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About OLnet

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are supporting the development of this Open Learning Network – OLnet – over 3 years to the end of February 2012. The project aims 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 in the States – two major advocates of equalising access to higher education – the aim is 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 will be 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.

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.

With the growing rise in access to the internet and government’s beginning to sponsor OERs, the time is right for growth. Establishing an evidence base and research framework for the emerging field is essential. The key challenge for OLnet will be in 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.

Watch this space!