A group of universities plans to draw together existing free online learning materials from around the world and develop new OERs to create whole degree programmes that can be studied via the internet for free.
The project will focus on how to offer students using OERs the opportunity to earn academic credit and have their work assessed at a significantly reduced cost.
It is hoped that these degrees could cost up to 90 per cent less than a traditional qualification gained through on-campus study.
In an interview with Times Higher Education, Wayne Mackintosh, director of the Open Education Resource Foundation, said an OER university would help widen access to higher education in the developing world as well as helping students in the developed world faced with rising tuition fees.
“Throughout most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the costs of education have been increasing in excess of the inflation index,” he said. “What we’re aiming to do is provide alternatives…the opportunity to get the same quality of education for significantly lower cost.”
The project brings together the OER Foundation, the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, Athabasca University in Canada and Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand.
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