The past decade has seen a shift in global power. That there is no longer a preeminent Western superpower becomes increasingly clear with time, as does the economic rise of the Global South. One reason for this can be attributed to education. Many countries in the Global South emphasize education as a key method for improving economic realities. The desire for improved education systems is there but the resources often are not. A recent movement championed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to change this. The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement encourages educators to share, and allow others to amend and distribute, their content for free. Educators worldwide can then access the best of what is available to meet local needs saving research time and increasing action time. While OER is young, it has the potential to play a key role in improving education worldwide both within a country and across global borders.

History Behind the OER Movement

There is no universal definition for the “open” in OER, or for its sister terms open access, open source, or OpenCourseWare. However, the origins of OER’s definition can be narrowed to July 2002 at the conclusion of a UNESCO forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries. Attendees united to define it as,

“Technology-enabled, open provision of educational resources for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes [that] are typically made freely available over the web or the internet.”

They went on to describe such resources to include lecture material and syllabi, references and readings, and experiments and demonstrations.