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Athabasca University

Open Educational Resources

"Open educational resources are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone." (Downes, 2011)

Typically these materials, which are often digital, are available in the public domain or through an open license such as Creative Commons. OER exist at many levels, from individual learning objects through concept-based modules to complete courses.

AU was the first Canadian university to join the MIT-led Open Courseware Consortium. (Please see this short video for a synopsis of open courseware). More recently, AU has partnered with the University of Ottawa and BC Campus to create Creative Commons Canada.

Athabasca University has been awarded a UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Open Educational Resources. The Chair consists of a team of AU faculty led by the official Chairholder, Rory McGreal. The Chair is responsible for promoting OER institutionally, provincially, nationally and internationally particularly in developing countries.

The UNESCO/COL OER Knowledge Cloud enhances research oppportunities and gives users access to research on Open Educational Resources and related information by removing barriers and opening up scholarship and making research universally accessible.

Athabasca University is a founding member of OERu, an international network established in 2011 dedicated to offering high quality and affordable education to everyone, regardless of their background. Today the OERu's membership ranges from recognised universities to community colleges, located on five continents. Read a summary that describes the work that OERu does, and the benefits for members and students worldwide.

AU has also been a Canadian leader in open access, being the first university in Canada to implement an open access policy, an open access journal IRRODL and an open access university press, AUPress. The university is a member of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI).

A review report written by John Hilton and the Open Education Group provides a summary of all known empirical research on the impacts of OER adoption, with some important finding "(1) students and teachers generally find OER to be as good or better than traditional textbooks, and (2) students do not perform worse when utilizing OER, then (3) students, parents and taxpayers stand to save literally billions of dollars without any negative impact on learning through the adoption of OER." (from the report:

A report entitled Opening the Textbook details the use of open educational resources in higher education in the USA for the 2015/2016 period.

*S. Downes. (2011, July 14). Open educational resources: A definition [Web log]. Retrieved from

Updated January 10 2017 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.