Paul Stacey

Open Educational Resource University (OERU)

Today the Open Educational Resource Foundation (OERF) is hosting a face-to-face meeting in New Zealand to explore the creation of an Open Educational Resource University (OERU). For instructions around virtual participation see:

As outlined in the meeting information pack the purpose of this inaugural meeting is to collaboratively:

  • Consider inputs and leading questions from meeting participants, anchor partners, the pre-meeting SCoPE seminar and international agencies
  • Develop a shared understanding of a logic model for the OER university concept
  • Review and refine the OER university logic model
  • Identify the key questions for each component of the logic model
  • Gauge interest and identify volunteers for leading and coordinating the constituent components of the logic model
  • Commence identification of the key activities required for each component of the logic model, including inputs, outputs and
  • Specify the next steps for the way forward.

This is a bold move looking at what it might take to create free and open learning for tertiary education credentials using OER.

The information package distributed in support of this meeting describes the OER University concept and presents a logic model as follows:

OER University Concept

The OER university concept. Adapted from Taylor 2007.

The OER university is a sustainable international system which will provide free learning to all learners with pathways to gain academic credit from formal education institutions around the world. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission of tertiary education providers to evolve parallel delivery systems (now possible with the open web and free content licensing of learning materials) that will augment existing educational provision. The OER University is an open network and public-private partnership (PPP) including post-secondary institutions, the private sector, non-profits, government and international agencies.

The OER university concept is based on the strategic enablers where it is more effective to collaborate on selected components of the OER university concept, for example shared course design and development. However, collaborating institutions retain their core operational services associated with assessment and credentialisation. This OER ecosystem aims to serve both formal and informal learners by creating more flexible pathways for diverse student needs.

Logic model for the OER university

High-level logic model providing a systemic perspective of main initiatives for building a participatory OER ecosystem that aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide with pathways for credible academic qualifications

The design, development and implementation of a sustainable and scalable OER university concept is an ambitious international collaboration project. The logic model provides a framework for structuring and organising the range of activities, processes and constituent components necessary to achieve the desired results.

The Problem

Individuals are free to learn from OER hosted on the open web. The problem is that learners who access digital OERs on the web and acquire knowledge and skills either formally or informally, alone or in groups, cannot readily have their learning assessed and subsequently receive appropriate academic recognition for their efforts.

The Solution

The core mission of any modern university is to contribute to society as a community of scholars through the pursuit of education, learning and research. Many post-secondary institutions also incorporate the mission of community service, as publicly funded institutions, to serve the wider interests of the communities in which they operate by sharing expertise and scholarship for the benefit of society. By combining OER with the community service mission, it is possible to create what Taylor[6] has called a “parallel universe” of higher education delivery to complement and augment existing provision, especially for those who lack the means to follow traditional learning paths. Moreover, the OER university concept is a means whereby education at all levels can be more accessible, more affordable and more efficient by reinvesting savings of shared course development back into the formal teaching operations.


As part of my work at BCcampus I’ve been facilitating an OERU online seminar in our SCoPE online community in advance of today’s OERU meeting in New Zealand. This SCoPE seminar has been planned to stimulate discussion in advance of todays meeting and to provide a forum for follow-on discussion after today’s meeting. I promised meeting organizers I’d provide a short summary of our discussions and drop-in think tank web conference as an input into today’s face to face meeting.

Here’s what I submitted:

OER University – A Summary of SCoPE Seminar Inputs

The following notes are summarized from SCoPE OERu online discussions and an OERu drop-in think tank web conference session held over the period 4-21-Feb-2011. The summary has been distilled from contributions made by participants from Israel, United States, New Zealand, India, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Portugal, and Brazil.

OER University Model and Ideas

The OERu:

  • is a a consortium of partner universities – a university of universities. Participating colleges/universities are given an OERu logo to post on their web-sites designating them as participants.
  • un-bundles the package of services traditional universities provide: recommending (and selling) learning materials, forming learning groups, arranging learning experiences, supplying teachers, certifying
  • provides a search service for OER materials and maintains a repository of credit based OER approved by the consortium
  • brings together currently separate OER initiatives to generate collaboration between them for development and assemblage of OER into mutually credentialed outcomes.
  • creates a framework within which existing OER can be assembled and new OER development positioned.
  • establishes a world OER credit bank and trans-national qualifications framework. Institutions developing OER can register their OER with the credit bank specifying what credit they are willing to accord those who successfully complete the learning outcomes associated with it. OERu assembles or creates the transfer/articulation aspects of assembling OER into a credential. Each OERu university partner can link existing OER courses of other partner universities to its OER degree programmes
  • facilitates creation of an OER learning path, learning plan, and/or PLAR documentation template for students ideally through consultation with advisor or mentor
  • helps learners systematically pursue learning plan and create a portfolio that can be assessed
  • provides student support resources to help students navigate their learning paths and compile portfolios. Partners with institutions who provide options for student support possibly on a fee for service basis. A 24×7 call center for assisting students.
  • creates a social learning context for OER reinserting or applying pedagogy to OER. Utilizes mass collaboration approaches combined with social networking to establish peer-to-peer and tutor-student support potentially with senior students receiving credit for tutoring juniour students. Provides a brokering/marketplace where those who want to facilitate learning can meet those who want to learn. Emphasizes peer-to-peer social learning over teacher/student traditional learning. Students as teachers solidifies learning.
  • prioritizes low-cost / low-bandwidth solutions for learner support and uses mobile technologies for these interactive components
  • provides continuous entry points throughout the year with entry by exams rather than prerequisite courses or degrees. A 365 days online registration and evaluation process.
  • supports individual pace of learning, multiple exit points, including instant certification by testing
  • removes affiliation requirements, residency or citizenship requirements, age restrictions (make OERu undergraduate and graduate programs open to children)
  • provides certification or links to colleges and universities who do a PLAR like assessment of the portfolio
  • awards the degree with logos of universities who participated in the validation process displayed on the certificate or alternatively the universities themselves confer the credentials
  • maintains a registry of graduates

OERu Users and Use Cases

  • a student using OER could literally study anywhere in the world for free and transfer his/her learning to a “receiving institution” for conversion to transfer credit
  • personally designed pick and choose model where students formulate their own learning pathway (likely favoured by working professionals)
  • structured degree model where templates of predefined OER are assembled into a curriculum leading to a credential (younger students looking for qualifications to move into professional area in labour market)
  • OER-U could also work in K-12 sector to establish elementary and secondary programs leading to post-secondary so someone could presumably begin at the primary/elementary level and progress seemlessly to undergraduate or even graduate degrees

OERu Questions & Challenges

How to develop the course materials for learners globally?

Providing not only free education but free authentic, valid and reliable certification too. Leaners may need to pay for credential services unless national governments provide grants to cover these costs through the state education system.

Finding a free online platform or specifying that learning materials for the OER university be developed (or converted) into open file formats that are equally accessible by a variety of Learning Management Systems (LMSs).

OER have to be available or at least readily convertible to low tech, pencil and paper, or print-based materials.

Institutions will not move toward an OERu strategy unless they see a clear benefit for themselves. Does OERu need to be a parallel higher education universe?

Develop low-overhead quality and accreditation systems building an entirely new model rather than adapting the old one.

The concept of an OER-university is an innovation and a major one for the education globally. Individual and organisational adoption will depend on the current concerns and benefits of this innovation for them.

Be more creative. Start without thinking about existing systems and courses. Rethink units of learning.

OERu needs to be younger and bolder. We need to get our heads into being 15 to 25 again.

We already have a critical mass to at least get one degree operational.


This summary is available for the New Zealand participants and anyone else as a .pdf download in the OERU Meeting Agenda.

Its always a challenge to distill and coalesce rich online discussions but I think this summary is a great start to defining an OERU. I’ll be briefing the New Zealand participants on our activities and this summary via phone later today.

Hope many of you will contribute to the concept of an OERU and look forward to seeing what emerges.



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Hi Paul. I enjoyed reading your blog as well as the comments you have mentioned within the SCoPE meetings. Hopefully OER use will grow and expand here in Minnesota. As you mentioned, we need to build bridges, obtain a critical mass and help a degree become operational. I have had a long time interest in OER and it was good to see through your work and other members of SCoPE more elaborate and detailed ideas about its future possibilities.

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[…] BCcampus is pleased to be participating in today’s Open Educational Resource University (OERU) inaugural meeting. We’ve been hosting an online seminar in our SCoPE online community exploring the concept of an OERU and have contributed a short paper summarizing the ideas that have emerged. For more on this intiative including how to participate virtually see […]

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