Catalysing Innovation with OER

Innovation is a key interest in Europe, and also a key interest in the ENCORE+ project.

So much so, that one of our four Circles is dedicated to understanding the relationship between OER and innovation; and documenting and sharing the new business models that are enabled by OER.

Why should there be a relationship between openness and innovation?

The simple answer to this lies in the idea of enhanced freedoms. OER have an empowering effect because they enable new forms of action and sharing.

As part of ENCORE+ we are researching different theories of innovation and their relevance to OER.

For instance, the SAMR model was formalized by education researcher Ruben Puentedura to explain how technology is incorporated into everyday learning ( The model proposes a cognitive hierarchy for the uses of new technologies. First comes the enhancement of existing practices, through ‘substitution’ (using a new tool for an existing task) and ‘augmentation’ (improving performance with an existing task).
At the top of the hierarchy are more transformative changes: through significant reform of the task itself (‘modification’) and the identification/creation of new tasks that are enabled by the innovation (‘redefinition’).

SAMR Technology Integration Model

This progression maps onto the OER experience of many educators and learners. Typically open resources are first substituted in for proprietary resources. Then, as
practitioners become more familiar, confident and ambitious with using OER they use it to support experimentation and new practices. The SAMR model also has the benefit of being focused specifically on educational technology.

We can see the relevance of this typology if we apply these categories to an example of OER, such as openly licensed textbooks. Here we observe a potential progression of OER use aligned with varying levels of pedagogical and organisational innovation.


Use Open Textbooks in place of proprietary versions
More than $1 billion saved in the USA
Freely shared and accessible online

Enhances access, reduced dependency on grants and loans
Producing revised/remixed versions of lessons, textbooks and supplementary resources

Collaboration across institutions
Rethinking the textbook as the standard organisation of curricula

Another popular model for understanding innovation is the diffusion of innovations. This maps adoption of new technologies against their market proliferation. The world is still in the early phases of OER adoption. In the USA, for instance, which arguably has the most mature markets, proliferation of OER is only around 5% at the secondary education level. Everyone using OER is technically an early adopter!

In Europe the rate of proliferation is much lower. This means that there is even more potential for OER to save money and facilitate innovation in pedagogy and training. Creating courses (especially for online learning) is much cheaper and more efficient when using OER as there are no copyright issues to clear.

Saving money is one aspect of innovation, but some of the most interesting and far-reaching changes relate to human practices and the wider ecosystem. The OER Research Hub project asked educators in several countries about their use of OER. 40.6% (n=281) said that they use a broader range of teaching and learning methods; 37% (n=250) agreed that they reflected more on the way that they teach; 32.1% (n=215) that they more frequently compare their own teaching with others; 23.4% (n=133) that they now use OER to develop their teaching. Because OER facilitate the process of knowledge transmission, educators and learners like to use them. But they also encourage experimentation and critical reflection which can lead to improved practice.

There are perhaps a surprisingly high number of European projects already focused on OER. Data from the OER World Map shows clusters of OER initiatives and projects that are taking place right now. These are a mix of more than 6,000 higher education institutions, repositories, government agencies, services, events and individuals represented.

You can read more about our thoughts on the innovation potential of Open Educational Resources in our recent OER Innovation Briefing.

As this series (and as ENCORE+ project progresses) we will draw on theories of innovation to develop and share a tool for evaluating instances of innovation with and through OER. We will also be highlighting real-life examples of innovation with OER and raising the profile of successful initiatives.

Our first community event in this strand of work is the Innovation Circle on the 27th September at 13.00 CET. We hope that you will be able to join us!

Please extend the invitation to anyone with an interest in the potential of open to innovate practice and establish new business models and ways of working. ENCORE+ Circles are a great opportunity for networking and reaching out to our stakeholder communities.

Our Circles will always be free to attend!

Sign yourself up for the first ENCORE+ Innovation Circle at See you there!

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