Short History of the Open Educational Resources Movement

In 2012, the World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress facilitated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), adopted the Paris OER Declaration which calls on governments to openly license for public use; publically funded educational materials. The support of OER by UNESCO is based on the statement by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone has a right to education.

The Paris OER Declaration further supports governments to take the following actions:

  • Foster awareness and use of OER
  • Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to bridge the digital divide
  • Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER
  • Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks
  • Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials
  • Foster strategic alliances for OER
  • Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts
  • Encourage research on OER
  • Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER
  • Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.

President Obama’s administration fostered a culture of open government through the Open Government Partnership and in 2014 made a commitment to open education and the following initiatives:

  • Raise open education awareness and identify new partnerships
  • Pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning
  • Launch an online skills academy.

This was followed in 2015 by the Third Open Government National Action Plan which made the following commitments to open education:

  • Openly license federal grant supported education materials and resources
  • Convene stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts
  • Publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant supported open licensing projects, detailing how they can integrate open licensing into projects (International Association for K-12 Online Learning).

Also in 2015, the U.S. Department of Education launched #GoOpen, a campaign to encourage K-12 to use open educational resources. Furthermore, the DOE proposed regulation that all intellectual content created with grant funds from the department have an open license.

The federal institutionalization of open educational resources was further established with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015) which replaced No Child Left Behind. ESSA allows “states and local education agencies to channel block grant money focused on technology toward open materials” (Education Week, 2016).

The development and use of open educational resources including open access courses (MOOCs), textbooks, and multimedia have been a global effort, succeeding in a plethora of resources that can be overwhelming. Challenges exist for educators interested in adopting OER in the classroom. But legislative support for open access materials makes it clear that the OER movement is here to stay.

For More Information

Paris OER Declaration

The Open Government Partnership

Open Government Initiative

Third Open Government National Action Plan


United States Congress Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015

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