Open access and open education resources (OER) are the core in making knowledge freely available.
OER is defined by UNESCO as “technology-enabled, open provision of educational resources for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes” (2002). These resources are made available online and their main users are teachers and schools but they may be used directly by the students.
OER basically aims to make educational resources freely available and is a logical continuation of open access movement. Open access concentrates its effort on researchers, publishers and journals, OER is working to make courses, course material, text books, videos, tests, software and other tools, material and techniques which are important in learning environments freely available
A lot of OER is licensed under CC-BY. This means that the material is free to distribute, remix, change and build your own work on. This means also that the resources may be commercially used as long as the original work is referred to.
OER as well as open access benefits students, teachers, self-studies and the society. One problem with OER is that there is some uncertainty when it comes to copyright between the teacher and school and also because producing OER might result to loss on income. Researchers who publish rarely receive any kind of economical compensation for either the articles or the work they do for publishers when reviewing other researchers’ articles. However, teachers who produce textbook will most often receive economical compensation. Neither is there any kind of infrastructure in place to help publish textbooks or other educational aids, nor are there political demands to publish textbooks open access. There are some big sites gathering these types of material and making them searchable. OER is also more changeable and complex than scientific publications.
Here are two good sites with extensive OER collections:
OER Africa – an initiative from South Africa which aims to drive the development and use of OER across all education sectors on the African continent.
KhanAcademy – provides free educational resources within different subject areas, such as Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics and Humanities.