Open Education: What Does It Mean to You?

Open Education: What Does It Mean to You?


At its core, education is a public good and a means for every human being to create a self-sustaining life. Yet, economic barriers continue to prevent a mass of people worldwide from accessing this fundamental tool. Open education is a growing initiative to provide free access to educational resources and to create a world of learning open to everyone.

In celebration of Open Education Week, we laud the benefits and impact of open access opportunities in higher education.

[Learn with free online university courses offered by Kaplan University Open Learning.] 

What is open education?

Open education is the free and open sharing of learning materials. The word open refers to the legal ability to modify and reuse educational content created by someone else. Open education expands opportunities for learning. It allows everyone to access top-notch learning materials, to change or combine them to suit specific needs, and to share them with others for free.

Open educational resources are typically in digital format. They include course videos and lectures, scholarly articles, and other educational media. These resources are available to the public through searchable databases and can be used for teaching, learning, and research in ways that proprietary learning materials cannot. The freedom to use open educational resources is the cornerstone of the movement.

[Your experience is also a form of learning. Find out how experiential learning can earn you college credit.]

Why is open education important to you?

Open education gives you access to the latest information on any subject. Educators, learners, and researchers can share up-to-date knowledge across many communities. Prior to open access initiatives, scholarly work and traditional teaching materials were accessible only by purchasing the information. The right to use, change, or distribute this information was restricted. With open education licensing and availability, learning can happen anytime, anywhere, by everyone.

Open education has several key benefits that improve the educational and personal knowledge development of people worldwide.

  • Accessible: Open educational resources are available to anyone with an Internet connection. You can learn from a vast collection of expert materials at any time from any place.
  • Dynamic: Open education allows experts to build upon cutting-edge ideas. As a result, learners have access to the latest knowledge, which is extremely helpful in fast-changing fields such as computer science or environmental studies. You can continue to gain skills and position yourself for your next career opportunity by having access to the latest resources in an industry.
  • Innovative: Adaptable and shareable learning materials allow for improved collaboration among educators. That sparks innovative uses of educational resources. Learners in turn benefit from these new ideas and new methods for how something can be taught.
  • Personal: Open education allows you to choose what you want to learn to fulfill your needs. You have options to learn anything you need without following a prescribed curriculum. 

[Find answers to the 10 Questions You Have about Online Learning.]

Where can you find open educational resources?

Because of the accessible nature of open educational resources, the volume can be difficult to wade through for learners. How do you find the right course or materials to fit your needs? Start by exploring these repositories of open courses and resources.

  • This database of free and low-cost online courses has thousands of choices for learners. You can find open courses to help you augment your skills at your job, learn something you’ve always wondered about, or supplement your current studies.
  • OpenCourseWare Consortium: You can find university-level courses developed by seasoned educators in this worldwide collection of open courses and supporting materials. The courses include syllabi and other planning materials along with the course content. You may work through a course at your own pace as an individual learner or reuse courses for teaching others.
  • Khan Academy:  Founded by Salman Khan, the academy provides free video content and online assessments focused mainly on math and science subjects. The video lectures use a neon chalkboard to break down concepts from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus in an easy-to-understand way. The site also provides a personal dashboard for learners to track what they’ve learned and where they are with their learning goals.

Open education increases public access to knowledge and learning opportunities. Its principles of sharing knowledge encourage collaboration, innovation, and fresh ideas across global communities. When education is open and accessible to all, it creates a more informed, equitable, and sustainable world.

How do you envision open education making an impact?

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