A principled pragmatic view of institutional OER policy

This blog post is a co-production of Ben Janssen (OpenEd Consult) and me. Nederlandse versie.

For years, we have been advocating the adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) in publicly funded Dutch education. A study we both conducted in 2017 showed that adoption by the early and late majority of instructors is not yet widespread (Schuwer & Janssen, 2018). And in our view, the degree of adoption of OER in publicly funded Dutch higher education (i.e. funded education) is still too low to have any effect. There are more than enough indications to assert that the use of OER can have multiple positive innovative effects on and in higher education (see e.g. (Orr, Rimini & Van Damme, 2015)). In the Netherlands, this has been recognised in and by the The Acceleration Plan for Educational Innovation with IT (abbreviated as the Acceleration Plan). One of the themes of this plan is the use of digital (open) educational resources.

In the Acceleration Plan, Dutch publicly funded HE institutions, SURF, VSNU (Association of Research Universities in the Netherlands) and VH (Association of Universities of Applied Sciences) are working together to seize the opportunities digitalisation is offering to higher education in the Netherlands. The mission of the Acceleration Plan is to institutions take substantial steps in digitalisation of education, for themselves and in collaboration with others.

The Acceleration Plan is divided into eight Acceleration Zones, within which 39 Research Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences collaborate on themes such as professionalisation of instructors, use of study data, making education more flexible, linking up with the labour market, and use of digital (open) learning resources. In the “Joint Steering for Acceleration” zone, seventeen university governors are having an executive dialogue about digitalisation in higher education, with special attention for the themes of the Acceleration Plan. More information about the Acceleration Plan.

In 2020, the research bureau ResearchNed (with Ben Janssen as lead researcher) conducted a study (in Dutch) commissioned by the Joint Steering zone into the state of affairs regarding the use of digital learning resources in Dutch higher education. A public version of their report will soon be available (in Dutch). Based on the results, a working group of the digital (open) educational resources zone of the Acceleration Plan (in which Robert Schuwer participated) has drawn up a vision document for digital learning resources with a horizon on 2025.

Based on the results of both exercises, the Joint Steering zone is now working on two themes:

  1. Achieving a national set of agreements with publishers of digital learning materials regarding the use and ownership of user data.
  2. Formulating and implementing a fully-fledged open alternative for commercial learning materials.

The second theme requires institutions to develop an OER vision and policy.

In a series of blogs, we will present arguments that may be relevant in formulating such a vision and policy. Although we will focus primarily on higher education institutions, we believe that they can also be useful to umbrella organisations (VSNU and VH), SURF, and the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. We base our approach on a principled view on OER but also aim for as much pragmatism as possible so as to maximise the direct applicability of the arguments. In the coming weeks, we will be publishing blogs on the following topics:

  1. What are we talking about when we use the term digital educational resources? A proposal for a terminology framework
  2. What are the issues with OERs? A systems approach
  3. Why are OER important? The value of OER from various perspectives
  4. The need for an OER vision and policy, both at institutional and communities of practice level.



Orr, D., Rimini, R., & Van Damme, D. (2015). Educational research and innovation open educational resources a catalyst for innovation: A catalyst for innovation. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264247543-en

Schuwer, R., & Janssen, B. (2018). Adoption of sharing and reuse of open resources by educators in higher education institutions in The Netherlands: A qualitative research of practices, motives, and conditions. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning19(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i3.3390

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