The Open University (OU) is a world leader in the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) and several prominent projects have emerged in recent years reflecting our work in this field of education.
This website explains the rationale behind offering free learning, links to current OER projects and research and our own OER output. We aim to provide a coherent view of free learning activity at the OU for our staff, our students and the world.
Developing learners with OU free learning
The OU now ensures it provides around 5% of its course materials as free open educational content every year. Over 5m learners every year start a learning journey with the OU’s open accessible materials via OpenLearn, the home of free learning from the OU:
- There have been over 44 million visitors since launch in 2006 from around the world
- There is around 12,000 hours of study materials in 12 subject areas
- Content includes: over 850 free courses, plus educational activities, topical videos, academic blogs, direct access to OU podcasts and opportunities to order free printed materials
Since 2007, the OU has maintained a dedicated channel on YouTube containing bite-sized learning from a wide range of subjects; it is the largest educational presence on YouTube in Europe.
- We have produced over 2,500 videos that have received 33 million video views.
- There are over 114,000 subscribers to our YouTube content, more than any other UK educational institution.
- 86% of video views are from outside the UK.
In June 2008 The OU were invited to join iTunes U. We wanted to find new ways to reach new audiences.
- The OU was the first university in Europe to reach more than one million subscriptions through the iTunes app.
- There have been over 70m downloads by 12.8m unique visitors.
- There are 1,300 collections of podcasts and videos and 840 eBooks and 77 courses.
OU students also benefit from this activity. Over 100,000 of the OU's own students use OpenLearn each year, in order to augment their studies, inform module choice and increase confidence and skills.
Programmes from the University have been broadcast on all of the BBC's TV channels and BBC radio. Each channel attracts a different section of the audience, so by having a varied presence we ensure that the University is indeed "open to all".
The BBC has been linked with the OU since its earliest days, when politicians were proposing a 'University of the Air'. Television was the first in a long line of new technologies which the OU has used to support its students, but also to bring education to the widest possible audience of non-formal learners.
Over the years the emphasis has shifted away from broadcasting programmes related to single OU courses, which can now be supplied to students more effectively in DVD or electronic format, towards programmes that will inspire viewers to participate in lifelong learning.