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Open Educational Resources at The Open University

Informal learning at The Open University

The Open University's approach to learning

  • We specialise in delivering effective learning experiences for adults which fit around their lives, whether it’s a busy mum in London working toward her degree, or a primary school teacher in a remote area in Kenya, improving her classroom practice. Over 70% of our students remain at work while studying.
  • We use appropriate technology to break down barriers – for those with disabilities, isolated or economically challenged. 
  • We are open – we aim to remove all barriers to education and set no entry qualifications. 
  • We use a mixture of business models (free, fee, and donor support) to provide scalable and sustainable solutions.
  • We deliver quality learning experiences on scale to over 170,000 students. Of the UK learners, 61,000 are eligible for financial support and 44% start undergraduate study without the entry qualifications they would need at a conventional university.

How we do this

The OU is unique – it is the world leader in providing distance online education, supporting over 170,000 students studying with us. We do this by using appropriate technology to break down barriers – for those with disabilities, isolated or economically challenged.  For example we have over 10,000 students registered disabled who are able to study remotely with us due to our prioritised accessibility standards in our content and delivery systems.

The Open University's approach to free learning

Free learning resources are core to our social mission, but we are also aware that the return on investment in this area is a very important by-product in terms of reputation building, brand recognition, new market opportunities, technology innovation, partnership formation and, most significantly triggering new student registrations. We have aligned the systems that we use for core student provision with those for our public OER provision. Therefore, as we invest and develop our student systems, the public systems also benefit (and vice versa).

We aim to ensure this mutual benefit approach is also applied in our work in developing and delivering systems to support others in free learning. We are also keen to ensure that any software or hardware systems have support communities that will remain at available, affordable, at scale and resilient.

Why and how The Open University provides free learning on OpenLearn (a video)


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.

Current OU / BBC programmes

Details of latest programmes can be found in the TV & Radio section of OpenLearn


Each year we produce a showreel about the OU / BBC partnership, view the 2016 showreel: