How Directing Formal Students to Institutionally-Delivered OER Supports their Success


  • Patrina Law The Open University



open educational resources, higher education, policy, retention, MOOCs, distance learning, online learning.


The OpenLearn platform was launched in 2006 with the aim of delivering excerpts of the Open University’s (UK) (OU) curriculum as open educational resources (OER). Now reaching over 8.5m learners a year, the platform delivers free courses, educational interactives, videos and articles across a broad range of subjects reflecting what is delivered formally to students and through topical, engaging content. The OU is the UK’s largest university for undergraduate education with around 170,000 enrolled students primarily engaged in online, distance education.

Whilst previous studies on OpenLearn had revealed the demographics of learners using the platform (Law et al., 2013; Perryman et al., 2013; Law & Jelfs, 2016), platform-derived analytics showed that a high proportion of OU students were also using OpenLearn, despite it not performing any formally directed role in the delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. 

This paper discusses research undertaken with OU students in 2017 to examine their experience and motivations for using OpenLearn and the potential impact on their learning. Surveys were issued to 10,000 students with the resulting data informing university strategy around the function of OER as a means to motivate, prepare and retain students.

Data showed that students are using OpenLearn for module choice, as a taster of OU study before signing up, for study preparedness, time-management planning, confidence-building, assessment support and professional development. In addition, OU students who use OpenLearn are more likely to be retained and to progress to their next course.

This paper will also discusses recommendations and actions taken from this research that were realised in 2018 and early results from this, ostensibly the impact of a project to integrate OER into the student induction process.

The data revealed in this paper will be of interest to the wider academic community, HE policy-makers, those involved in delivering non-accredited learning and the impact of OER.


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Law, P. (2016). The identified informal learner: Recognizing Assessed Learning in the Open. In P. Blessinger, & T.J. Bliss (Eds.), Open education: International perspectives in Higher Education. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.

Law, P., & Jelfs, A. (2016). Ten years of open practice: A reflection on the impact of OpenLearn. Open Praxis, 8(2), 143–149.

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How to Cite

Law, P. (2019). How Directing Formal Students to Institutionally-Delivered OER Supports their Success. Journal of Learning for Development, 6(3).



Case Studies
Received 2019-10-03
Accepted 2019-10-14
Published 2019-11-19