01 Nov 2013
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Kiwi online university launches worldwide

By Rebecca Wood

New Zealand is set to become a pioneer in the world of free online university courses with the worldwide launch of the Open Educational Resource university (OERu) today.

Coordinated by the Open Education Resource Foundation, founded and headquartered at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, the OERu is an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online university courses for students worldwide.

The OERu will provide more affordable ways for learners to gain academic credit towards qualifications from recognised institutions.

Wayne Mackintosh, OER Foundation director, says the OERu makes affordable education accessible to everyone.

“All you need is an internet connection and you can study independently from home, with access to world-class courses from recognised institutions around the world. It’s about sharing knowledge and the sustainability of education.”

OERu’s primary point of difference is that students study for free, anywhere in the world using courses based on OER, with pathways to gain credible credentials. Users can pay reduced fees if they want to get academic credit, and only pay for assessment if and when they’re ready.

“All the course material is taught online, based on open educational resources and openly accessible materials on the internet. This means you won’t need to buy any textbooks,” says Mackintosh.

Designed for independent study, users will get peer-support from fellow learners, however with some courses, users will study with full-time registered students at one or more of OERu’s anchor partners - a network of academic institutions in five continents.

Home to the OER Foundation and anchoring partner to the OERu, Otago Polytechnic has embraced the philosophy of sharing knowledge. It was the first tertiary institution in the world to adopt a creative commons open content intellectual property policy.

Phil Kerr, Otago Polytechnic chief executive, says the OERu is the means by which education at all levels can be more accessible, more affordable and more efficient.

“It’s no longer about building learning facilities and expecting students to come to us. We are taking it out to the world and investing in the sharing of knowledge on a global scale.”

Courses on offer through the OERu include Resourcing a Small Enterprise, Understanding Culture in Asia and the Pacific, Tourism in Asia and the Pacific, Developing a Business Plan, and Regional Economics in Asia and the Pacific. Full courses will run for between 10 and 15 weeks, while micro-courses can be completed within two to three weeks.

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