Open Educational Resources and the Transformation of Education

Ilkka Tuomi


The extremely rapid expansion of open educational resource (OER) initiatives and the millions of learners they attract can be understood as an indicator of an emerging revolution in education and learning. This article describes recent developments in this area and develops conceptual foundations for studies and policies on OER. We describe four different types of OER, locate these in a field of learning theories, and discuss how the wide adoption of OER may constrain and accelerate the transformation of learning and education in the knowledge society.



This article defines OER as important educational transformation and develops theoretical understandings of the growth of OER. Tuomi et al. first provide four key types(levels) of OER. First level of openness is determined by access and accessibility. (e.g. no-cost access to textbook). Second level (OER II) is about “right and capability to enjoy the services” (p. 62). Along with the openness of the materials themselves (OER I), institutional support for students makes the second level attainable. OER III entails personalized learning, that is, users’ capability to modify and add value to OER materials. When these modified materials are redistributed, OER IV can be achieved. Users become producer and consumer at the same time, and that enables collaborative learning. Tuomi defines OER I (access) and OER II (enjoyment) as individual-repository learning model, and OER III and OER IV as distributes-process learning model. The OER movement is driven by technological development. In return, it transforms social interaction and knowledge production.

APA Citation

Tuomi, I. (2013). Open educational resources and the transformation of education. European Journal of Education, 48(1), 58-78.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Technology-enhanced
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication European Journal of Education Research, Development and Policy
Type of Research Theoretical
Research Design Not applicable
Intervention/Areas of Study Collaborative, group, or team-based learning, Open education resources, Personalized learning, Student support
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Graduates, Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 2-year institution, 4-year Institution, Associates-granting, Bachelors-granting, Masters-granting, Doctorate-granting, For-profit, Not-for-profit, Private, Public
Specific Course or Program Characteristics Arts and humanities, Formal sciences, Natural sciences, Social sciences, Professions, STEM, MOOCs
Outcome Variables of Interest Learning effectiveness
Student Sample Size
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