The term open educational resources (OER) was coined at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware and defines OER as:

“teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work.” (UNESCO/COL Paris OER Declaration, 2012)

Education systems around the world are facing pressure to increase access to education and training, while also ensuring it is affordable and meets high quality standards. While governments have signed on to international agreements in support of education as a fundamental human right and as a sustainable development goal (SDG), many are finding that cost and quality factors are making it difficult for them to meet their obligations.

Access to relevant learning resources is an important aspect of lifelong learning and the ability to provide that access at the necessary scale is proving a challenge. Addressing this challenge is essential to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, as outlined in SDG4, as well as supporting citizens in gaining sustainable livelihoods.

COL has identified the development of OER as a potential answer to these challenges. OER provide governments, institutions, organizations and individuals with access to some of the best materials available globally, allow them to adapt the materials to fit the local context and reduce the costs associated with materials and course development.

OER for Skills Development

The OER for Skills Development initiative is a three-year project funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, USA. Over the course of the project, COL intends to work with approximately 50 institutions at different levels of the educational spectrum to support capacity building in OER, the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning, policy development for OER and the development of relevant courses by repurposing OER to be made available as OER.

It is expected that at least 50 per cent of these institutions will adopt appropriate policies for OER, either as a stand-alone policy or within their policy for ODL and technology-enabled learning. It is further expected that these efforts will result in training for approximately 15,000 teachers and enable the development of over 120 courses suitable for use in classrooms and for independent lifelong learning.

COL’s long-term vision is for institutions and organizations across the Commonwealth to develop and use OER-based courses and materials in order to provide access to quality education and training and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for all Commonwealth citizens.