3 OER initiatives

Learning outcomes 

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Build an awareness of significant OER initiatives around the world and in Australia

In Chapter 2 we considered the global benefits of OER: how they can be translated into other languages, adapted for local context, enhanced with culturally relevant examples, and how they can open up education to more students. The global benefits of OER have shaped UNESCO’s advocacy for OER as a means of overcoming inequality in education. Let’s take a closer look at their influential initiatives.

The UNESCO OER initiatives

Back in Chapter 1 we touched on how the term OER was first adopted at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Since then UNESCO have led several OER initiatives and taken a leadership role in making countries aware of the potential of OER.

In 2012, UNESCO convened a World Open Educational Resources Congress in Paris. This resulted in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which “calls on governments worldwide to openly license publicly funded educational materials for public use” (UNESCO, n.d.).

In 2019, the UNESCO OER Recommendation was adopted. It outlines five Areas of Action:

  1. Building the capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER;
  2. Developing supportive policy for OER;
  3. Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER;
  4. Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER; and
  5. Promoting and reinforcing international cooperation in OER.

Through its recommendations, UNESCO hopes to make OER the norm worldwide.

In March 2020, UNESCO launched the OER Dynamic Coalition to support the implementation of their recommendations. You can find out more about UNESCO’s OER initiatives on their OER website.

Watch this video to hear from educators about their perspectives on the UNESCO OER Action Area:

Watch: Open Educators reflect on the UNESCO OER Action Area: Building Capacity [5:50 mins]

Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

Beyond UNESCO’s work, other global initiatives have sought to increase awareness and uptake of OER. Let’s take a look at some of these now.

OER initiatives around the world

Here are some key initiatives:

  • Open Education Global is a global non-profit that supports the development and implementation of open education around the world. One of their key areas of focus is OER, although they also advocate for MOOCs, open educational practices, and aspects of open research. Each year they coordinate Open Education Week.
  • In Chapter 1 we briefly looked at OER Commons  which was launched by  Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) in 2007 with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This freely accessible online library of open educational resources facilitates easy discovery of OER.

Do: Explore key OER initiatives

The University of Melbourne have created an interactive OER World Map of the key OER initiatives from around the world.  Click through the location markers on the map below.

We’ve looked at major OER initiatives around the world. Now let’s turn our gaze to our own backyard: what does the OER movement look like in Australia?

Australia’s place in the global OER landscape

Unfortunately, Australia has tended to lag behind in most aspects of open research, and this applies to the OER landscape as well.

Currently, Australia lacks a national open agenda or vision for open scholarship, with no policies that would promote, support, or require any use of OER. Thus Stagg et al. (2018) found that a “lack of policy levers has provided little incentive for Australian Higher Education institutions to explore OEP.”

However, there is hope that this will change in the near future, prompted by the work Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley has done towards An Australian Model for Open Access. This model may have follow-on benefits in the OER space, since OER textbooks and other materials often draw from open access research.

Meanwhile, individual universities have led some significant OER initiatives, including the publication of open access academic books and textbooks by their university presses or university libraries. Examples include:

Other noteworthy Australian OER initiatives include:

In the university library context, OER have been embraced by the Digital Dexterity Community of Practice, an initiative by the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and Council of New Zealand University Librarians (CONZUL). Their OER Commons group, Digital Dexterity Educators, is open to all and hosts OER focusing on digital literacy designed by members.

CAUL’s Enabling a Modern Curriculum Program was launched in late 2020. OER are a key focus area for the program, and the OER professional development program from which this publication was developed is one of three OER focused projects to come out of it.  Read more about the program and each project on CAUL’s website.

Do: Optional activity

Take a look at the CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculm blog and subscribe to receive regular updates on the program and about other topics related to the theme of enabling a modern curriculum.

Key takeaways

Across Part 1 we have explored:

  • how to define open educational resources (OER) and detail the characteristics of OER
  • the benefits and opportunities of OER for teaching and learning
  • the challenges and arguments against OER
  • how libraries and you can support OER

We finished Part 1 by looking at all the fantastic OER initiatives happening around the world and more locally in Australia. We hope that they have sparked your imagination and got you thinking about how you could apply these ideas to your own work.


Stagg, A., Nguyen, L., Bossu, C., Partridge, H., Funk, J., & Judith, K. (2018). Open Educational Practices in Australia: A First-phase National Audit of Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(3). 172–201. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i3.3441.

UNESCO. (n.d.). The Paris OER Declaration 2012. https://en.unesco.org/oer/paris-declaration


This chapter has been adapted in part from:


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