Visioning and policy development for OER

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

In the previous four blogs, we have discussed the value of OER from various perspectives. First, we referred to the 2019 UNESCO Recommendation (UNESCO, 2019) which indicates that Open Educational Resources (OER) can make an important contribution to achieving the Social Development Goals (SDG), in particular Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Universal access to quality education is, according to UNESCO, the key to building peace, sustainable social and economic development and intercultural dialogue.

OER can make a significant contribution to improving teaching and learning around the world by making high quality education universally accessible and ensuring that the learning content is state of the art. By encouraging educators and learners around the world to share, reuse and collaborate on learning resources, OER can also contribute to international knowledge exchange, social cohesion and a peaceful, sustainable world for all. In addition, the value of OER is closely linked to public values: those values that we as a society, as institutions, and as individuals consider so important that we make choices and take actions based on them.

In this fifth and final blog in our series, we deal with the development of an institutional vision and policy for OER. A vision for OER can be part of a broader vision on digital learning resources or on education as a whole, but it can also be formulated as a vision on its own. An example of a broader perspective on digital learning resources at national and institutional level was published last year by the Dutch Acceleration Plan. This vision can be a starting point for vision development for an institution or a cross-institutional partnership (for example a subject-related Community of Practice). Ideally, such a vision should fit with a vision on teaching or learning. The vision for digital learning resources then describes the conditions that digital learning resources and the processes involving them must meet.


For policy-making, we refer to a publication Guidelines on the development of open educational resources policies by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in which Ben Janssen was one of the authors (Miao et al, 2019). The publication provides detailed guidelines for developing systematic and effective policy regarding OER. Such a policy is important in order to coordinate, strengthen, and guide initiatives within a country or institution. It aims to get actors and institutions at various levels to work together to achieve common goals regarding OER.

The guidelines describe the various steps for developing, implementing, monitoring, evaluating and analysing a context-relevant OER policy. It provides a comprehensive framework for governments and institutions to determine their vision and the scope of their policy, and to develop and implement an appropriate implementable policy plan. The purpose of the guidelines is to help people go through the various steps involved in drawing up an OER policy, involving the various stakeholders in drawing up an implementation plan, and determining the appropriate implementation, monitoring, evaluation and possible adjustment of the policy. Figure 1 shows the steps.

Figure 1. Steps for vision and policy formulation for OER

The guidelines describe the whole process of designing and implementing an OER policy in seven chapters, each representing a distinct phase in the whole process. Each chapter introduces the purpose of the phase, provides background information, and refers to practical examples to illustrate it. At the end of each chapter, specific tasks are formulated for the policy designer that will help formulate the final OER policy.

When designing policy, determining the scale and scope plays a role. At institutional level, policy can be formulated for the entire institution, for part of it (usually a department), or for a subject-related Community of Practice (scale). The scope of a policy at institutional level can focus on themes with which OER overlap. These can be the topics mentioned in our previous blog on added value (for example internationalisation and flexibility) and topics such as professionalisation of staff and educators in dealing with OER, lifelong learning, and contributing to the preservation of public values.

Regardless of the scale and scope of an OER policy, the UNESCO-COL publication distinguishes six building blocks that can be specified for the specific policy context. We have added a seventh building block (safeguarding public values). The seven building blocks are related to the values and obstacles that we described in the previous blog post (see next table).

Main building blocksMain goals
Adoption of an open licensing frameworkEnabling and facilitating the use of open licenses for learning resources
Ensure the development, storage and accessibility of OERMake OER easily findable, accessible and adaptable via digital storage and editing platforms
Safeguard the public values of educationWhen making policy choices, include the potential contributions of OER to safeguarding public values in education
Alignment of quality assurance proceduresEnsure appropriate quality assurance procedures, which stimulate continuous improvement of learning resources
Support capacity building and awareness raisingEnabling users to make full use of the qualities of OER for teaching and learning

Ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the qualities of OER and how they can be used
Encourage sustainable business models and launch financing strategiesEnsuring that the cycle of production and reuse of OER is sustainable over time for the actors involved in its production and reuse
Monitoring and research of the effectiveness of the use of OER and their learning outcomesEnsuring that the progress of the policy is continuously monitored

Ensure that sufficient research is conducted into the effects of using OER and that this research can be taken into account when formulating OER policy

The Guidelines referred to above provide a step-by-step approach to formulating an OER policy. Examples of OER policy are available in the OER World Map. These examples can serve as inspiration.

Further considerations

Finally, we would like to add a few additional considerations. The following considerations are important if a balanced approach to OER is to be created at the institutional level:

  • Formulate the added value of OER for the institution not only from the perspective of quality improvement but also taking other perspectives into account (for example the potential contribution to achieving strategic objectives such as flexibility and the public values angle that we described in the previous blog post).
  • Quality assurance of learning resources focuses on learning resources that are published openly by the institution (for example as a MOOC or in an institutional repository of open courseware).
  • Encourage bottom-up initiatives by clarifying the space that educators have for adopting OER and by ensuring that extra time and support are available. This can be done, for example, by encouraging the reuse and local sharing of learning resources (as a stepping stone to open sharing).
  • Encourage the creation of professional communities that will be responsible for sharing and maintaining shared learning resources. These subject communities are potentially of great value in making OER initiatives more sustainable (see for example (MacKinnon et al, 2016)).

In this series of blogs, we have attempted to give policymakers a handle on formulating an institution’s vision and policy on OER, with the aim of striking a balance between principled arguments (guaranteeing the moral values to which OER can contribute) and pragmatic arguments.  We would like to know whether we have succeeded in this. Feedback is therefore welcome in the comments below this blog or by e-mailing Ben Janssen ( or me (


MacKinnon, T., Pasfield-Neofitou, S., Manns, H., & Grant, S. (2016). A meta-analysis of open educational communities of practice and sustainability in higher educational policy. Alsic, 19(1). Source

Miao, F., Mishra, S., Orr, D., & Janssen, B. (2019). Guidelines on the development of open educational resources policies. UNESCO Publishing. Source

UNESCO (2019). Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER). Source

This blog is the final contribution in a series entitled A principled, pragmatic view of institutional OER policy. Previous contributions:

Posted in Open Educational Resources and tagged , , , .

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