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Development of OLnet


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has supported the development of this project from March 2009 to April 2012. The project aimed to bring researchers and educators together in an intelligent social network to share knowledge on the development of Open Educational Resources (OER).


Run by The Open University, UK and Carnegie Mellon University, USA – two major advocates of equalising access to higher education – the aim was to use collective intelligence to identify the big questions. Going beyond the universally available technologies for mass collaboration such as wikis, forums and blogs, the network will analyse community contributions to gain insights from debate and move idea generation towards innovative practice. Research focussed on the most urgent educational needs across the globe – from how OER are most effectively used in developing countries to working out how anyone can gain qualifications from free access to university course content online.

Claims garden by olnetchannel, on Flickr


Since 2000, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have spent around $80 million on kick-starting the OER movement, encouraging some major players like MIT and The Open University to provide proof of concept projects like MITOCW and OpenLearn. Globally, over 150 universities are already engaged in the OER movement. The next step is to encourage more Higher Education institutions to exploit the knowledge gained in this ’start-up’ phase, making free access to HE resources universally available. The challenge will also be to stress-test current knowledge, using emerging technologies to improve on community generated ideas. (Image: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  olnetchannel )

OER movement

With the growing rise in access to the internet and governments beginning to sponsor OER, the time is right for growth. Establishing an evidence base and research framework for the emerging field is essential. The key challenge for OLnet has been making sure the lessons learnt are taken forward into OER projects as the movement grows, and the production of OER remains leading edge whilst becoming commonplace.