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What is open education?

Open education is an umbrella term under which different understandings of open education can be accommodated.

It goes beyond open educational resources (OER) and open research outputs to embrace strategic decisions, teaching methods, collaboration between individuals and institutions, recognition of non-formal learning and different ways of making content available.

Definition of open education

The European Commission's definition of open education is:

"a way of carrying out education, often using digital technologies. Its aim is to widen access and participation to everyone by removing barriers and making learning accessible, abundant, and customisable for all. It offers multiple ways of teaching and learning, building and sharing knowledge. It also provides a variety of access routes to formal and non-formal education, and connects" (Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions, 2016)

The importance of open education

Open education is becoming ever more important in European higher education due to the fact that digital technologies are one of the main driving forces behind education modernisation.

The use of digital technologies for teaching and learning is no longer limited to open universities or virtual universities, but has spread through all types of institutions, both the more traditional and the avant-garde.

Opening up education is an important item on the European policy agenda for many reasons.

  • First, it can help to reduce or remove barriers to education (e.g. cost, geography, time, entry requirements). This gives learners the opportunity to up skill or re-skill at a lower or nearly no cost, and in a flexible way.
  • Second, it supports the modernisation of higher education in Europe, since contemporary open education is largely carried out via digital technologies.
  • Finally, it opens up the possibility of bridging non-formal and formal education. This can take place if HE institutions and other accredited institutions recognised the credentials they each issue to learners.

Stakeholders should explore ways in which to support open educational practices. Dialogue should be sought to form a common vision for opening up education in Europe. Watch the video series 'What's open education for you?'

Open Education around the world



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