The following article from the Feb. 2008 International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning by Caswell, Henson, Jensen & Wiley provides a good overview of the opencourseware history and the importance of OER for any project of universal education. [read full article here]


The role of distance education is shifting. Traditionally distance education was limited in the number of people served because of production, reproduction, and distribution costs. Today, while it still costs the university time and money to produce a course, technology has made it such that reproduction costs are almost non-existent. This shift has significant implications, and allows distance educators to play an important role in the fulfillment of the promise of the right to universal education. At little or no cost, universities can make their content available to millions. This content has the potential to substantially improve the quality of life of learners around the world. New distance education technologies, such as OpenCourseWares, act as enablers to achieving the universal right to education. These technologies, and the associated changes in the cost of providing access to education, change distance education’s role from one of classroom alternative to one of social transformer.

Keywords: OpenCourseWare; distance education; access; new technologies