In 2002, the term ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER) was adopted at UNESCO’s Forum on Open Courseware to describe the phenomenon of openly sharing educational resources. In general, OER can include lecture notes, slides, lesson plans, textbooks, handouts given to students, videos, online tutorials, podcasts, diagrams, entire courses, and any other material designed for use in teaching and learning. In 2012, The World OER Congress brought together governments as well as educational and OER experts and emphasized using OER as a means of providing equal access to knowledge. It showcased innovative policies and initiatives that demonstrate the potential of OER to broaden access to inclusive and equitable quality education.
OER has the potential to make a significant contribution to SDG 4 ‘Quality Education’ which calls for ‘ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all’ with its key pillars of access, equity and inclusion. Several definitions of OER exists such as the first adopted in 2002 (UNESCO, 2002) and the one adopted during the World OER Congress 2012 (UNESCO, 2012). For the purposes of this document, the term OER is defined as:
Open Educational Resources (OER) are any educational resource that may be freely accessed, copied, re-used, adapted and shared and which are available under an open license or are in the public domain for use without paying royalties / license fees
OER work from 2012 has focused on implementing the Paris OER Declaration 2012 with a view to making OER more widely used by educational stakeholders worldwide. The Education 2030 Agenda – SDG 4 (2015) reaffirms a political commitment, facilitating policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and standard setting. In this regard, as stated in the Qingdao Declaration (2015), OER provide educational stakeholders with opportunities to improve the quality and expand access to textbooks and other forms of learning content to catalyze the innovative use of content, and to foster knowledge creation. The Qingdao Declaration also calls for sector-wide strategies and capacity building programmes to fully realize the potential of OER to expand access to lifelong learning opportunities, achieve quality education and establish legal and political frameworks that promote, inter alia, coordinated partnerships.