Is OER the same as Open Learning (OL) or Open Education (OE)?


Open Learning (OL) and Open Education (OE) are broader concepts concerned with improving global access to high-quality educational experiences as well as educational resources. Thus although the use of OER can support open learning open education, the two are not the same.

Making OL or OE a priority has significantly bigger implications than only committing to releasing resources as open or using OER in educational programmes. It requires systematic analysis of assessment and accreditation systems, student support, curriculum frameworks, mechanisms to recognize prior learning, and so on, in order to determine the extent to which they enhance or impede openness.

Open learning is an approach to education that seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning, while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education and training system centred on their specific needs and located in multiple arenas of learning. It incorporates several key principles:

  • Learning opportunity should be lifelong and should encompass both education and training;
  • The learning process should centre on the learners, build on their experience and encourage independent and critical thinking;
  • Learning provision should be flexible so that learners can increasingly choose, where, when, what and how they learn, as well as the pace at which they will learn;
  • Prior learning, prior experience and demonstrated competencies should be recognized so that learners are not unnecessarily barred from educational opportunities by lack of appropriate qualifications;
  • Learners should be able to accumulate credits from different learning contexts;
  • Providers should create the conditions for a fair chance of learner success. (Saide, n.d.)

As this list illustrates, while effective use of OER might give practical expression to some of the principles of OL and OE, these terms are distinct in both scope and meaning.

OER, open learning, open education, lifelong, learners, flexible, Prior learning, prior experience, demonstrated competencies, accumulate credits

Butcher, N. (2015). A basic guide to open educational resources (OER). Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver and UNESCO. Retrieved from