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Open Education


Open Education is a collective term used to refer to many practices and activities that have both openness and education at their core. First and foremost, open education is about removing barriers to education. This may be through removing entry requirements, as The Open University (UK) has done, or by making content and data freely and legally available for reuse. However it also reflects other cultural changes, such as the move to open up learning methods and practices, which sees the blurring or removal of traditional roles such as teacher and student, moving towards roles such as mentor and learner.
Open Education Handbook, Wikibooks

Illustration of the « Opening up Education », Joint Research Centre of the European Union


Open education is based on educational content known as open educational resources (OER), which can be freely used, modified and shared. These OER are then combined with all the pedagogical practices that can take shape around them, open educational practices, linked to the pedagogical practices found in education in general to seek to foster learning.

Openness in education refers to both these resources and practices, but is also used to discuss the accessibility of distance learning through various technologies (digital, radio, television, etc.) to reduce both geographical and financial barriers

Open educational resources are going to be protean: a textbook, a text, a video, an image, the slides of a presentation…

Some examples of open education and OER initiatives:

The way in which these resources are built and used will depend on a whole range of strategies depending on the pedagogical context: face-to-face or distance learning, synchronous or asynchronous, with a more or less active pedagogy, based or not on a community of practice… Pedagogy in all its complexity enriches open education.

Defining precisely what falls within the scope of open education remains tricky, a broad interpretation could encompass any content with pedagogical utility publicly accessible, transforming it into a ubiquitous dynamic with the digital.


Open education can be used for training in a variety of fields or as an educational actor to produce training by creating or reusing open educational resources.

Although limited and highly variable from one field to another, it is already possible to follow an entire educational curriculum, or even obtain a university degree with open universities. For example, IT professionals benefit greatly from the additional training that open education offers thanks to an ocean of content on the Internet.

On certain new subjects or those that are insufficiently taught in traditional education, it even seems necessary to rely on open education for training, starting with open models or ecology.

Impossible to meet all needs and cite all existing open educational resources, it will be important to conduct an exploration phase on the Internet or in OER databases, the list of resources in the brick is a first track.

There is no single answer to the problem of how to produce open education training. There is a whole range of possible approaches, from publishing a PowerPoint-type presentation under an open license, to structuring a complex environment for collaboratively producing OER and enabling interaction between learners.

While we know that much remains to be invented, the tools needed to produce open educational resources will vary from one project to another, depending on financial and human resources, technical skills, and so on.

The Brick of Knowledge on Open Models is a complex example of open education, an experiment of open educational resource for education in open models, in a digital commons logic developed using open software tools such as Markdown, git and GitHub.

The project is intended to be a resource accessible to anyone wishing to learn about open models. Although it requires some technical knowledge with which to familiarize oneself, all content is retrievable, modifiable and shareable. Pedagogical content that is freely accessible, that can be co-produced, based on spaces for exchange with the community around the project, learners and stakeholders who gravitate around open models

Many trainers in open models and in digital technology more broadly could find interest in this type of pedagogical content within a whole range of organizations: schools, universities, but also in IT, public institutions, etc. The commercial use of the brick being permitted, a service activity such as offering training in open models on a freelance basis becomes possible.


Today, the English-speaking world is more developed in open education but everywhere the dynamic is being built

In various forms and to varying degrees, hundreds of educational establishments around the world are today moving towards open education with public policies amplifying the dynamic.

Coalitions of organizations are being set up such as the Open Education Global network with over 250 members. The issue of access to school textbooks (open textbooks) unites a multitude of organization, with initiatives such as LibreTexts which serves as a digital library for dozens of (American) institutions, reaching millions of students.

Distance learning structures such as open universities or more traditional universities such as MIT which are transforming with technological developments are exploring these new approaches to support access to education.

At the political level, UNESCO has issued recommendations on open educational resources in 2019. The U.S. Department of Education, through its Office of Educational Technology, encourages the use of open licenses and makes them a condition for certain loans. Without explicitly talking about open education, France’s Ministry of Education promotes collaboration and the use of digital commons for educational content in its Digital Strategy for Education (2023-2027).

Within universities where scientific research and education intertwine, more mature open science policies are starting to include a focus on open education in considerations, shaping the concept of open scholarship.

As with research, there seems to be a growing willingness to invest public money in the creation of a common digital heritage.


The history of open education can be seen as a continuation of the history of distance education, whose beginnings date back to 1840 and which has evolved in step with technological change. The first distance learning courses are attributed to Isaac Pitman who used the postal service made more accessible by the arrival of the steam train.

Television and radio gave birth to open universities, the first of which was The Open University, created in 1969 in England during the post-war period of mass education. Its model will inspire the rest of the world, thus introducing the notion of openness through the reduction of geographical barriers in access to education.

The invention of computers (1945), the Internet (1969) and, in particular, the World Wide Web (1991) were the developments that really gave birth to modern open education.

Observing the development of the open source movement in the software world, David Wiley formalized the notion of “open content” in 1998 along with the Open Publication License (discontinued with the arrival of Creative Commons), initially aimed at educational content. In 2001, MIT announced the MIT OpenCourseWare program aimed at publishing all the institution’s course materials.

The term “open educational resources” was adopted in 2002 following the UNESCO forum « Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries ». In 2019, UNESCO proposed a recommendation on open educational resources.