Giving Knowledge for Free

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Full title

Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources

Page length: 83 pages.

Date: 2007.


The project was led by Jan Hylén who is also the main author of the report. Francesc Pedró and Tom Schuller were closely involved in the design and execution of the project, and Ashley Allen-Sinclair in its administration.

The study has been advised by a group of senior researchers who have both provided valuable input regarding the direction of the study and comments on earlier versions of the report. The group consisted of Graham Attwell from Pontydysgu, United Kingdom, Susan D’Antoni from UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, Knud Erik Hilding-Hamann from the Danish Technological Institute, Francis Muguet from ENSTA, France, Sally Johnstone from University of Winona, United States, and James Dalziel from Macquaire University, Australia. Marshall Smith and Catherine Casserly from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are appreciatively thanked for their personal commitment and support of the project. Robert Campbell from Blackwell Publishing, Steve Carson from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OCW, Mia Garlick from Creative Commons, Øystein Johannesen from the Ministry of Education and Research in Norway, and Fred Mulder from the Open University in the Netherlands also commented on earlier versions of the report. Doranne Lecercle have edited the text and made it ready for printing. During the study the Secretariat has co-operated extensively with UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, but also with the European Schoolnet and the Open eLearning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS), a project funded by the European Commission.


Learning resources are often considered key intellectual property in a competitive higher education world. However, more and more institutions and individuals are sharing their digital learning resources over the Internet, openly and for free, as Open Educational Resources (OER). This study, building on previous OECD work on e-learning, asks why this is happening, who is involved and what the most important implications of this development are.

The report offers a comprehensive overview of the rapidly changing phenomenon of Open Educational Resources and the challenges it poses for higher education. It examines reasons for individuals and institutions to share resources for free, and looks at copyright issues, sustainability and business models as well as policy implications. It will be of particular interest to those involved in e-learning or strategic decision making within higher education, to researchers and to students of new technologies.


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