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Open Educational Resources at The Open University

Welcome to free learning at The Open University

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 4m 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 35.5 million visitors since launch in 2006 from 196 countries
  • There is around 8,000 hours of study materials in 12 subject areas
  • Content includes: 800 study units, plus educational interactives, topical videos, academic blogs, direct access to OU podcasts and opportunities to order free printed materials

The OU has a dedicated channel on YouTube containing bite-sized learning from a wide range of subjects and an insight into studying with The OU which is the largest presence on YouTube in Europe.

  • We have posted over 1,400 videos that have received 10.4 million video views by 5.7 million visitors;
  • There are 36,650 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 is the first university in Europe to reach more than one million subscriptions through the iTunes app. and over 50m international downloads.
  • There have been over 54.6m downloads by c.6.7m unique visitors;
  • Over 1m subscriptions to OU content via the iTunes app;
  • 392 collections containing 3,103 tracks;
  • 422 eBooks representing over 5,000 hours of study;
  • 52 courses on the iTunes app; and
  • 70% of visitors now download straight to mobile devices.

OU students also benefit from this activity. They see improvements to the OU teaching and learning systems through time and they have increased access to links to other non-OU content and communities.


Programmes from the University have been broadcast on all of the BBC's TV channels, including the digital channels BBC Three and Four. We also commission for radio.

Each channel attracts a different section of the audience, so by having a presence on each one 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.

Current OU / BBC programmes