projects.
The number of non-course OER available increases rapidly as well. Rice’s Connexions project currently
hosts over 2 800 open learning objects available for mixing and matching into study units or full courses.
MERLOT offers almost 15 000 resources, European based ARIADNE offers links and federated searches
in several networks and repositories. Textbook Revolution contains links to hundreds of freely available,
copyright-clean textbooks. Freely accessible encyclopaedias like Wikipedia and Math World grow in size
and quality. UNESCO/IIEP hosts a Wiki called “OER useful resources” listing several other portals,
gateways and repositories. Even more difficult than to list the number initiatives would be to estimate the
quantity of available resources, even with a narrow definition of OER. On top of resources accessible
through initiatives like the ones listed above, it can be estimated to be far more resources available by
way of search engines like Google or Yahoo!.
What can be offered is a draft of a typology of different repositories. As already mentioned, there are both
large scale operations and small scale activities. It is also possible to distinguish between different
providers – institution based programmes and more community based bottom-up initiated activities, which
will be more discussed later in this paper. In both cases there are all kind of in-between-models forming a
continuum which can be used to forms a diagram.
Diagram 1: Categories of OER providers
In the upper left corner of the diagram, large scale and institution based or supported initiatives would be
found. A good example is the MIT OCW programme. It is large scale in the number of resources provided
and regarding the number of people involved. It is totally institution based in the sense that all materials
originate from MIT staff. Other initiatives like Connexions, run by Rice University, uses a mix of resources
both from their own staff and from external people contributing materials. In the upper right corner, large
scale operations without a base within an institution should be placed. The best example is probably
Wikipedia – one of the Internet’s real success stories and a good example of a large scale and
OpenCourse.org Univ. of Western
Scale of operation
community based operation. Another example, although not as big as Wikipedia, is MERLOT. In the
bottom left corner of the diagram, an example of a small scale but institution based initiative is listed.
University of Western Cape, South Africa announced in October 2005 that they would launch a “free
content and free open courseware strategy”. Finally, in the bottom right corner there is one example of a
small scale community based initiative. The OpenCourse is a “collaboration of teachers, researchers and
students with the common purpose of developing open, reusable learning assets (e.g. animations,
simulations, models, case studies, etc.)”.
A third dimension to consider is whether the repository provides resources in a single discipline or if it is
multidisciplinary. There are examples of single disciplinary programmes, like Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy and Planet Math, but the multidisciplinary approach seems to be more common at the
Users and producers of OER
So far we do not know much about who is actually using and producing all the available OERs. Of course
institutions based initiatives like the OCW programmes at different universities use their own staff to
produce their material and some of them, like MIT try to continuously evaluate who their users are. But as
a whole very little is known about whom the users and the producers are. To accommodate this
deficiency the OECD project launched two web based surveys during spring 2006, one targeting
institutions and one aimed at individual teachers and researchers. The first received only a very small
number of answers although over 1 800 e-mails were sent to universities in the 30 OECD member
countries. The e-mails were sent to the rector/vice chancellor’s office and the poor result may be a sign
that OER is still mostly a bottom-up phenomenon, where the managerial level of the institutions are not
involved and not aware of the activities going on.
The survey for individuals was answered by 193 people from 49 different countries covering all parts of
the world. The geographical spread is interesting although there is a clear bias towards teachers from
English speaking countries, which may be due to the fact that the questionnaire was only available in
English. The small number of replies also in this case calls for great caution in the interpretation of
results. The majority of the respondents worked at institutions with 10 000 students or less and about one
third worked at institutions with 11 000 – 50 000 students. More than half of the respondents worked in
the area of education, and two out of three represent publicly funded institutions. A majority of the
respondents said they were deeply involved in OER activities, mostly as users of open content and only
slightly less as producers. About half of them said they experienced good support from the management
in their use of open content, somewhat less support for producing content and using OSS. About one out
of four felt good support from the management level in his/her production of OSS. The majority of the
respondents said they were engaged in some sort of co-operation regarding production and exchange of
resources, be it on regional, national or international level.
Other findings in this field results from individual programmes. According to Carson (2005) the traffic to
the MIT OCW site is increasingly global but with a predominance of North American visitors. In the period
from November 2003 to October 2004 36% of MIT OCW visitors came from North America; 16% each
came from East Asia and Western Europe; 11% each from Latin America and Eastern Europe; and the
remaining 9% from the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, Central Asia and the Caribbean combined. Self
learners, typically with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, seems to make up the bulk of traffic to MIT OCW
(48%), followed by students (31%), and educators (15%). Tufts OCW reports that in their user survey half
of the respondents identified themselves as self-learners, while 43% were faculty members or students at
educational institutions. Over half have masters’ degrees or higher. (Tufts 2006)
About two thirds of the respondents to the OECD questionnaire said they were involved in the production
of open content, either to a large or a small extent. When asked to value nine possible barriers for
involving other colleagues, the most significant barriers were said to be lack of time followed by the lack
of a reward system to encourage staff members to devote time and energy to producing open content,
and lack of skills. The lack of a business model for open content initiatives was also perceived as an
important factor with negative impact. The least significant barriers were said to be lack of access to
computers and other kinds of hardware, and lack of software.
To sum up the typical OER user seem at the moment to be a single enthusiast – either a well educated
self-learners, likely to live in North America, or a faculty members both using and producing learning
resources with some support from the institution management and often involved in exchange of
resources with other institutions.
WHY are individuals and institutions engaged in OER?
The first and most fundamental question anyone arguing for free and open sharing of software or content
has to answer is – why? Why should anyone give away anything for free? What are the possible gains in
doing that? Advocates of the OSS, OA and OER movements of course have arguments in favour of their
specific cause. But there are also general arguments that apply to all three. These can be divided into pull
arguments which lists the gains that can be reached by open sharing of software, scientific articles and
educational materials, and push arguments that registers threats or negative effects that might appear if
software developers, scientists and educationalists do not share their work openly.
Starting with the push side, it is sometimes argued that, if universities do not support the open sharing of
research results and educational materials, traditional academic values will be increasingly marginalised
by market forces. The risk of a software monopoly if everyone is using Microsoft programmes or a
combination of a combined hardware and software monopoly by too many using Apple’s iPod music
players listening to iTunes, is often used to support the OSS movement. The same is true regarding the
risk of monopoly ownership and control of scientific literature from opponents of the large scientific
publishing houses. The possibility for researchers to keep a seat at the table in decisions about the
disposition of research results in the future is sometimes said to be at risk. Increased costs and
vulnerability, increased social inequality and slower technical and scientific development are other
On the other side, a number of possible positive effects from open sharing are put forward, such as that
free sharing means broader and faster dissemination and thereby more people are involved in problem-
solving which in turn means rapid quality improvement and faster technical and scientific development;
decentralised development increases quality, stability and security; free sharing of software, scientific
results and educational resources reinforces societal development and diminishes social inequality. From
a more individual standpoint, open sharing is claimed to increase publicity, reputation and the pleasure of
sharing with peers.
Arguments for institutional involvement in OER
From an institutional point of view there seems to be five main arguments to be engaged in OER projects.
One is the altruistic argument that sharing knowledge is a good thing to do and also in line with academic
traditions, as pointed out by the OA movement. Openness is the breath of life for education and research.
Resources created by educators and researchers should subsequently be open for anyone to use and
reuse. Ultimately this argument is supported by the United Nations Human Rights Declaration which
states that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and
fundamental stages.” (Article 26)
A second argument is also close to what the OA movement claims – namely that educational institutions
should leverage on taxpayers’ money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources developed by
publicly funded institutions. To lock in learning resources behind passwords, means that people in other
publicly funded institutions sometimes duplicate work and reinvent things instead of standing on the
shoulders of their peers. It might be seen as a drawback for this argument that it does not distinguish
between taxpayers in different countries – learning resources created in one country may be used in
another country sparing taxpayers in the second country some money. But, as pointed out by Ng (2006),
free-riding of this kind may not pose so much of a problem since the use of a learning resource in a
foreign country does not hinder the use of the same resource by domestic teachers. Instead, he says
“allowing free-riding may be necessary for the growth of a good community as they help draw new
members by words of mouth. Also, free-riders themselves may learn to value the community more over
time, so much that some of them may share eventually.”
A third argument is taken from the OSS movement: “What you give, you receive back improved”. By
sharing and reusing, the costs for content development can be cut, thereby making better use of available
resources. Also the quality would improve compared to a situation where everyone starts from the
A fourth argument for institutions to be engaged in OER projects is that it is good for public relations and
can function as a show-window attracting new students. Institutions like MIT receive a lot of positive
attention for their decision to make their resources available for free. Other institutions could do the same.
A fifth argument is that many institutions feel a growing competition as a consequence of the increasing
globalisation of higher education and a rising supply of free educational resources on the Internet. In this
situation there is a need to look for new business models, new ways of making revenue, such as offering
content for free both as advertisements and as a way of lowering the threshold for new students that still
would need to pay for tutoring and accreditation.
To what extent the above incentives are the driving forces behind the initiatives taken by individual
institutions is hard to say. It is also true that a combination of several of the motives listed here could be in
play simultaneously, both altruistic motives and economic driven incentives.
Motives for individuals
The incentives for individual researchers, teachers and instructors to share learning resources are so far
less mapped and well known compared to motives for OA publishing or participating in OSS projects. The
motives to be engaged in OER are probably similarly complex. Findings from the OECD questionnaire to
teachers and researchers involved in OER activities suggest that, when presented with a list of proposed
goals or benefits with using OER in their own teaching, the most commonly reported motive was to gain
access to the best possible resources and to have more flexible materials. More altruistic ambitions, such
as assisting developing countries, outreach to disadvantage communities or bringing down costs for
students seems somewhat less important. At the same time the least important factor was to personally
be financially rewarded.
When asked about the most significant barriers among colleagues not using OER in their teaching, the
respondents pointed out lack of time and skills together with the absences of a reward system. A
perceived lack of interest for pedagogical innovation among colleagues is also mentioned. The barriers
described correspond with lessons learned from an Australian evaluation of an institutional learning
environment which included a learning resource catalogue (Koppi, 2003). The authors conclude that “[t]he
issue of reward for publicising teaching and learning materials is of paramount importance to the success
of a sustainable learning resource catalogue where the teaching staff themselves take ownership of the
system”. To establish a credible academic reward system that includes the production and use of OER
might be the single most important policy issue for a large scale deployment of OER in teaching and
Challenges to the Growing OER Movement
Although the idea of OER is thriving at the moment, it is important also to look at some challenges that
might stifle the further growth of the movement. In this paper three challenges will be touched upon: the
lack of awareness among academics regarding copyright issues; how to assure quality in open content;
and how to sustain OER initiatives in the longer run.
Lack of awareness of copyright issues
While publication, consumption and distribution of texts were mediated through physical media,
academics remained for the most part unaware of the licensing that underpinned the exploitation of
copyright. Internet and other digital media have changed this. (McCracken, 2006) By having access to
publishing and production tools, and by licensing access to a digital, ephemeral product rather than a
physical object such as a book or print, researchers as well as teachers now interrelate with licensing as
never before. And for the most part they seem either unprepared or unwilling to engage with cumbersome
Although many academics are willing to share their work, they are often hesitant as how to do this without
losing all their rights. Although some people release work under the public domain, it is not unusual that
authors would like to retain some rights over their work. The RoMEO project in UK made a survey in
2002-2003 among 542 researchers about what kind of rights they wanted to retain. (Gadd, 2003) A
majority (over 60%), were happy for third parties to display, print, save, excerpt from and give away their
papers, but wanted this to be on the condition that they were attributed as the authors and that all copies
were done so verbatim. 55% wanted to limit the usage of their works to educational and non-commercial
use. The RoMEO report concluded that the protection offered to research papers by copyright law is in
excess of what is required by most academics.
Several open content licenses have been developed, like the Creative Commons and the GNU Free
Documentation Licence, to accommodate this problem. Open licensing provides a way of controlled
sharing with some rights reserved to the author. They have the benefit of introducing certainty and clarity
into the process of obtaining permission to use the work of others. They also reduce the administrative
burden of having to clear rights before use. This is particularly useful in the educational context where
users have little or no inside knowledge of the mechanisms used by the media industries. Finally, open
licenses establish a body of works licensed as “open content” that may be freely shared. However, it must
also be recognised that they have some disadvantages. Rights holders must be prepared to grant and to
live with exercising only a “broad-sweep” control over their works, replacing the case by case control with
which they are familiar. Moral rights are waived under licences offering the right to make derivative works
and different and often blurred and overlapping boundaries emerge between not-for-profit, educational
and commercial exploitation or distribution. Despite some shortcomings, there seems to be a growing
interest for open licenses, as shown by the increasing number of objects released under the Creative
The RoMEO project also showed that 41% of authors “freely” assign copyright to publishers without fully
understanding the consequences. Preliminary findings from the OECD survey on OER shows a low
awareness regarding the importance of using open licenses among teachers and researchers producing
learning resources, and few initiatives from institutions to accommodate this deficiency. Given that the
scholars in the RoMEO survey and those responding the OECD questionnaire are more or less
representative of academics from other countries, the conclusions seems to strengthen the assumption
that raising the awareness on copyright and licenses is an important challenge for both the OER and OA
movements. Maybe even easier ways of retaining only those rights that the individual author wants to
retain are needed, together with active advice and support from higher educational institutions. A recent
comparison of seven Australian universities underpins previous international research showing that
relying solely on voluntary deposits by academics of research articles to OA archives will result in
approximately 15% contribution. (Sale, 2006) Requirements to deposit research output in an open archive
coupled with effective author support policy, results in much higher deposit rates.
The overview of the current state of OER showed that a growing number of initiatives and digital
resources are available. Teachers, students and self-learners looking for resources should not have
difficulties finding resources, but still might have problems of judging their quality and relevance. The
issue of the quality of resources is fundamental and can not be dealt with at depth in this paper. Instead a
few different approaches to the issue of quality management will be listed.
Some institution-based providers use the brand or reputation of the institution to persuade the user that
the materials on the website are of good quality. If not, the prestige of the institution is at risk. Most
probably they use internal quality checks before the release of the courses, but these processes are not
open in the sense that the user of the resource can follow them.
Another approach is to have the resources reviewed by peers. As described in the section on OA, the
peer review process is one of the most used quality assurance processes in academia. As well as being a
well known and well understood routine, there are other arguments for using peer review schemes to
guarantee the quality of resources in a repository. Taylor (2002) argues the process can be used to come
to terms with the lack of a reward system by giving recognition and reward to the creator of a learning
resource, as well as a dissemination method. Furthermore, there is a need for making the review
decisions credible, and for that purpose an open peer review according to agreed criteria is well suited,
A third quality management approach is not to have a centrally designed process, but rather let individual
users decide on whatever ground they like whether a learning resource is of high quality, useful, or good
in any other respect. This can be done by letting users rate or comment on the resource or describe how
they have used it, or by showing the number of downloads for each resource on the website. This is a
kind of low level or bottom-up approach often used on Internet based market places, music sites, etc. The
argument for such an approach would be that quality is not an inherent part of a learning resource, but
rather a contextual phenomenon. It is only in the specific learning situation that it can be decided whether
a resource is useful or not, and therefore it is the user who should be the judge.
To sum up there are several alternative ways of approaching the quality management issues. As shown
in Diagram 2, it can be done by a centrally designed process or in a decentralised manner, one might use
open processes or more closed ones. Arguments can be made for all these approaches (maybe with the
exception of the word-of-mouth method), much depending on which kind of OER initiative or programme
one is considering. All sorts of combinations could also be used.
Diagram 2: Quality management processes for OER initiatives
Sustainability of OER initiatives
The fact that so many OER initiatives have started during the last years has created competition for
funding. Although some projects have a strong institutional backing it is most probably start up funding
that will cease after a few years. Therefore it is important to seriously consider how the initiatives can be
sustained in the long run. There are many different kinds of OER providers and no single sustainability
model will fit all. Instead there is a need to discover different approaches that might be useful in a local
context. Two different approaches will be discussed here that might be looked upon as ideal types at
each end of a continuum, where a lot of models could be invented in between. These two are the
institutional model and the community model.
The growing competition among institution based OER initiatives calls for the development of a strong
brand, user communities, increased site usability and improved quality of the resources offered.
Community “marketing” is important for the institutional OER initiatives for several reasons:
• It enables users to form strong connections with the website;
• The institution can learn from the community about what works and what does not work on the
• It gives possibilities for rapid diffusion;
• Strong communities influence user behaviours – users come back to the repository.
Institutions launching OER programmes might also need to look into different revenue models for the long
term stability and viability of their initiative. To this end some alternative models identified by Dholakia
(2006) might be considered, such as:
• The Replacement model, where OER replaces other use and can benefit from the cost savings
which is a result of the replacement. It was noted though that this model has a natural limit since
it can only generate the same amount of resources as it replaces.
• The Foundation, Donation or Endowment model, where the funding for the operations are
provided by an external actor such as foundations. This model was primarily seen as a start up
model that will most probably not be viable in the long run. It might be transferred into a
Government support model, which could be a long-term option in some (mostly European?)
countries but not others.
• The Segmentation model, where the provider, simultaneously with resources for free, also
provides “value-added” services to user segments and charges them for these services – such as
sales of paper copies, training and user support, ask-an-expert services etc. This model, together
with the conversion model, is among the most used in the education sector.
• The Conversion model, where “you give something away for free and then convert the consumer
to a paying customer”.
• The Voluntary support model, which is based on fund-raising campaigns. Another version of this
model is the Membership model where a coalition of interested parties – organisations or
individuals – is invited to contribute a certain sum as seed money or on an annual basis.
• The Contributor-Pay model where the contributors pay the cost of maintaining the contribution,
which the provider makes available for free. This model is used to give OA to scientific
publications and might work also for OER.
The alternative approach to building an OER programme with a strong institutional backing is the
community model. This is more of a grass roots activity where individuals contribute with their time,
knowledge and resources on a voluntary basis. In this model, production, use and distribution is
decentralised, compared to the institutional model where at least production and distribution are
centralised. From a community perspective, one might take an alternative view on the over-all concept of
sustainability. From this standpoint, it is not enough to look at the advantages and disadvantages of
different revenue or funding models – one should look not only at who pays for the resources but also
who creates them, how they are distributed and how one can work with them. Some of the aspects to
• Technical considerations such as discoverability of the resources;
• The kind of openness and constraints on access and use that is given users;
• Different content models (the possibility to localise content) and issues of licensing;
• Different staffing models and incentives for people to contribute resources;
• Alternative workflows to the traditional design—use—evaluation model, to models without a clear
distinction between production and use or between the user and the producer. The concept of co-
production is important here.
• Maintenance and updating of resources.
Since the community model builds on voluntary work and enthusiasts, sustainability is not so much a
matter of financial resources as of dismantling barriers that hinders the community to flourish and grow.
Tentative actions could be to find alternatives to the existing IPR regime and changing the mind set of
donators not only to include funding to institutional OER initiatives but also to loosely composed
Although there are a growing number of OER initiatives a the moment, a lot of fundamental questions still
remains to be answered such as who is involved, in what way are they involved and why? A wide variety
of reasons seem to be at play for both institutions and individuals: some are altruistic and idealistic, others
are economic. The phenomenon – that individuals and institutions give away learning resources for free –
which at first seems counter intuitive and difficult to explain within the old economic and educational
context, might be better understood as a part of a new culture and an emerging economic reality with
partly different characteristics. The apparently contradictory trends that were mentioned in the
introduction to this paper – on the one hand a growing competition among universities and on the other
that some do not protect their intellectual capital, but share it for free – might not be so contradictory after
all. For some universities free sharing of learning resources might be a strategy to create a competitive
advantage by using unorthodox methods. One can predict a growing debate within the OER movement
concerning the role of commercial actors using open resources as part of their business model, as we
have seen in the OSS and OA movements.
During the coming months the OECD study will concentrate on the issues of pedagogical, financial and
other motivations, benefits and barriers for institutions to use and produce OER; usability issues together
with management concerns around quality and validation; and finally policy implications on regional and
national level of the OER movement. The final report will be published in early 2007.
Carson, S.: (2005) “2004 MIT OCW Program Evaluation Findings Report” from
Dholakia, U., King, J., Baraniuk, R.: (2006) ”What makes and Open education Program Sustainable? The
Case of Connexions” from
Downes, S.: “Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources”, National Research Council Canada
Gadd, E., Oppenheim, C., Probets, S.,: (2003) RoMEO Studies 2: “How academics want to protect their
open-access research papers” Department of Information Science, Loughborough University from
Koppi, T., Bogle, L., Lavitt, N.: (2003) “Institutional Use of Learning Objects Three Years on: Lessons
Learned and Future Directions”, University of New South Wales, Australia
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educational resources” from
Ng, W-Y: (2006) “Rational Sharing and its Limits”, paper presented at FM10 Openness: Code, Science
Open eLearning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) (2006) http://www.olcos.org/
Sale, A: “Comparison of content policies for institutional repositories in Australia”, First Monday, volume
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HERDSA, page 656ff from
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Wiley, D: (2006) “The Current State of Open Educational Resources“ from
This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License:
Open Educational Resources Initiative
In a refugee settlement in northern Uganda, a
humanitarian health worker hovers over her laptop,
reviewing free, open coursework on international
A physics instructor in a remote part of Guatemala
is now able to supplement her lesson on particle
wavelengths using an open online simulation
and course materials translated into Spanish from
In a small town in rural Kentucky, a high school senior is taking an online Advanced Placement
physics course not oﬀered at her high school so she can prepare for the AP test on her own.
For the past four years, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been the leading grant-
maker in the ﬁeld of “open educational resources” — high-quality digitized educational materials
oﬀered freely and openly for anyone with access to the Internet. ese materials are available for use
as is, or for re-use as appropriate. Hewlett’s commitment to advancing this exciting ﬁeld is grounded
in the belief that knowledge and education are common goods — and that limited resources and
geography should not be barriers to an individual’s passion to learn.
Since 2001, the Hewlett Foundation has made grants in excess of $40 million to support institutions
and organizations that develop and provide online access to open educational content. For example,
the Foundation is funding:
• MIT OpenCourseWare – to publish course materials from virtually all MIT courses
• Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative – a portfolio of highly interactive
• African Virtual University – to provide free digital and printable materials to train teachers
in Sub-Saharan Africa
• Creative Commons – to oﬀer innovative copyright solutions that allow for more “open
access” of creative work and scholarly materials online
• Widernet eGranary – to improve digital access in developing countries
Open Educational Resources Initiative: What’s Our Goal?
e Foundation has funded over 50 OER initiatives with the goal of leveraging information
technology to equalize educational opportunities across the world.
1. Sponsor High-Quality Open Academic Content
e Open Educational Resources movement began in 2001 when the Hewlett and the Andrew W.
Mellon foundations jointly funded MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), the ﬁrst institution committed
to making all of its course materials freely available.
Since then, more than 60 additional institutions have launched OpenCourseWare Web sites. In
total, materials for more than 2,000 courses are now published openly, drawing almost a million
visits per month. Hewlett also supports many other types of open education content including full
courses, modules and library collections.
2. Break Down Barriers to Open Educational Content
Make it possible: Hewlett supports eﬀorts to secure intellectual property rights for open content
as well as open source learning management systems, content authoring tools, supportive learning
environments and resource sharing.
Make it accessible: To make it easier for people to ﬁnd
Open Educational Resources online, the Foundation
has funded the development of two searchable portals.
Development Gateway is an online destination for people
worldwide working on international development. e
OER Exchange Portal, expected to launch in 2006, will provide users with tools that will help them
search and evaluate the quality of existing open educational content. Both portals will regularly
scour the Web to harvest high-quality OER and organize them in a central location.
3. Encourage People Worldwide to Use Open Educational Resources
Increase regional distribution: To broaden opportunities for people in developing nations who
might make use of OER, Hewlett is forging partnerships with extensive networks and institutional
partners in China, Africa and other targeted regions around the globe.
Strengthen partnerships: e Hewlett Foundation is developing relationships with the World Bank
and other institutions, including UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning, to expand the
opportunities for all people to use Open Education Resources. Hewlett is also exploring private
sectors partnerships with Sun Microsystems, IBM and Google.
About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
e William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (www.hewlett.org) has been making grants since 1966
to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. e Foundation
concentrates its resources on activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts,
philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco
Bay Area. A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at www.hewlett.org/grants.
Open Educational Resources Initiative
Open Educational Resources – Sample Initiatives
First adopted at a meeting sponsored by the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation at UNESCO in 2002, the term “Open
Educational Resources” refers to digitized materials oﬀered freely
and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and
re-use for teaching, learning and research. Open Educational
Resources (OER) include:
• Learning Content: Full courses, courseware, content modules,
learning objects, collections and journals.
• Tools: Software to support the development, use, re-use and
delivery of learning content including searching and
organization of content, content and learning management
systems, content development tools, and online learning
• Implementation Resources: Intellectual property licenses to
promote open publishing of materials, design principles of best
practice, and localization of content.
Below is a selection of Open Educational Resources oﬀered freely
on the Web for use by anyone, anywhere.
OPENCOURSEWARE (OCW ) AND TRANSLATIONS
OCW sites present university course content on the Web, f ree
for use and re-use. e content includes course descriptions and
purpose, syllabi, problem exercises, calendars, tests, lecture notes
and occasionally video lectures, simulations, and other materials.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OpenCourseWare*
Provides free, searchable access to MIT’s course materials for
educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
China Quality OpenCourseWare
Promotes closer interaction and open sharing of educational
resources between Chinese and international universities.
Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Sharing Of Free
Intellectual Assets (Soﬁa)*
Publishes community college-level course content and makes it
freely accessible on the Web to support teaching and learning.
Japan OpenCourseWare Alliance
Provides a wide range of free and open educational resources via
the Internet to any individual interested in higher education.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health ( JHSPH)
Provides free, searchable, access to JHSPH’s course materials for
educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
Tufts University OpenCourseWare*
Supports and advances education by making high-quality content
freely available on the Web for learners and faculty across the
nation and the world.
Utah State University OpenCourseWare*
A free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-
learners throughout Utah and around the world.
Chinese Open Resources for Education*
Translations from English to Chinese and Chinese to English.
Opensource OpenCourseWare Prototype System
Translates MIT OCW into traditional Chinese.
Translates MIT OCW into simpliﬁed Chinese.
English to Spanish and English to Portuguese translations.
OPENCOURSEWARE SETUP TOOLS
MIT OpenCourseWare How-To Site*
Helps institutions interested in creating their own
OpenCourseWare initiatives get started. Also oﬀers
implementation tools, including resources and materials from
* Project or initiative funded by the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation (updated as of November 1, 2005).
Open Educational Resources - Sample Initiatives
A project of the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning. Its
open source software allows institutions to easily publish OCW
content via a ready-made platform designed for eﬃcient production
of course materials.
COURSES & LEARNING OBJECTS
Carnegie Mellon University, Open Learning Initiative (OLI)*
A collection of “cognitively informed,” openly available and free
online courses and course materials that enact instruction for an
entire course in an online format.
Monterey Institute for Technology, Online Advanced Placement
Allows high school students to learn AP course content even if
their school doesn’t oﬀer AP classes.
Rice University, Connexions*
A space for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly
publishing scholarly content on the Web to provide educational
materials for everyone — from children to college students to
Library of Congress, American Memory
Digital History: American History
Harvard University Library Open Collections Program*
Internet Modern History Sourcebook
University of California, American West Collection*
World History Sources
Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness
Drexel University, Math Forum
Eisenhower National Clearinghouse
Stanford University, Encyclopedia of Philosophy*
Carnegie Mellon University, Chemistry Collective
University of Washington, High School Human Genome Program
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Science Digital Library
University of Colorado, Physics Education Technology *
National Science Teachers Association, Science Teachers’ Grab
ARCHIVES & ENCYCLOPEDIA
An ‘Internet library,’ that oﬀers permanent access for researchers,
historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital
Free online encyclopedia to which anyone can make edits or
Open Educational Resources - Sample Initiatives
* Project or initiative funded by the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation (updated as of November 1, 2005).
COUNTRY OR REGION-SPECIFIC INITIATIVES
is is a short list of other institutions and projects around the
world that are working on making high-quality education content
available for free on the Web.
African Virtual University*
Works with over 57 learning centers in 27 African countries to
support economic development by leveraging the power of modern
Commonwealth of Learning, Learning Object Repository
An online database of learning content compiled by searching
across a number of open content repositories.
Discovery Channel, Global Education Partnership (Sub-Saharan
Africa & Latin America)
Brings the world into under-resourced classrooms and
communities with the help of television, video, satellite and cable
European Union, EducaNext
Provides a place to exchange learning resources and distribute
educational activities and content.
National Institute for Multimedia Education (NIME) ( Japan)
Manages higher educational information portals, develops and
distributes educational contents, and operates educational networks.
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) eSchools
Aims to provide every African school leaver with the basic
technological skills required to function in an information society,
to make learners health literate and to bridge the ‘digital divide’
within the next 10 to15 years.
OPEN REPOSITORIES & PORTALS
Provides a variety of education materials in many disciplines.
Commonwealth of Learning’s Knowledge Finder
Indexes nearly 1 million documents from around the world on
education and development from selected Web sites.
Development Gateway Foundation, OER Topic Page*
Helps improve people’s lives in developing countries by building
partnerships and information systems that provide access to shared
Discovery Channel, Global Education Partnership
Provides tools and training necessary to extend the power of
technology and information to under-resourced communities
around the world.
A digital repository system that captures, stores, indexes, preserves
and redistributes an organization’s research material in digital
Gateway to Educational Materials
Provides educators with quick and easy access to thousands of
educational resources found on various federal, state, university,
nonproﬁt, and commercial Internet sites.
Sun Microsystems, Global Education Learning Community
Empowers teachers, students and parent with self-paced, web-
based, free and open content (curriculum resources, assessment)
combined with best practices for advancing student achievement.
Internet Archive, Education*
Provides a variety of content including materials on education
and a Web search tool as it existed at diﬀerent times over the past
Allows users to take advantage of its extensive collection of learning
and teaching materials.
OPEN JOURNALS & BOOKS
Boston College, ird World Law Journal
University of Chicago at Illinois Library, First Monday
* Project or initiative funded by the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation (as of November 1, 2005).
University of Michigan School of Information, Internet Public
University of Michigan and Cornell University, Making of
Public Library of Science
Tufts University, e Perseus Digital Library
BBC Creative Archive License Group
Makes moving images, audio and stills available for download
under the terms of a single, shared user license scheme.
Oﬀers creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works
while building a layer of reasonable, ﬂexible copyright in the face of
increasingly restrictive default rules.
Creative Commons, Science Commons*
Encourages stakeholders to create areas of free access and inquiry
using standardized licenses and other means: a ‘Science Commons’
built out of voluntary private agreements.
Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
A research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its
study, and help pioneer its development.
CONSORTIA AND VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES
Digital Library Federation
A consortium of libraries and related agencies that are pioneering
the use of electronic information technologies to extend collections
International Network for the Availability of Scientiﬁc
Works with partners and networks around the world to encourage
the creation and production of information, to promote sustainable
and equitable access to information, to foster collaboration and
networking, and to strengthen local capacities to manage and use
information and knowledge.
A free collaboration platform that hosts virtual communities
developing, evaluating and using open, non-proprietary learning
objects in their discipline.
Open Learning Support*
An open source software designed to integrate with collections of
open access educational materials and provide educational support
UNESCO, International Institute for Educational Planning*
Works to strengthen the capacity of countries to plan and manage
their education systems through training planners and managers,
supporting institutions and fostering an enabling environment
through policy forums, international cooperation and networking.
INNOVATIVE OPEN BUSINESS MODELS
A platform for sharing innovative entrepreneurial ideas which are
built around openness, free services and free access.
ENABLING SOFTWARE & APPLICATIONS
Commonwealth of Learning, Learning Objects Repository
Center for History and New Media, ECHO Tools Center
ETUDES-NG Alliance, Learning Management System*
Moodle, Course Management System
Sakai Project, Learning Management System*
University of Iowa, WiderNet Project*
* Project or initiative funded by the William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation (updated as of November 1, 2005).
Open Educational Resources - Sample Initiatives
The Old and the New
A Learning Revolution
Marshall S. Smith
Phoenix M. Wang
Catherine C. Casserly
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Thank you. It is a pleasure to speak with you about the future of learning. We at the William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation focus on issues of Open Education Resources and the improvement of opportunities to learn. Our
primary goal is to help create powerful, lasting improvements in learning opportunities for all students, all over the
world. I will not discuss marginal changes in the education system and schools that appear to have only a small
impact on learning. For example, we know from studies that conventional distance learning using practically any
medium for transmission is as effective as conventional teaching. Distance learning should be part of the future,
but we believe that there are ways of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of distance learning by
magnitudes of two or three times. That is an example of powerful improvement.
My focus will be on ways of using technology to create powerful improvements in learning. We cannot continue to
think of schooling and learning as bounded by what we call our education systems -- four walls, traditional text
books, teachers standing in the front of classrooms, grades, exams, all carried out within highly scheduled fixed
amounts of time. We have tried improving almost every aspect of the current education system – better, required
curricula, more exams, more accountability, more professional development, better alignment of resources – yet
we have made only incremental improvements on learning outcomes.
One thing I hope you will take a way from this talk is that for us to expect significant improvements, we need to
consider breaking down the constraints of our current education system. Powerful improvement sometimes
requires disruptive change in the conventional order. Just as with the experience of other institutions that have
used technology to improve productivity, we find that the gains from creating efficiencies in the old processes is
only marginal -- to dramatically improve productivity we need to change the processes and practices. Some
societies and education systems will be more open than others to such change. We suspect that those societies
and education systems will succeed, with the important caveat that they change in the right direction, while the
others will fail.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 1 11/28/2006
Marginal variation will not do the job.
We need significant changes.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 2 11/28/2006
•Facts & skills based
•Student controlled pace
•Creative by creating
•Work in groups
•Synthesize and analyze
•Try, fail and try again
New Economy Requires Old + New Basics
My discussion builds on the morning talks. We believe that the new economy brought on by the
information age requires us to strive to educate all of our children, to make education universal.
Our children will need more than reading, writing and arithmetic. Every nation will need far more
workers who are able to take responsibility, work cooperatively, grapple with uncertainty, behave
creatively. Many jobs, engineering, the sciences, management, investment, politics, the arts,
require the capacity to try, to fail, to try again, often many times over. Creativity thrives in
environments that support second chances – think of the CEOs in Silicon Valley (Jim Clark –
Netscape and Silicon Graphics, Steve Jobs – Apple)
Advocates of the old basics argue that teachers should be in control, students should work alone,
and that problems with a right answer are still important and must be practiced in schools. We
agree, though, we argue, they must only be part of the picture.
The new basics -- a combination of gaining a deeper understanding of academic content, and a
set of strategies to enable students to “learn to learn,” to be creative, and to control their own
environment must also become part of the curriculum.
How do we teach both the old and the new basics in the same amount of time that it takes us to
teach the old basics? I will suggest some approaches in a moment.
But part of the answer is simple to say and hard to do -- we need to become more student
centered and less adult centered. What does student centered mean? -- it means giving students
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 3 11/28/2006
some control over their learning and going to the students rather than forcing them to learn in the
modern world the way that they learned in the 1920s.
Specifically, we need to use time in school much more effectively and we need to go where the
learners are out of school. Only 20% of a child’s waking hours between the ages of 5 and 18 are
spent in school, and even then they are half asleep -- we need to use at least part of the 80% of
the time students are outside of the school for educational purposes.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 4 11/28/2006
Learning = f(Content, Motivation, Time)
Put in note “apologies to Professor John B. Carroll”
Before we consider the potential uses of technology for learning let’s look at a way of thinking
about the general conditions that make learning possible. I find the equation Learning is a
function of Content, motivation and time is a useful oversimplification of the factors that go into
School learning a function of: L=f(Content, Motivation, Time)
Content includes teachers (knowledge, energy), curriculum (content and skills), pedagogy
Motivation has a variety of components including student readiness (health, self-confidence, level
of attention, sense of control over learning), cultural and social incentives and disincentives.
Time refers to the length of time it takes a particular student to learn particular content. Time
varies depending primarily on prior knowledge, the knowledge and skills in the area that the
student brings to the learning situation.
We have emphasized that we need to change the Content dramatically to include the new basics.
And, we have suggested that the Time need not be a fixed dimension in schools anymore – in the
future the student can carry the school along with her.
Motivation is a critical issue in the United States, though we pay little attention to it. I don’t know
how much of an issue there is about the need for greater student motivation in the Asian nations.
But, I suspect that the increase in interesting out of school activities such as computer games and
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 5 11/28/2006
chat rooms poses a threat to student motivation even in Asia. There is a lot of research evidence
that student motivation is absolutely critical -- that positive reinforcement, a sense of control over
environment and social support are critical. The technology approaches we suggest for learning
some of the new basics have student motivation front and center -- they are designed to capture
and engage students that have other choices.
Our bottom line is that we need to substantially alter all three components, content, motivation
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 6 11/28/2006
NOW is the TIME. Major changes in
what we know about learning:
• cognitive science
• possibilities from brain research
are leading to new applications of
technology in education
Educational efforts by many governments in the last decade have focused primarily on increasing
access to technology. Hardware and pipeline issues have dominated. Very little interesting has
occurred in the area of technology applications for teaching and learning. In the US, one reason
this has happened is that we have left the development of content primarily to the private sector,
which, in the US, is slow to change because it is protecting its core business in textbooks and
other materials. The result is that technology has had only a small effect on education.
But it is possible that we have not been ready.
We believe that we are now ready for a revolution. One reason is the giant strides in
understanding learning and teaching that we have made from recent research on cognitive
science, in pedagogy and, for future applications, in research on the brain.
This research base is one key ingredient.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 7 11/28/2006
More bandwidth, increasing processing power,
ubiquitous connectivity, rapid growth of mobile devices,
Increase capacity to access, collaborate,
personalize, and create
The second key ingredient is the new technology itself and the use of it by young people all over
We now have huge amounts of bandwidth and computers and handheld devices are ubiquitous.
Connectivity is everywhere, and capacity and processing power double every 12 to 18 months.
Moreover, given the opportunity, our youth engage in using technology -- they use computers
more fluidly and creatively than we do and the handheld device of my grandaughter has greater
computing power than the desktops of the late 1990s.
The ubiquity of technology means that formal, structured, engaging open educational materials
could be available all of the time (24/7) to everyone. What we learn in school could be reinforced
and expanded by high quality digital experiences outside of school. The content that we teach in
our schools, language, mathematics, science, art, music, history, philosophy, engineering, public
health, and on could be immediately available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
One major contribution of technology that will significantly change the way we approach
education is that it allows us the opportunity to teach and learn anytime, anywhere, and on any
This is the second ingredient. We are ready to bake a cake.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 8 11/28/2006
f(Content, Motivation, Time) x Technology
Create & Maintain
Create & Maintain
Open Access to
Open Access to
Open Materials for
Open Materials for
We will look at six different applications of technology that can help us change all three
dimensions that make learning possible. Each of these applications addresses one or more
dimensions -- time, content, and motivation.
• Open access to knowledge of the world – Open educational resources, such as Library
Collections, Books, Video, encyclopedias, data, journals, art, and translators, together
enable huge amounts of high quality content available to all, especially those who
typically lacked access.
• Creating and Maintaining High Quality open materials: technology enables us to create
fast feedback loops to improve the quality of textbooks, lesson plans, or other
instructional material, in timeframes much shorter than what exists today.
• Powerful resources for 24/7, open supplemental and lifelong learning: The expansive
proliferation of educational materials in open archives of books and journals, allows us to
rethink schools as 24/7, anytime and anywhere.
• Accelerated Learning: Why not increase the rate of learning by 2 – 3 – 4 times. Cognitive
tutors enable us to shorten the time or the other way to think about it, enable student to
double the learning but in the same amount of time.
• Learning by doing: If we want our students to think and act like a scientist, architect,
historian, computer programmer, electrician, then we should consider using technologies
that can help us create environments in which students can think and act like scientists.
• Immersive teaching environments and powerful educational games: millions of students
spend hours playing games. What if we can harness the essence of gaming
environments and apply them to formal education. I think we have early examples and
are on our way.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 9 11/28/2006
•109 universities around the world
•380 courses translated into 9 languages
Open Access to Knowledge:
A massive global library of educational
materials free to all
Open access to knowledge of the world: The big idea here is to bring the knowledge of the world
to the smallest villages in Western China, the slums in Nairobi, the barrios of Los Angeles -- to
everyone in the world.
One of the best known examples is Open CourseWare, which was started by MIT and has since
spread across the world. Open CourseWare is a large-scale initiative to provide free,
searchable, access to course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the
world. (www.ocw.mit.edu) MIT is putting the course materials for all of its more than 1500
courses on the web for free.
Over 100 universities around the world have joined with MIT in an OCW consortium in placing
their learning materials openly on the web. This includes the premier universities in China and
Japan, the Paris Technological Institutes, as well as many others. Altogether 3000 courses are
published and this number is rapidly increasing. (www.ocwconsortium.org)
The combined websites receives over 1.5 million users a month. The users include faculty,
students, and independent learners. China, Japan, India, and Canada are in the top five nations
For the first time some of the worlds greatest Universities are opening the doors for everyone to
the content that had hitherto been reserved only for their students. Six years ago who would
have believed this could happen?
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 10 11/28/2006
Cornucopia of Open Educational
•Books in millions: Google and other
•Library collections worldwide: U.S.,
•Journals: Public Library of Science
•Videos of documentaries and lectures:
BBC, Public Broadcasting System
OpenCourseWare is only one of many different types of high quality education materials that are being placed on
the web for free. Open Educational Resources include Library Collections, Books, Video, encyclopedias, data,
journals, art, and translation and communication tools.
All over the world universities, libraries, public television, museums, government agencies, profession
organizations and other entities and individuals are placing high quality education content on the web for open
use and reuse. The materials are available to everyone in the world via computer and an internet connection.
They carry a license that allows open use. In the US institutions that are part of this include Harvard, Yale, Rice,
the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress – in England the BBC and the Open University of the United
Kingdom. Even private sector organizations are giving educational materials away for free. GOOGLE expect to
shortly be providing access to well in excess of a million open books.
In British Columbia, Canada their premier university is building a web site of open materials for their teachers and
students. The World Bank has a web site pointing to open materials across the web. The National Science
Digital Library supported by the US National Science Foundation is a huge repository of open materials
supporting the teaching of science in the pre-collegiate years. The National Institute for Multi-Media Education in
Japan has put together a repository of mostly open digital objects supporting teaching and learning. Australia and
England and many others have similar sites.
These are the beginnings of a universal world library of high quality education materials of extraordinary size and
scope, a library that will be available to every child in Kenya or the Philippines that has access to a handheld
connected to the world wide web. This establishes the real possibility for all of learning on demand, whatever you
need to learn at a given time.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 11 11/28/2006
Create and Maintain High Quality
Fast feedback loops that engage users
This category includes textbooks; lesson plans; examples of best practice on video; assessments and lots of
other things. You may ask why am I talking about such a dull topic?
The fact is that the tools of teaching and learning in schools all too often are created by people outside of the
classroom and almost never rigorously tested in the classroom. Almost every K-12 student in the world has a text
book, most teachers use lesson plans, almost every nation has high stakes assessments -- what do we know
about the quality of the textbooks? the effectiveness of the lesson plans? the validity of the assessments? The
fact is we know almost nothing of use about all of these areas.
A glaring exception to my generalization is a practice used in Japan (and other nations) of taking teacher built
lesson plans and having other teachers try them and critique them and improve them. The process of lesson
study is a process of continuous improvement, a practice made popular on the manufacturing lines of Japanese
This form of continuous improvement cycle can be widely, cheaply, and powerfully accelerated by modern
technology!! It can be applied to textbooks, lesson plans, workbooks, professional development, assessments of
various forms and other types of teaching materials.
The big idea here is to use the web to create fast feedback loops to dramatically improve the quality and
usefulness of the materials by engaging teachers and students who are users of the materials!!!!
This category could be populated by open resources or by proprietary materials. However, improving the
materials dramatically will require opening it on the material to use and reuse by teachers and students and
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 12 11/28/2006
Imagine a text book for teaching eighth grade students biology is on the web and used by a large number of
teachers in the country. The textbook has the conventional pages and figures – it also may have embedded
laboratories, interactive simulations, video and other supporting material. One powerful component of putting a
textbook on the web is that it could be continuously updated for new knowledge from, in this case, the field of
biology. A version of the textbook could be usable on a handheld device. The textbook could be printed though it
would lose the interactive characteristics but they still are as useful as current text books.
Imagine now that teachers are asked to react to the textbook, to feed back information to the authors or
publishers about the usefulness of lessons, end of chapter assessments, and to highlight places and concepts
where the presentation is not clear and their students did not understand the materials. Perhaps even the
students will feed back information.
The publisher would gather the information --when it was clear from strong data that some area was problematic
the publisher would change the textbook to meet the concerns. Perhaps the change would only be appropriate for
students who did not have prior knowledge of certain principles of science -- in that instance a second, modified
and augmented text could be placed on the web, with an annotation indicating that it is appropriate for certain
kinds of students. This is an important step in personalizing materials. Unlike the past the ideas for change
would come directly and in real time from the users. This would create a strong and rapid feedback loop to create
a cycle of continuous improvement.
In another application of fast feedback loops, imagine that 20 second grade elite math teachers were selected to
place on the web their lesson plans for the 20 most troublesome areas for the students in 2nd grad math. Other
teachers would then be asked to try the lessons and to judge them or even modify them to make them work better
in their classroom and to post the modifications on the web, along with their reasons for altering the original
More teachers would then try either the modified or the original lessons, and possibly make modifications and
post them. The result is jet propelled lesson study where fast feed back loops are created to continuously
improve the lesson plans so that they work well within the particular contexts of the teachers.
The take away is that in many countries there is no method of validating or ensuring the effectiveness of teaching
materials. This simple process would dramatically change that. In a short period of time the quality would rise,
the relevance to teachers would rise, and the pride among teachers of their having contributed would rise. And, I
suspect, the achievement of students would increase.
As a by product, this might also allow us to make radical strides in a real theory of learning.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 13 11/28/2006
Open Materials for Supplemental &
Give choices and control over when,
where, and how to learn
Many college and secondary school students stay up late at night and wake up groggy in the
morning. It is in their genes. Yet our libraries, lectures, and professors are available in the
morning and not in the middle of the night. Middle aged people who work during the day cannot
attend college during conventional hours. Or maybe they don’t want to go back to school – rather
they want to sit in their home and bone up on algebra and biology so they can do a better job in
their current occupation.
The big idea here is that we need to build a virtual world comprised of a large number of
structured learning materials. The world would open to all on the web for use by anyone,
anytime, anywhere. The materials that would comprise such a world is rapidly growing but as of
yet they are scattered throughout the web.
These materials include stand alone multi-media and lecture courses with fully developed content
and instructional capacity; modules for home study, homework helpers and other supports, and
language learning tools (CHENGO). Over 100 such courses are already available for free in
English and some are being translated into Spanish and Chinese. They cover such areas as
calculus, algebra, world history, biology, chemistry, programming in C++ and others. In a short
time we expect 200-300 such courses to be available along with many thousands of other useful
digital objects. Homework helpers provide support for all learners by bringing specific knowledge
to bear to help students learn a concept.
“So far the site is helpful. I have worked through sample questions and used it yesterday to study
for my chapter test in algebra. I will use if for other subjects as well. Sorry it has taken so long to
get back to you but I have been very busy.”
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 14 11/28/2006
A variety of models are springing up. In the Netherlands the Open University is placing some
courses open on the web for use by anyone, anytime with the aim of attracting students to take
officially take courses in a degree program. The effort is being supported by the government in
the hopes of stimulating an increase in the overall college population.
One particularly interesting example of a lifelong learning resource is in the area of language
learning. The technology of voice recognition, language translation and machine language
production has improved dramatically. With a language training program a student has the
chance to practice and learn on her own, fail and then receive feedback and support, practice and
repetition in an immersive language environment.
The Chinese and US governments signed an agreement some time ago to create programs to
teach Chinese to English speaking students and English to Chinese native language students.
CHENGO, or Chinese and English on the Go, is a highly innovative R&D project that uses online
technology to deliver foreign language instruction, 24/7, open, and accessible from anywhere.
The system is designed to deliver 35, one-hour English language lessons by integrating the
technologies of gaming, animation, and voice recognition via the Internet with a structured
Chengo creates an environment where learner can learn at his or her own pace and practice as
long and as often as necessary.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 15 11/28/2006
Learn 2 to 3 times faster
Accelerate learning. The title of this presentation in the agenda is "Can we Learn 2 to 3 times
faster". We believe that the answer to that question is yes in many subjects.
The big idea here is that interactive on-line courses, developed by content experts who are
informed by recent knowledge from cognitive science, can enable students to learn faster than
they learn from regular, high quality lectures delivered in our world’s greatest universities. Our
preliminary hypothesis is that students can learn twice to three times as fast using the on-line
Carnegie-Mellon University is developing such a set of college level courses for delivery on the
web. The courses are based on current theories and data from cognitive sciences and the
course content in each is exactly the content of a corresponding lecture course in the university.
The University course takes one traditional semester of lectures. Carnegie – Mellon calls their
technology courses Cognitive Tutors. They provide all of the content necessary to successfully
complete the course. They are 24/7 cognitive tutors that are capable through effective use of
feedback loops to create personalized experiences. 24/7 personalized cognitive tutors – this is
going to the student with highly motivating material under their control and reactive to their needs.
Who can ask for anything more?
Carnegie Mellon is embarking on a set of experiments to determine whether the 24/7 cognitive
tutors can accelerate learning. They already know from other studies that the cognitive tutors
work as well as the lecture approach when both groups are given a full semester to learn the
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 16 11/28/2006
In the new experiments the 24/7 cognitive tutor students will only have one-half the semester to
take the course before the end of course examination while the lecture class students will have
the full semester. The scores of the students in the two groups on the common end of course
exam will be compared. Our money is riding on the 24/7 cognitive tutor students.
Accelerate Learning Slide: CMU’s Static Tutor
The OLI MiniTutors are grounded in studies that have attributed the sizeable learning gains that
students achieve with human tutors to the feedback the tutor gives in the problem solving context.
This tutor is in a section of the Statics Course on Effects of Multiple Forces and helps students
learn how to calculate moments using components. It is intended to be an opportunity for
students to do a "self-check" to make sure they understand the concept. However, if the student
is unsure of the procedure for solving the problem, the first hint provides a link which, when
clicked, expands the tutor into the various steps needed to solve the problem.
The tutor provides scaffolding to support the student to learn the steps of the procedure when
The hints and feedback change depending on which part of the exercise the student is
attempting. Notice that the hints are given in three levels with the first level of hint orienting the
student in general terms, the second level of hint restating the rules, strategies or equations that
the student should apply in solving the problem, and the final level of hint, or “bottom out hint”
gives the student the solution for that step in the process. The student’s answers are green when
they are correct and red when they are incorrect. This demonstrates the methodology of a
cognitive tutor: making comments when the student errs, answering questions about what to do
next, and maintaining a low profile when the student is performing well.
The tutor recognizes when a student has used the scaffolding and hints and when the student
gives the correct answer after having used the scaffolding and hints; the tutor suggests that the
student try another problem without scaffolding and hints. The graph, the problem statement,
hints, feedback and answers are dynamically-generated. The student can work through the tutor
multiple times, receiving a different problem each time, until the student is confident that he or
she understands the concept. This provides the student with virtually unlimited opportunities for
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 17 11/28/2006
Learn by Doing
To become a scientist, architect, or
computer programmer…must learn to
think and practice like one
Surgery SimulatorDiscover Babylon
If we want our future workforce to be have the skills and knowledge to adapt to the rapidly
changes brought on by globalization, then what better way to learn than to simulate the kinds of
challenges that one might encounter? Rather than memorizing facts, why not start early and help
students practice doing what a scientist, architect, doctor, dentist, historian, computer
programmer, or electrician does? Technology has made it easier to create simulations for job-
training, and, some instances, to give students the chance to actually carry out real work.
iLab at MIT supports a network of users who from a distance can manipulate high-end laboratory
equipment to teach science. This is not virtual laboratory -- it is the real thing. The lab names are
Dynamic signal analyzer
Shake table for Civil Engineering
Polymer crystallization for Chemical Engineering
Microelectronics device characterization for Electrical Engineering
Heat exchanger for chemical engineering
In Australia an observatory has opened windows of its time to students and amateur astronomers
who wish to explore and solve the kinds of problems that professional astronomers think about.
Students create hypotheses, for example, predicting where a black hole might be, reserve the
right time for the telescope to be focused on a particular part of the universe, and then analyze
the results of their investigation. And, all of the images are open source, allowing anyone else to
examine and study their importance.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 18 11/28/2006
Discover Babylon teaches a user to be an archeologist with accurate historical and scientific
information in 3D photorealistic simulations that allow the user open-ended exploration and
Surgery Simulator shown here is a high-fidelity laparoscopic surgery simulator that enables
surgeons to practice complex operative tasks before entering the operating room. The device
emulates, with a high degree of accuracy, the anatomy of organs and tissues.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 19 11/28/2006
UN World Food Program: Food Force
Federation of American
Scientists: Immune Attack
Carnegie Mellon: PeaceMaker
Immersive Teaching and Games
Learn through structured play
Where do many of our children and young people spend their extra time? Games!! And coming
on strong are non-gaming immersive environments!! On the computer, on the handheld device,
at home, on the playground, on airplanes, autos, wherever they are kids 5 to 30 there are games.
The games and immersive environments may have one or two or three or up to many thousands
of participants. Something on the order of 25 million people play World of Warcraft and there are
over 1 million inhabitants of Second Life. The gaming industry is larger than the movie industry.
Parents all over the world worry that their children (and sometimes their spouses) are spending
too much time playing these games. Yet there are very few powerful games designed for
education purposes available for our schools and colleges.
The irony here is that the Defense Department in the US and, I am sure other countries, already
employ games and immersive environments for learning and training activities, as do multiple
large private corporations around the world. What do they know that we do not know?
They know that these environments foster learning to be take control of your learning, be
creative, solve problems, and manage complexity, through competition, collaboration,
engagement in games and virtual worlds.
The big idea here is that personalized, engaging, challenging game activities provide an
extraordinary opportunity to teach both the old and new Basics.
Some games for social and educational purposes are already in circulation.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 20 11/28/2006
Games exist for science, defense, health, conflict resolution, and social change. Their
sophistication, target audience, and message vary. The Federation for the Advancement of
Science developed Immune Attack to allow high school students to experience the challenge of
defending the human body against invading antigens; PeaceMaker, a game created by students
at Carnegie Mellon University, lets Palestinians and Israelis switch roles to better understand
each other's plight (I will add image of this); and the U.N. World Food Program's Food Force
teaches kids about the difficulties of delivering aid to the developing world. Food Force had had 4
million downloads in 15 months (Time Magazine, August 2006).
(Demo Food Force Trailer) Each player is a member of a rookie team sent to complete six
missions. Each mission represents a part of the process of delivering food aid to an area in
crisis. The final mission shows you how food aid can help people rebuild their lives in the years
following a disaster.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 21 11/28/2006
• Open access to a massive library of knowledge for all
• Learn structured education material anytime, anywhere, and
on any device
• User-centric improvement of education materials
• Accelerate learning -- learn 2 – 3 times faster
• Motivate students by learning to be professionals
• Promote creativity, problem solving, control of learning
through games, immersive environments
f(Content, Motivation, Time) x Technology
What does this sample of opportunities created by technology offer us?
Open access to a massive library of knowledge for all
Learn structured education material anytime, anywhere, and on any device
User-centric improvement of education materials
Accelerate learning -- learn 2 – 3 times faster
Motivate students by learning to be professionals
Promote creativity, problem solving, control of learning through games, immersive environments
And these are only examples of categories of opportunities.
What might be done to make these opportunities real?
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 22 11/28/2006
What are our options for governments and other funding agencies? The obvious one is to do
nothing special. Continue to dabble on the edges of the education system. Don’t alienate adults
and special interests that are embedded in the education system.
What would happen? I believe that the open education resources movement has enough
impetus and support around the world to continue growing though special interests will create
barriers and slow the movement down. The well to do will still have access to it as well as to
material that has a price. The losers, of course, will be those who cannot pay and fight back.
Maybe the private sector would step up but their materials would be closed to all who cannot pay
-- again the losers are not in this room.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 23 11/28/2006
A more challenging path would be,,,
1. Invest in development of cognitive
tutors, games, simulations and better
2. R&D on more complex immersive
environments to support learning by
3. Change incentives in the system:
– Reward coaching
– Give course credit without seat time
– Redefine length of school
– Change national testing
Invest now in what we know how to do – develop 24/7 cognitive tutors in twenty key areas, build a new generation
of textbooks that achieve validity though user feedback, create a library of open games, simulations and better
education materials. The cost of a government funding this would be an astonishingly small fraction of the overall
cost of the schooling in their government. Suppose, for example, that using US prices for labor it cost 1 billion
dollars -- that would be 2% of one year’s cost of California’s K-12 education system. The savings could be
How about embedding the entire curriculum of secondary schools with these extraordinary tools? How about a
massive site with multi-player games, simulations, data collection and analysis tools in multiple languages for
middle school students all over the world in the area of global warming? How about? -- you fill in the blanks.
For the long run we need R&D on more complex immersive environments to support creativity and deep problem
solving. And we need to change incentives in the system: For example.
• To cede more control to students and to support the use of technology reward coaching
as a model of teaching rather than the “sage on the stage” model.
• Give course credit without seat-time to those who learn on their own.
• Reduce length of school for those who can accelerate through the system.
• Change national testing and college entrance requirements to include measures of
creativity, deep problem solving, and experience with problems that do not have a “right”
There are real impediments and considerable costs to changing the status quo. In this case, we believe that the
costs of not changing are far greater.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Page 24 11/28/2006
Curriki - Global Education & Learning Community
Bringing Curricula into the Participation Age
By Dr. Barbara (Bobbi) Kurshan
Curriki - Global Education & Learning Community
When assessing the quality of life of an individual, or the economic condition of a nation,
one fact stands out – education makes a measurable and positive difference. Quality
learning requires access to quality curricula that include defined learning objectives,
scope and sequence for instruction, lesson plans, instructional materials, teacher
training and student assessment.
Unfortunately, quality learning and the infrastructure to support it are not universally
accessible. Typically, the affluent of the world have access to high quality education
and a corresponding high standard of living. However, a far larger number of people
who live in rural or impoverished areas have little or no education available to them.
Thus, an unacceptable gap in learning opportunities exists, and viewed from an
international perspective, this “Education Divide” looks as vast as the Grand Canyon.
Globally, the numbers are staggering. Around the world, more than 100 million children
do not have access to a primary school education.
Even in the inner cities and rural areas of the United States, the lack of qualified
instructors and sufficient instructional materials, such as a textbook for each student,
has a profound negative impact on graduation rates, health and crime. Almost 40
percent of students in the lowest socioeconomic quartile drop out of school, and the
costs to the individual and society are monumental. An estimated 67 percent of prison
inmates nationwide are high school dropouts.
In developing its “Millennium Goals,” the United Nations recognized the global necessity
of education, and the socioeconomic cost of the lack of it. The UN urged people around
the world to ensure that, by 2015, every child is able to complete a full course of primary
schooling. Improving educational opportunities directly improves a country’s economy
and the lives of its people. The challenge is making quality education universally
available to all.
Quality learning requires access to quality curricula that include defined learning
objectives, scope and sequence for instruction, lesson plans, instructional materials,
teacher training and student assessment. Today, textbooks are the primary form of
instructional materials used in a curriculum. The U.S. spends about $5 billion on
textbooks each year, up from about $2 billion in 1991. These costs are continuing to
rise, not only in the U.S., but all over the world.
With the advent of the Internet, we now have a unique opportunity to change the
curricula paradigm, and thereby to dramatically expand access to quality learning while
reducing the cost.
The Internet has proven to be the great world equalizer. It has eliminated a number of
economic and structural barriers to both the free exchange of knowledge and access on
a global scale. First e-mail, then web publishing and more recently hosted applications
and web-based “Marketplaces,” “Groupware” and “Social Networks” have provided
never-before-seen opportunities to collaborate on the development and delivery of
intellectual assets on a global scale. The relationship between authors and publishers
is changing, as the Internet democratizes who can share his or her work. Now a
publisher is anyone with access to the network and not exclusively those with access to
the capital intensive means of print publication.
Open Source and the Participation Age
A major driver in lowering barriers is “open source.” Free/Open Source Software
(FOSS), for instance, has transformed the software industry. The basic idea behind
open source software is simple: when developers can read, redistribute, and modify the
source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. For example, the Gnu/Linux
operating system, the Apache Web server and the OpenOffice desktop application have
all proven to be world-class software.
These examples have also provided a successful model for how online communities
can organize and govern themselves, evaluate and improve their products, and grow in
size and influence. A community of people can fix, improve or adapt something at a
speed that, compared with the pace of conventional development, can be astonishing.
Virtually every successful open source project has several common elements:
• An infrastructure and process that enable disparate individuals to collaborate on
• A community that is energized and motivated to complete, publish and support
• A critical mass of content that can be used to create an enhanced or customized
version suited to the specific needs of a specific community member or locale.
The open source model directly correlates to the need in education for a common
infrastructure to link students and the teaching community with best materials for and
practices in instruction. More recently, the potential to apply this community
development approach to educational content has been demonstrated by Wikipedia, a
free and open source encyclopedia.
The open source framework is especially conducive to the way people interact online
today in the new “Participation Age.” The Participation Age is the successor to the
Information Age, where economic value was generated by controlling the creation,
distribution and use of proprietary information. In the Information Age, the proprietary
nature of the intellectual property required users to purchase restrictive use rights or
“reinvent the wheel” for unrestricted use. The Internet has enabled the Participation
Age and has seriously challenged this proprietary control. The Participation Age is
about access and sharing, where networks of human beings interact to solve problems,
creating meaningful content, connections and relationships never possible before.
To this end, a growing number of education organizations and foundations are finding
that an open source approach can fill the education content gap. Many are leading and
supporting the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) that further provide
stimulus to building network access.
To date, these efforts have developed educational resources that provide a specific or
point solution. For example, Wikipedia provides a free and open source encyclopedia.
Its sister site, Wikibooks, is developing open source textbooks. However, Wikibooks is
not focused on K-12 and does not address the full complement of curriculum resources.
Both are valuable educational resources, but do not provide a complete curricular
Good examples of Open Source Curricula exist at the local level. Because these
isolated instances are not well publicized or disseminated globally, their excellence is
not leveraged, and many hours of development time on nearly-identical projects are
wasted by “re-inventing the wheel.” Many OERs exist in silos of expertise and are
difficult to find or use. Educational organizations that have created OER sites tend to be
at the university level or regional level, and are limited to specific subject areas or
restrict access to specific audiences.
For example, California Open Source Textbook Project (COSTP) is developing a World
History textbook in conjunction with Wikibooks. This OER will be aligned to California
standards of learning and will be available only to teachers in California after it has been
approved for California public school adoption. COSTP plans to use content that has
some IP rights reserved (is not truly open) and to charge a fee to users outside of
Though it will require a sustained and persistent effort, the time is now to begin
building a community among those who can contribute or teach and those who
want to learn, to freely share and support universal access to quality curricula.
Development of an extensive repository of Open Source Curriculum is the key to
eliminating the Education Divide and providing universal, equal educational
Bringing it All Together: Curriki - Global Education & Learning Community
Curriki - Global Education & Learning Community is the first all-embracing Internet site
instituted to develop, aggregate, evaluate and support the best of Open Source
Curriculum. Curriki is the only site to develop this complete Open Source Curriculum
solution based on a comprehensive curricular framework that includes defined learning
objectives, scope and sequence for instruction, lesson plans, student activities,
instructional materials, teacher training and student assessment of mastery.
Curriki’s mission is to empower people worldwide through Open Source Curriculum and
to eliminate the Education Divide by moving learning into the Participation Age.
Curriki was founded by Sun Microsystems in March 2004 as the Global Education &
Learning Network. In 2006, Sun created an independent 501(c)(3) organization to
accelerate and focus the Open Source Curriculum repository development effort.
Curriki was initiated as a result of the stated need of over 20 Ministers of Education
around the world for cost-effective, online curricula and is supported by educational
luminaries who believe in universal access to education.
Curriki provides an online repository where anyone, anywhere, students or teacher, can
contribute to and/or access quality learning materials. The initial focus is on K-12
curricula in the areas of mathematics, science, technology, reading and language arts,
and languages. This interactive and open repository empowers and enables people
everywhere to learn and teach.
To foster global educational opportunities, Curriki believes the optimum solution is to
become the best source for world-class learning – quality curricula, just a click away.
Curriki’s approach represents a paradigm shift in curriculum development, distribution
and evaluation that is represented by its 3-D model:
• Develop curriculum through community contributors
• Deliver the curriculum globally
• Determine the impact by project and by individual
Develop Curriculum through Community Contributors
Curriki is a pioneer in applying an open source approach to curriculum development.
Only a few governments and decision-makers have thus far embraced the open source
approach to curricula, although many have expressed support for open standards.
Many existing sites that are exploring this model include proprietary content and restrict
access to a select group.
Through its open source community, Curriki will support, aggregate and leverage the
work of other organizations and individual developers. Curriki will promote the
opportunity to collaborate online in developing curriculum and will provide unique online
tools to streamline and support the development process. Curriki will also provide
hosting and support for development and localization efforts including the support of
curricula in multiple languages.
Deliver the Curriculum Globally
Delivery also poses distinct challenges for Open Source Curriculum. The same
dynamic that has local school officials continually recreating content applies here.
Finding trusted resources on the Internet is difficult.
Curriki intends to meet this challenge by being a “one stop shop,” a single repository of
validated curricula and learning objects. The organization will support, aggregate and
leverage the work of other organizations and individual developers. Subject matter
experts will review and comment on the curricula with local education administration
support, and the curricula will all be freely accessible through a single, well-publicized
Determine the Impact
What determines the success of Open Source Curriculum? How is quality controlled?
These are important considerations around the world as Open Source Curriculum
Curriki is developing a research-driven model that applies metrics to quantify what
improvements in individual and group learning outcomes are necessary for success. By
researching “what makes the best curricula and why,” and disseminating that
information widely, Open Source Curriculum effectiveness will be continuously
Curriki will build and support a community of contributing educators, students and
developers to create an Open Source Curriculum repository. The community forum will
evolve and foster the exchange of ideas among students, parents, developers and
educators from all parts of the globe. Assessment will be available to students and
parents to monitor progress and performance. Curriculum developers will be able to get
the community’s feedback and evaluation of their work, as well as ensure that the
content meets accreditation standards for the relevant regions.
There are four elements to Curriki’s strategy:
• Create a website repository
• Build a community of educators
• Build a repository of Open Source Curricula
• Engage a global community
Create a Website Repository
Curriki’s interface, with its many constituencies, will be through a website, based on a
robust, open technology infrastructure that will enable and support community, foster
collaboration, and adhere to open standards. The website will support community
content creation by providing the following: curricula guidelines, publishing tools to
simplify creating content and inserting metatags, assessment, and support for alignment
to curriculum frameworks or standards. Other technologies such as bulletin boards,
blogs and podcasts will be used to foster collaboration between contributors and users
of the content to improve the curricula. The Curriki curricula can also be used as the
basis for creating localized versions.
Build a Community of Educators
Curriki has a two-pronged approach for building a community of educators by 1)
providing unique, time-saving online curriculum development tools as well as validation
research and user feedback, and 2) obtaining localization and implementation
agreements from departments and ministries of education, as well as policy makers to
ensure the sustainability of the program.
First, Curriki will attract educators who want to contribute Open Source Curriculum by
providing unique online tools that streamline the curriculum development process, by
promoting the use of each curriculum project, by making research available to validate a
curriculum project, and by offering a multi-step feedback loop: (1) Define objectives; (2)
Define pedagogy; (3) Define components to be in the course; (4) Search repository for
content (viewable or editable); (5) View, create, edit; (6) Community review; (7)
Publish/Collaborate; (8) Test effectiveness; (9) Continuous loop back to step one, to
monitor the impact of their work on student learning.
One such online tool is the Textbook Builder, which will enable a new paradigm for
textbook development. This Textbook Builder will be focused on the group collaborative
development of textbook assets. It will have features to allow a group of teachers or
professors to take a curriculum framework and use the embedded features to create
and edit a book map, sections and pages of an instructional textbook using online, real-
time editing tools. Version control and editorial workflows will be used to manage the
collective effort of the community and to control editorial intent, process and schedules.
This robust tool will accelerate the population of the repository and will make Curriki the
site of choice for Open Source Curriculum development.
A second set of development tools, the Currikulum Builder, will complete the community
support system for curriculum creation and will include publishing tools, curricula
guidelines, support for alignment to standards of learning and curricula frameworks, and
learning and content management systems. The Currikulum Builder will enable
developers and users to share and create lesson plans, course syllabi, learning
activities, scope and sequence hierarchies, and to align and compile assets into
collections, courses and learning objects. In addition, it will have features for facilitating
group activities, discussions, processes and workflows related to the instructional
For example, a sophisticated instructional design process might go as follows: a group
of department or Ministry of Education officials in a particular locale develops their
curriculum guidelines using Curriki tools. It does this using a local community of
teachers to collaborate on the development of the list of skills to be taught and
performance expectations to be measured and met. It then creates or selects and
revises source materials into a course collection of learning objects aligned to its
curriculum framework or standards. This “Package” is pilot tested in two schools as a
controlled study, and improvements are made online. The improved curriculum is re-
released, and this process continues until all of the schools have migrated to using the
new and now continuously improving curriculum.
Educational research will be supported by Curriki to evaluate and certify what works
based on global, regional and local outcomes. Editorial comments will be developed by
Curriki’s Chief Academic Officer along with community educator members to guide
students, teachers and parents in the best application of a given curriculum or resource.
Organizations providing teacher professional development will be provided with
resources for teacher training on how to use a curriculum. Teachers and parents
independently seeking guidance will also have browser-based access to these
professional development resources.
Assessment and accreditation tools and learning and content management systems will
be developed or contributed to the repository by community partners. Bulletin boards,
blogs and podcasts will be used to foster collaboration among and between contributors
and users of the content. Ultimately, the community will drive the process of accrediting
all content at all levels.
The second prong of the approach to attract educators to the community is to work with
Ministries of Education (MOE), policy makers, state departments of education, large
retired teacher organizations and school districts to secure implementation commitment
agreements with Curriki. An implementation commitment would include an agreement
from the agency to localize the content to its area and to validate the accreditation of all
material for its locale, as well as the alignment to the curriculum or standards of learning
for the area. Implementation commitments will include teacher professional
development and ongoing teacher and student mentoring.
Build a Repository of Open Source Curricula
Curriki’s website will support curricula covering a range of subject areas, initially for K-
12 in areas such as mathematics, science, technology, reading, language arts and
language. It will initiate and develop collaboration with universities and organizations
that address curriculum development, evaluation and open source technology. All
educational content meeting Curriki’s criteria will be cataloged and included in the
Curriki intends to be the “one-click stop” for the best world-class learning. Building on
the infrastructure of the Java.net community, Curriki community projects and registered
developers, teachers and other users are growing exponentially. Some of the projects
are developing free and open source tools for teachers, including grade books,
embedded learning objects and assessment tools.
Since the textbook is the most common and easily understood method for presenting
instructional materials, Curriki will provide an online format for curricula development
that is textbook-centric. Curriki’s repository will offer easy access to online materials
that can be localized by ministries or departments of education. As every education
agency, even in the more rural and impoverished areas, has a printer and paper for
reproducing and distributing the materials, online access at the student’s desk will not
be necessary. Therefore, only the bare minimum technology requirement is needed to
benefit from Curriki’s repository.
Anyone throughout the world with access to the Internet will be able to guide
themselves or others through a logical progression of modularized learning to master a
discipline, such as algebra, reading readiness, physics, or English grammar. Users will
be able to access curriculum online, print it, and/or save it to a CD. The repository will
be designed to allow a user to access either the entire curriculum or a specific learning
object within a curriculum, such as an assessment or a chapter in a book.
To expand its repository, Curriki will identify, aggregate and support existing sources of
open resources. Curriki will be responsible for evaluating curricula, content,
assessment and tools. There will be three levels of curricula. The highest level of
curricula will be that which independent researchers or government ministries have
previously evaluated and found that it meets the standards or national requirements.
The second level will be a curriculum that has received some evaluation and feedback
by Curriki community or by the education community. The last level will be a repository
for all content which may not be evaluated or initially approved by the community. Here,
contributors can seek feedback or assistance in meta-tagging their content. Where
voids in the curricula exist, community contributors will be encouraged to fill the gaps.
Engage a Global Community
Curriki’s website will foster the exchange of ideas among students, parents, curriculum
developers and educators in a global, interactive community. The website will provide
guidance to teachers, students, and parents on the appropriateness and the best
application of a given curriculum or resource. Assessment tools will be available to
students and their parents to monitor progress and performance.
Building on the efforts of others in Open Source Curriculum, Curriki is becoming a
community of communities. Curriki will increase awareness of its resources through the
following marketing strategies:
• Focus public relations activities on publications that speak to each audience –
internationally, regionally and locally.
• Participate in high-profile global events that establish thought leadership and
raise awareness of Curriki in the Open Source Curricula arena.
• Partner with key governmental agencies and educational organizations that bring
educators to Curriki.
• Sponsor low-key, local user group meetings that leverage and connect
grassroots evangelists to build loyalty and enthusiasm.
• Develop and aggregate easy-to-use community resources including development
tools, online forums and discussion groups.
• Support highly branded curricula projects that drive usage and awareness.
Increase end user reach through robust Internet placement with search eng• ines.
Viral growth in education takes time and nurturing – there is no spontaneous
combustion. It will take sustained dedication to build a repository of world-class
curricula. It takes time for a curriculum to be tested and improved by early adopters. It
takes time for the early majority to witness and comprehend the value of a new
curriculum. Word of mouth spreads in annual increments, as student progress is
substantiated by research and word of mouth.
The business model of the Participation Age—that is, one built around collaborative
development, open source, open architecture and creative commons—is already
proving to be sustainable. This model offers significant advantages over other existing
content creation and distribution methods, as it has no profit motive, and can change
and adapt quickly – for the benefit of all involved.
Delivering open content in a cost effective and sustainable fashion is critical to success
in eliminating the Education Divide. By engaging students, parents, developers and
educators in this global, interactive community, Curriki is a focal point for the “open
sourcing” of education. Developing effective partnerships with Ministries of Education,
policy makers, content developers, and content providers, Curriki is building a learning
community of student users, parents, educators, and contributors, both inside and
outside the classroom.
It is clear that open source methodologies have been essential to the Internet revolution
and to the explosion in technological advancement. Curriki will build on these two
fundamental and growing forces. It will augment the value of all the work done earlier
by others by providing a curricular framework and context for open education resources
and aggregating and creating Open Source Curricula and development tools.
Curriki will be a digital crossroads for those who want to teach and those who
want to learn. Together we can eliminate the Education Divide. Freely sharing
through community is the right thing to do for educating an increasingly
interdependent global population in the Participation Age.
# # #
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Contents Copyright 2007 eSchool News. All rights reserved.
Curriki offers new world of course content
New online community promotes free and open collaboration
By Corey Murray, Senior Editor, eSchool News
January 5, 2007
Imagine a world where science teachers in India could swap lesson plans with
their counterparts in California, or where students in a rural high school in
Nebraska could try their hand at mathematics problems written for an audience
halfway across the globe--in China, or Germany, or Italy, for example.
Ten years ago, such academic collaborations would have seemed ridiculous to
most classroom educators, many of whom hardly have enough time during a
typical day to network with co-workers in their own school buildings, much less
cultivate relationships with colleagues hundreds and even thousands of miles
Thanks to the internet and the evolution of web-based software programs in
schools, however, many of those geographic barriers no longer exist. Now, a new
online community has emerged that promises to democratize the process of
curriculum development, giving educators the ability to tailor instructional
content to the needs of their students, wherever they are, free of charge.
Dubbed the "Wikipedia of curriculum" by its creators, the online community
known as Curriki--accessible at www.curriki.org--aims to provide a place online
where educators from anywhere in the world can post curricula and lesson plans
for review and use by fellow classroom teachers.
Like Wikipedia, the organic online encyclopedia that lets its users edit and update
existing entries, Curriki employs a philosophy of open access, encouraging its
members not only to use the content available on the site, but also to upgrade it,
modify it, and tag it to suit the needs of their students, wherever they are.
The brainchild of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, Curriki was founded as a
way to provide disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open
and unfettered access to high-quality educational content.
So enamored was McNealy with his vision that he decided to spin the company off
from Sun into its own freestanding nonprofit organization. Based in Washington,
D.C., the group is led by longtime educational software designer Bobbi Kurshan.
In an interview with eSchool News, Kurshan, whose resume includes work with
industry heavyweights Microsoft Corp. and Apple Computer, talked about the
challenges associated with turning McNealy's vision into a reality, and particularly
with applying the controversial notion of social networking to open curriculum.
In conversations about the project, Kurshan calls Curikki "a dangerous and
exciting proposition" for education; exciting, she says, for its ability to
revolutionize how educators approach and integrate new learning resources in
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their classrooms--and dangerous for its potential to shake up the current market
for traditional, standards-based curricula in schools.
Because Curriki is a free resource based on an open platform, Kurshan says, the
learning materials posted by members of the community to the web site will be
accessible to educators anywhere in the world, regardless of their computer's
operating system, as long as they have an internet connection.
That means educators in Germany or England, for example, will be able to post
and share resources with the same freedom and ease as teachers in the U.S. or
India, wherever they are.
For schools, Kurshan says, the benefits of such a resource are obvious. For one, it
gives educators across the globe a chance to review and integrate learning
resources beyond those immediately available to them in their own schools or
districts; second, she says, Curriki's open architecture lets participating
educators tailor the content to meet the needs of their students; and third,
because the resource is free, it gives teachers and students--especially those who
hail from rural and disadvantaged communities--access to high-quality
educational content at no cost.
At a time when schools everywhere are charged with preparing their students to
succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, Kurshan said, the hope is
that Curriki will empower "the haves to help the have-nots."
But Curriki isn't simply about giving teachers access to more resources--it's
bigger than that, says Kurshan, who believes the site also will help start "a wave
of conversations in schools about what it means to be open."
Open technologies have been widely adopted by colleges and universities for
years, she says, but K-12 schools have been slow to catch on. The hope is that
open solutions such as Curriki--which makes its source code available for
educators to view (though not to edit) online--will help move that trend forward.
Early indications are that, so far, the approach is working.
After celebrating its official launch in October, organizers report that as of press
time membership in the online community had ballooned to more than 15,000
registered users, with more educators coming online daily.
Like Wikipedia--currently one of the ten most visited sites on the internet--the
reach of an always-on, constantly evolving online community has the power to
spread quickly, Kurshan says, adding: "It's viral."
Already, parents and teachers have written in to offer their endorsements. William
Kaufmann, a parent who has used the site to find learning materials for his two
girls, said the site is perfect for parents who want to find additional resources for
use at home with their children.
"I could go on and on," wrote Kaufmann in a letter to the organization. "I am very
enthusiastic about this site and its potential." But success rarely comes without
its share of challenges and, as Kurshan tells it, Curriki--despite its potential--is no
For one, she said, educators and others who use its resources must be willing to
accept the fact that Curriki, by its very nature, represents "a work in progress."
Unlike traditional classroom resources, many of which come store-bought in
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boxes, packaged with certificates detailing their effectiveness based on results
culled from carefully constructed focus groups and control-based research
studies, the free-flowing resources featured on Curriki boast no such guarantees.
But that's precisely the point, says Kurshan. With Curriki, educators can
customize the resources featured on the site to fit their needs and those of their
students. The real benefit comes in the ability to expose educators to resources
they otherwise would never have access to.
Getting educators to buy into the philosophy of open curricula won't be easy.
For one thing, Kurshan said, educators, especially in U.S. schools, are so bound
by state and local standards that integrating any resource into the classroom
without prior approval constitutes a risk some might not be willing to take.
Translation also might be a problem. Because the materials submitted to the site
can come from educators anywhere in the world, Kurshan said, it's not unlikely
that some resources will include grammatical errors and other mistakes that are
the result of language gaps or other cultural misinterpretations.
Rather than shrug those materials off as ineffective or inaccurate, Kurshan said,
the community enables its members to weigh the program based on its
educational merits and potential. If an instructor finds the pedagogy to be sound,
he or she has the ability to update the lesson and modify it to make it work within
any given educational system.
To help educators navigate the community, organizers are training a group of
current and former educators to serve as mentors, whose jobs it will be to help
teachers learn to use the resource effectively.
Curriki also is taking steps to make the resources more user-friendly, Kurshan
said. As the project evolves, featured curricula will be displayed in a three-tiered
The first tier will consist of fresh resources not yet reviewed or edited by Curriki
curriculum experts. These resources will feature a disclaimer that warns
educators to use them at their own peril, said Kurshan.
The second tier will feature only submissions that have been reviewed by Curriki's
curriculum team. In many cases, she said, Curriki reviewers will contact
contributors with suggestions about how to tweak and improve their lessons
before approving them for use on the site.
The third and highest tier will feature so-called "premiere" curriculum resources
that have been validated by the Curriki team after careful consultation with the
Like Wikipedia, Kurshan said, Curriki is an evolving online medium, which means
that the strength of it resources is dependent upon its ability to cultivate and
sustain participation among its users.
As the online community grows, she said, so, too, will the resources featured on
Curriki. The more educators who review the materials, the more detailed and
effective each resource will become.
"Users have to understand that they are part of a process," said Kurshan.
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