Free, credit-bearing online learning has become accessible for students worldwide. The Open Educational Resource university, or OERu – a project of the UNESCO-Commonwealth of Learning OER Chair network – was unveiled on 1 November, promising to “revolutionise tertiary learning”. The OERu is a consortium of more than thirty universities, polytechnics and community colleges from five continents committed to widening access to educational opportunity.
From the news announcement of OERu:
“The OERu will reduce the cost of higher education dramatically,” says Sir John Daniel. “I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public. It’s all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the ‘beef’ of proper recognition too.”
OERu’s primary point of difference is that students study for free, anywhere in the world using courses based on OER, with pathways to gain credible credentials. Users can pay reduced fees if they want to get academic credit, and only pay for assessment if and when they’re ready.
“All the course material is taught online, based on OER and openly accessible materials on the internet. This means you won’t need to buy any textbooks,” explains Dr Mackintosh.
Designed for independent study, users will get peer-support from fellow learners, while in some OERu courses users will study with full-time registered students at one or more of OERu’s anchor partners – a network of academic institutions in five continents.
Home to the OER Foundation and anchoring partner to the OERu, New Zealand tertiary institution Otago Polytechnic has embraced the philosophy of sharing knowledge. It was the first tertiary institution in the world to adopt a creative commons open content intellectual property policy.
Courses on offer through the OERu include ‘Resourcing a Small Enterprise’, ‘Understanding Culture in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Tourism in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Developing a Business Plan’, and ‘Regional Economics in Asia and the Pacific’. The OERu will also support the UNESCO Paris 2012 OER Declaration, with courses focusing on building capacity in open educational practices.
Programmes can be distinguished between a Full Course and a micro Open Online Course (mOOC). “A micro-Course allows the user flexibility to manage learning around their personal commitments and learning interests,” says Dr Mackintosh.
“It represents a sub-component of a full course and is usually offered over a two to three week period. This can qualify individuals to gain full course credits through ‘recognition of prior learning’ systems available at a number of OERu partners.”
Now, take university-level courses online for free and submit assessments when you are ready to have your learning recognised for formal academic credit.