1 Understanding Open Education

Defining open education

Open education can be defined as learning and teaching which is free from the financial, legal, geographic, social and other barriers that are present in traditional education settings. It stands on the philosophy that everyone in the world should have access to the same standard of high-quality education and resources.

The Open Education Consortium states:

Open education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness worldwide.

Open education combines the traditions of knowledge sharing and creation with 21st century technology to create a vast pool of openly shared educational resources, while harnessing today’s collaborative spirit to develop educational approaches that are more responsive to learner’s needs.[1]

To learn more about how the open education model works, watch this short video.

OER Open Educational Resources (2:37 mins)

(“OER Open Educational Resources” by The Learning Portal is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

The case for open education

Harnessing the global reach of digital tools, the open education movement supports the idea that everyone should have equal access to high-quality educational experiences and resources.  The movement works to eliminate barriers to this goal.

The Open Education Consortium summarises how the movement meets key challenges in global and equitable education.

Education is an essential tool for individuals and society to solve the challenges of the present and seize the opportunities of the future. However, the current provision of education is limited by educational institutions’ capacity, consequently, this resource is available to the few, not the many.  The digital revolution offers a potential solution to these limitations, giving a global audience unprecedented access to free, open and high-quality educational resources.[2]

Watch this video to learn how the open education movement is both disruptive and global in focus.

Why Open Education Matters (2:14 mins)

(“Why Open Education Matters” by Blink Tower is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Thinkers on themes of global disruption in open education have explored and described a number of overlapping ideas.

  • Learner empowerment: Open education provides opportunities for learners to become more engaged with content through interaction, collaboration and creation of educational materials.[3]
  • Relevance: Open education allows educators to tailor learning resources to local contexts, making materials directly relevant to their students and communities.[4]
  • Social justice: Open education supports inclusion through learner participation and provides all learners with equal access to resources.[5]
  • Collaboration:  Open education has collaboration at its centre.  As the Open Education Consortium states “sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built”. [6]
  • Innovation: Open education enriches learning environments and supports collaborative educational innovation.[7]


  1. Open Education Consortium. (2016). About the Open Education Consortium. https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/
  2. Open Education Consortium. (2016). About the Open Education Consortium.
  3. Algers, A. (2020). Open textbooks: a balance between empowerment and disruption. Tech Know Learn, 25, 569–584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-019-09426-5CC BY 4.0
  4. Kılıçkaya F, Kic-Drgas J. (2021). Issues of context and design in OER (open educational resources). Education Technology Research and Development, 69, 401-405. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11423-020-09852-8
  5. Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (dis)course: a distinctive social justice aligned definition of open education. Journal for Learning and Development, 5(3), 225-244. https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/290 CC BY 4.0
  6. Opensource. (n.d.) What is open education? https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-education CC BY 4.0
  7. Ramirez-Montoya, M.S. (2020). Challenges for open education with educational innovation: A Systematic Literature Review. Sustainability, 12(17), 7053 https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/17/7053 CC BY 4.0


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OER Capability Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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