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Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is a country in Central Europe. The territory of Germany covers 357,021 km² and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.

With over 82,000,000 inhabitants, it comprises the largest population among the member states of the European Union and is home to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide.

The capital of Germany is Berlin.

Germany (Deutschland) is a Federal Republic consisting of sixteen states, known in German as Länder (singular Land). Since Land is the literal German word for "country", the term Bundesländer (federal states; singular Bundesland) is commonly used colloquially, as it is more specific, though technically incorrect within the corpus of German law. The peoples of the states are the nation of Germany. The governments of the states are part of the authority of Germany.

The states have many devolved powers including nearly full control of the education system including universities. Different states differ considerably as to how they exercise this control.

Under the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) the exercise of governmental powers and the fulfilment of governmental responsibility is incumbent upon the individual Länder as far as the Basic Law does not provide for or allow for any other arrangement. The Basic Law contains a few fundamental provisions on questions of education, culture and science: thus for example it guarantees the freedom of art and scholarship, research and teaching, the freedom of faith and creed, free choice of profession and of the place of training, equality before the law and the rights of parents. The entire school system is under the supervision of the state.

Unless the Basic Law awards legislative powers to the Federation, the Länder have the right to legislate. Within the education system, this applies to the school sector, the higher education sector, adult education and continuing education. Administration of the education system in these areas is almost exclusively a matter for the Länder.

Further information

For further general information see Wikipedia:Germany.

States of Germany

The 16 Länder are called in English (and German if different):

  1. Baden-Württemberg
  2. Bavaria (Bayern)
  3. Berlin - city-state
  4. Brandenburg
  5. Bremen - city-state
  6. Hamburg - city-state
  7. Hesse (Hessen)
  8. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  9. Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)
  10. North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
  11. Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz)
  12. Saarland (French: Sarre)
  13. Saxony (Sachsen)
  14. Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt)
  15. Schleswig-Holstein
  16. Thuringia (Thüringen)

Those states in bold have at least 5 million people (and of these, four have 10-20 million) - in other words, they are larger than many European countries.

Education in Germany

For a general description of education in Germany see Education:Germany.


For a description more focussed to e-learning see E-learning:Germany.

Quality procedures

Internet in Germany

The ICT strategy, Digital Germany 2015, sets out the priorities, tasks and projects for the period up to 2015. Amongst its aims are: the expansion of digital infrastructure and networks to meet future challenges; the safeguarding and protection of the personal rights of users in the future Internet and in the use of new media; and the strengthening of basic, further and continuing education and training and competencies in handling new media. (1)

Internet in Education

In 1996, The Federal Ministry Education and Research (in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom) created the Schulen ans Netz association with the first mission of connecting all German schools to the Internet by the end of 2001. After that, Schulen ans Netz was step by step transformed into a competence centre covering all aspects of the use of new media in schools. The scope of Schulen ans Netz is nationwide and the focus of the work lays in identifying and disseminating Good Practice. The main emphasis is to offer concrete online tools, content and support for teachers, school leaders, school authorities and parents. These services shall simplify teaching and learning with ICT in daily school life. (1)

Copyright law in Germany

Copyright gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, i.e. it gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work and to determine who may adapt the work to other forms. The authors' rights are internationally protected by the „Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works“ (1886). In Germany the copyright law and related rights are regulated in the "Urheberrechtsgesetz/German Copyright Act" from 1965. Last changes werde made in 2007, coming into effect in 2008. The changes were mainly a result of the EU Directive 2001/29/EC which Germany first implemented in 2003.

Copyright law in Education

The EU Directive 2001/29/EC provides in Article 5 Section 3 optional exceptions or limitations to the copyright law in the following cases:

  • 3 (d) "quotations for purposes such as criticism or review, provided that they relate to a work or other subject-matter which has already been lawfully made available to the public."
  • 3 (e) "use for the sole purpose of illustration for teaching or scientific research, as long as the source, including the author's name, is indicated, unless this turns out to be impossible and to the extent justified by the non-commercial purpose to be achieved."

That means copying in these cases is allowed for a limited circle of those taking part in the instruction of for a specifically limited circle of persons for their personal sceintific research. These exceptions are optional and therefore not all EU states implemented them. In 2003 Germany implemented the Article 5 Section 3 of the EU Directive in the German Copyright Act in Article 52a:
"Making works available to the public for instruction and research:
(1) It shall be permissible for:

  1. published small, limited parts of a work, small scale works, as well as individual articles from newspapers or periodicals for illustration in teaching at schools, universities, non-commercial institutions of education and further education, and at vocational training institutions, exclusively for the specifically limited circle of those taking part in the instruction, or
  2. ... exclusively for a specifically limited circle of persons for their personal scientific research to be made available to the public, to the extent that this is necessary for the respective purpose and is justified for the pursuit of non-commercial aims."

This article regulates the copyright law in German schools, so that this material can be copied for the instruction in schools, but can`t be used outside of schools, e.g. on school-websites. The copyright law is very restrictively used in schools. (q.v. the discussion about the "school trojan" in the chapter "OER initiatives in Germany")

OER Initiatives in Germany

Germany has raised a number of fundamental objections to the idea of OER. They question whether a lack of digital content prevents learning, particularly in the case of people with low qualifications, and whether well-educated people will benefit the most from OER. Furthermore, they ask if there are any sustainable business models for OER and suggest that there are questions of standards, quality, technical interoperability, and legal questions concerning copyright that have not yet been solved. The issue of copyright is widely discussed in Germany in reference to the ongoing Open Access debate. Germany was the only country which in its response to the OECD questionnaire reported that the OER issue is not expected to become a policy priority in the near future. They also stated that they do not consider a lack of learning material in digital format (especially in English) to be one of the major problems in education; therefore, the potential benefit of OER in Germany is not highly rated. (2)

In Germany the discussion about OER has started in the autumn of 2011 with the debate about the so called "school trojan". The textbook publishers had asked the school authorities to check in schools with the help of a software if the copyrightlaw was observed in the intranet of the schools. That caused a lot of discussions. In the end the publishers gave up on the idea. But the awareness of OER was raised and more campaigns and regional events were organised to emphasise the idea of OER. Several publications about OER werde initiated and research in that field funded. Here are the most important steps which will be discussed in more details in the policy section:

  • March/2012 OER-Whitepaper („Open Educational Resources for schools in Germany“ Internet & Gesellschaft Co:llaboratory)(3): describes background, players and debelopment status of OER in Germany
  • September/2012 OER-Camp in Bremen
  • November/2012 Hearing of BMBF ( Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and KMK (standing committee of the German ministers of education and cultural affairs) about OER: agreement between KMK , publishers and collecting societies about digitalisation of textbooks
  • August/2013: three surveys from BMBF: outline(4)/ judicial (5)/ metadata (6)
  • September/2013 OER-Camp in Berlin
  • September/2013 OER-conference in Berlin by Wikimedia
  • September/2013: the KMK (standing committee of the German ministers of education and cultural affairs)has established a working committee to develop a commentary to OER in Germany till autumn 2014
  • November/2013: OER in the CDU/CSU - SPD coalition agreement in Germany: „Free digital teaching material must be strengthened by the state and the federal states. The basis for this is an educational and research friendly copyright law and and open-access-policy. The access to textbooks for schools and teaching materials for universities should be – as much as possible – free and the usage of free licences and formats should be strengthened.“

LizzyNet is a portal and community with information, communications and learning tools especially developed for girls. The concept of the platforms and communities of LizzyNet are made available on request. In both communities the creation of national groups from other countries is welcome. Also groups for international exchange can be created. (1)

Exil-Club is an online learning environment that engages with the subjects of exile, migration and intercultural education. The content as well as the working platform of the Exil-Club can be used by European school projects dealing with topics from the Exil-Club. (1)

National OER initiatives

Some of the national OER initiatves are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, but most of them are led by non-profit organisations. Since tehre are hardly any national policies by the ministries in Germany, the initiatives arise from teachers itself or non-profit organisations who believe in free OER material for schools in Germany.

  • Lehrer-online (teachers-online) is a national platform for schools which was originally funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.The main tasks of Lehrer-online are the provision of information and teaching material for schools (primary schools, secondary schools, vocational schools). New media is a strong focus of the programme.
Lehrer-online is part of an online network, financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and, in its first phase, sponsored by the Deutsche Telekom as well. Now it is led by the limited company Lehrer-Online GmbH. It is financed by advertisement and other services for the Federal Ministry or the ministries of the federal states. The material is still free for the schools. Most German federal states have now similar and linked initiatives, e.g. Bavaria, Lower Saxony etc. Like all the web-based services, provided by the Schulen ans Netz, this portal is also supported by a team of education experts, IT-specialists and teachers who are knowledgeable on the current educational needs. The services of Lehrer-Online include: practical teaching modules including free-of-charge working materials, methodological and didactical articles and suggestions for classroom preparation, which have been developed and approved by teachers in the classroom and carefully developed, researched and validated by editorial staff, both in terms of subject and methodology, before being published; dedicated discussion fora, where teaching professionals can exchange their ideas and experience; an information service specially tailored to users’ needs (this includes news about schools, new media and education policy along with in-depth information on practical legalities like data privacy and copyright issues); the Virtual Learning Environment lo-net offering virtual rooms for cooperation with colleagues as well as for class teaching and cooperative projects with other schools in Germany and elsewhere; the homepage generator for primary schools: Primolo is a net-based tool which can be used free of charge and which enables primary school children accompanied by a teacher to design their own web sites. (1)
  • The Virtuelle Schule (Virtual School) is an initiative of the non-profit association Virtual School e. V. and include three internet platforms: Virtuelle Schule for pupils in grades 5 and 12; Ubergängen Gestalten, specifically focused on the passage between different school levels; and Virtuelle Grundschule, for primary school (pupils in grades 1-4). They address mainly teachers (by providing relevant material and content for their lessons and teaching practice), but there is also space for access and participation on the part of students and parents. It might be further investigated as a potential exemplary. The internet platfom generates from a previous initiative (end of the 90s) at the Clavius-Gymnasium in Bamberg. (1)
  • Schulbuch O-Mat is a national initiative by OER-Schul-E-Books to create collaborative free OER textbooks for schools which are according to curriculum standards. The money for the textbooks is raised by crowd-funding. Teachers, experts from university work and graphi designer work together to produce the textbooks. They are free of charge for everynody. Since they are according to the curriculum of the particular federal state, the textbooks themselves are regional projects. The initiaures of Schulbuch O-Mat werde mainly from universities. The project is also accompanied by an evaluation. So far two textbooks have been produced by OER-Schul-E-Books:
  1. OER Schul-E-Book Biologie 1 is a textbook for Biology for grades 7/8 of High Schools according to the curriculum of Berlin. It started in 2012 and the idea was to finish the textbook till the end of July 2013. The capital money was raised by crowd-funding till January 2013. The book itself was written by voluntary biology teachers and professionals graphic designers. The textbook is consistent with the curriculum (from 2006/2007) of Berlin for High Schools (Gymnasium) grades 7/8. It is the first free digital textbook in Germany under OER and CC. A lot of teachers participated, but in the end they had to translate some of the missing texts from courses from the Khan Academy in order to finish in time. The textbook itself is available as a webpage, and can be downloaded as pdf, ePub and iBook. Up to now there were 20.000 downloads. An accompanying report explains the difficulties in producing the book, e.g. in finding voluntary teachers. The textbook consists of multimedia courses with quizzes and exercises. Form and content is similar to a printed textbook, but it also includes interactive exercises, videos and pictures. A glossary contains the explanation of 327 technical terms. Topics are cells, living environment, nutrition, respiration, blood, addiction, puberty and sexuality. The textbook is created with LOOP (Learning Object Online Platform), an authoring software by the University Lübeck.
  2. OER Schul-E-Book Politik/Wirtschaft is a collaboratively written textbook for grades 5/6 and 7 to 9 in Secondary Schools for politics and economy according to curriculum in North Rhine-Westphalia. The title of teh first booklet is "Securing and enhancing democracy". There will be two leves for different types of schools available. The textbook consists of multimedia courses with exercises. Form and content is similar to a printed textbook, but it also includes interactive exercises, videos, pictures, a glossary and an index. The last chapter is about different methods used in the subject like interviews, analysing texts, pictures and cartoons, researching in the internet, designing a poster etc. It is an on-going process with the first booklet being finished in June 2014. Each booklet will be an independent e-book. The content is under the CC By-SA licence. The textbook is created with LOOP (Learning Object Online Platform), an authoring software by the University Lübeck. So far it is available as a webiste and PDF and ePub as download.
  • The Seguhistory website is led by the University of Cologne (History Department). It consists of self-regulated lessons for history for teachers and students. The material is organized in open modules and students can arrange their own lessons from learning modules, method modules and research modules. Some are bilingual. The modules are arranged in two ways: chronological from early times up to the 20th century ("Zeiten") and according to themes and topics ("Einblicke). Up to now, about 60 % of the plannes modules are already available. The different modules are like parts of a big puzzle with which the students can make up their own picture of history. They decide when, how and what they would like to learn. That way they can "make history" too. Students chose the modules in which they are interested in and can download them as pdf or text files and print them. Most of the time, the exercises can be solved offline with the help of the history textbook or other material. All modules should be kept in a folder. For the video-modules on youtube, a computer is necessary and somtimes the internet for research. Besides the modules, quizzes, online exercises and a segu_planer is available. In the segu_planer teachers can chose a specific topic and certain modules for the students to work with. The students can do the exercises in the order they like to or they can make their own plan with the segu-planer. A time line in pdf and an interactive time line helps students to get an overview of history. Different tutorials explain the use of segu.
  • Teachers have their own portal. They get help for their lesson plans and an introduction to the idea of an open and self-directed history classroom. Self-directed learning in the history classroom is not used very often in Germany because it is very time consuming in the preparation. The segu portal can help with that and shorten the preparation time. The material can also be used with laptop classes and ipads etc. Solutions to the exercises are also presented on the teachers' portal. But some exercises are open and have no specific solution. Besides that, teachers also find a newsletter, can ask questions and find partner schools.
Segu is an OER learning platform. All modules and learning material is under the CC licence. They can be copied and used again in digital form as long as segu is named as author. The textfiles can also be modified.
  • ZUM-Wiki is led by the non-profit association „Zentrale für Unterrichtsmedien im Internet e. V.“ ZUM-Wiki is an open platform for teaching material covering all subjects and types of schools from Primary to Secondary School. The material consists of digital assets, e.g. modules, picture, texts, links and animation. The platform is for the exchange of material, information, experiences and ideas concerning teaching and school in all German speaking countries. It is also for German as a foreign language. The Wiki is also meant for workgroups in schools to train resonsible writing and communication in the internet. Discussions about concepts, methods and the material is welcome. All material can be changed and updated all the time by the users.
ZUM started as a website in 1995 by Margit Fischer. The non-profit association was founded in 1997 and has since then collected material for teachers and students. You will not only find material for the classroom, but also information about interdisciplinary activites. Articles for teachers, students and parents are also collected. The original idea was to launch a platform from teachers for teachers in order to use the internet as a data and information base for teaching. The participation is voluntary. All material is provided by teachers free of charge for the schools. ZUM-Wiki is financed by donations, grants, partnerships and advertisement.
  • Besides the ZUM-Wiki there is a special portal for Primary Schools - the ZUM-Grundschulwiki. It is also led by the non-profit association Zentrale für Unterrichtsmedien im Internet e. V. and is an open platform from primary-school pupils for primary-school pupils. The pupils are helped by the teachers in writing the texts. The idea is to five primary-school pupils the space to write their own texts and assemble material for other pupils. It is also licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DE. The portal also contains a mailing system, a Web Quest and a search for Primary Schools in Germany.
  • Rpi virtuell is led by the Comenius-Institut in Münster and financed by the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD). It is an open platform for RE (religious education) where students can create their material collaboratively. The material is for Pe-Primary education, Primary Schools, High Schools and Adult Education. The thematic sites contain digital assets with pictures, texts and link-lists. Students can also upload their own material.
  • L3Tis a collaboratively written e-textbook on learning and teaching technologies for university students and teachers. It is led by the non-profit association "Bims gem.e.V." The authors are mainly scientists from the field of technology. The free material should help to study and teach modern technologies.

Serlo is led by the non-profit asscociation "Gesellschaft für freie Bildung". It is an open platform for free material for mathematics mainly for students in High Schools and Vocational Training. Students can upload their own videos or pictures. There are also German translations of videos from the Khan Academy. New subjects besides Mathematics are in planning.

Regional OER initiatives

Institutional OER initiatives

OER Policies in Germany

National OER policies

Regional OER policies (in the Länder)

Institutional OER policies

Most German universities have no policies relating to OER.


1. ReVica/VISCED page for Germany (


2. Hylén, J. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources: Analysis of Responses to the OECD Country Questionnaire”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 76, OECD Publishing.

3. Bretschneider, M. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources (OER) für Schulen in Deutschland”, Whitepaper, Internet & Gesellschaft Co:llaboratory.

4. Blees, I. et al. (2013), "Freie Bildungsmedien (OER). Dossier: Offene Bildungsressourcen / Open Educational Resources – Handlungsfelder, Akteure, Entwicklungsoptionen in internationaler Perspektive"

5. Kreutzer, Till (2013), "Open Educational Resources (OER), Open-Content und Urheberrecht"

6. Ziedorn, Frauke et al. (2013), "Metadaten für Open Educational Resources (OER). Eine Handreichung für die öffentliche Hand, erstellt von der Technischen Informationsbibliothek (TIB)2013, 27"

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