OER and the Vision for Adult Learning

Earlier this year Professor Allison Littlejohn of the Caledonian Academy published the findings of the OER4Adults survey, undertaken by the EU Lifelong Learning OER4Adults Project. The outputs of this survey, which are highly relevant to the aims and objectives of Open Scotland, can be read in full on Allison’s blog here: OER and the Vision for Adult Learning. The following is summarised from Allison’s post.

The outcomes of OER4Adults provided policy makers within the European Commission with evidence on how to incorporate the use of OER into a Vision for Adult and Lifelong Learning to 2030.


The OER4Adults survey identified over 170 OER Initiatives across Europe and other countries (mainly the US). Many of these initiatives – those who provide OER for adult and lifelong learning – are from the higher education, vocational and school sectors. These initiatives assume that the primary users of OER are teachers and registered students, but the might not necessarily think about ‘nonformal’ learners.

Many examples of open learning are within open fora (eg discussion groups around health or hobby areas). These groups are seldom recognised as having an explicit remit for learning. Also they are not associated with the sorts of formal institutions that MOOCs tend to be associated with (eg think about EdX, Coursera, Futurelearn and so on).

The project conducted a SWOT analysis wich identified a number of areas of tension:

    • OER – free vs open resources
    • Learning – conventional pedagogy vs learner controlled learning
    • Motivations for releasing OER – altruism vs marketization
    • Capacity building – community vs openness
    • Numbers of learners – mass participation vs quality
    • Sustainability – add-on vs embedded funding models

Key findings and questions

1. Many examples of open learning are not recognised as learning.

Idea 1: change public perception of what they recognise as learning.

2. To move forward with lifelong learning, we need a fundamental shift in the way society perceives peoples’ roles (eg learners, teachers, others, etc) and organisations’ roles (eg HES, companies, publishers, etc).

Idea 2: change public perception of the roles of learners and teachers – and of organisations more broadly.

3. Within the OER arena, there is little focus on the bigger societal issues. For example the tension between the public and private sectors which have different values and norms. We don’t have a clear idea of the outcome when these values and norms come into conflict.

Idea 3: consider the longterm impact of vested interests of various stakeholders in different sectors.

4. Little is known about what lifelong learners actually do with OER. OER initiatives have little concern about this and don’t view it as significant.

Idea 4: investigate how learners use OER to learn.

5. The focus of attention could shift from open resources (OER) or open courses (MOOC) to the ability of people/learners to learn in open environments.

Idea 5: change the focus of attention from OER or MOOC to learners.

By Professor Allison Littlejohn.