Open Education and Open Educational Resources

Education, Content & Support

UM Library Open Education portal


Learn more about Open Educational Resources (OER) that you can use for learning and teaching and about copyright. Read about the UM MOOC project. Join the tender for open and online education projects put out by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.


Open education?

Online education, open education and OER Online education is defined as education whereby all or at least 80% of all learning materials, tools and services are made available online.

Open education can be categorised on the basis of three different dimensions of openness:

  1. available free of charge
  2. freely accessible (no entry requirements, no closed paywalls, etc.)
  3. free to edit (with learning materials published on the basis of an open licence).


Today, open education programs are offered by established universities such as MIT, the TU Delft, as well as virtual universities and other educational institutions.

Open Education Week

The annual Open Education Week (OE Week) provides the opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in Open Education worldwide.

Started in 2012 by the Open Education Global as a collaborative, community-built open forum, Open Education Week seeks to raise awareness and highlight open education efforts worldwide. 

Maastricht University organized several workshops in the context of open education and open educational resources. Read last years’special issue on OA and OER (as an alternative when copyright protected material is not the way to go).

Open ≠ OER!

It is important to distinguish between Open Educational Resources (OER) and open education.

OER refers only to the content, whereas open education or open learning combines OER (the actual resources) with a form of education.

Forms of open education

Open access to certified programmes

Open access to certified programmes

These are usually provided by national open universities and the OERu  (an international consortium of mainly British Commonwealth and U.S. universities and colleges offering open access courses):

  • possibly for full credit or a full degree
  • offered by the university from which most credits have been acquired
  • assessment is not free.

Examples of degree awarding program

DariahTeach is a platform for Open Educational Resources (OER) for Digital Arts and Humanities educators and students, but also beyond this aiming at Higher Education across a spectrum of disciplines, at teachers and trainers engaged in the digital transformation of programme content and learning methods. DariaTeach has two key objectives: sharing and reuse, thus developing a place for people to publish their teaching material and for others to use it in their own teaching.

You can also choose from a variety of ECTS credited courses in the field of Digital Humanities.



Examples of degree awarding open universities


Open University UK

Open University UK


Open University NL

Open University Netherlands


Athabasca University

Athabasca University


Open University of China

Open University of China

Open access programmes without credit

Open access programmes without credit

The programme itself is free of charge. Upon successful completion, badges or certificates may be granted for a fee.

MOOCs are a good example but will be addressed separately.

Open access course platforms

Open access course platforms

  • Coursera  offers online courses, provided by more than 100 universities and other educational organisations worldwide
  • EdX  offers online courses by universities including Harvard, TU Delft, Aachen and Sorbonne
  • Kahn Academy  offers exercises and instructional videos for self-study for all ages. Topics include math, science, computer programming, history, art history, and economics. Content is offered different institutions including NASA, the Museum of Modern Art and MIT
  • Udacity  offers online programmes created by partners such as Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce, Cloudera, aimed at learners seeking to become web developers, data analysts, mobile developers, etcera
  • MIT’s Open Courseware  offers both OER and open access courses. It includes free online MIT’s recorded lectures and other learning material
  • TU Delft Open CourseWare  offers both OER and open access courses. It includes free online recorded lectures and other learning material.


What defines a MOOC? Here are the features

  • Massive. In principle MOOCs have infinite scalability. It is claimed the cost of each extra participant is small for the institutions offering MOOCs. Coursera claims they had as many as 240,000 participants in a single course.
  • Open. There are no pre-requisites for participants. They do need a computer or mobile device and access to the Internet. In addition, participation was free for the early MOOCs. Today increasing numbers of MOOCs charge an assessment or certificate a fee.
  • Online.  MOOCs are offered online.
  • Course. MOOCs are designed as a course.

The course design of a MOOC may vary.

MOOCs can by broadly subdivided in two types, XMOOCS and cMOOCs, each with a distinct philosophical underpinning.

  • xMOOCs use a teaching model that focuses on transmitting information, with high quality content delivery.
  • cMOOCs emphasise networking and depend on contributions from the participants.


Watch this quick and simple video on MOOCs by Dave Cormier and Neal Gillis – Research by: Bonnie Stewart Alexander McAuley George Siemens Dave.


Design features xMOOCS

  • Designed platform software geared toward large numbers of participants, automated assessment and performance tracking
  • Video lectures that are made online downloadable and released on a weekly basis. Examples: lecture capture, studio produced presentations and desk-top recordings
  • Computer graded assignments, such as multiple-choice, text or formula boxes. Results may serve as feedback or for a certificate
  • Peer assessment between students by assigning students to small groups
  • Supporting materials, for instance slides, audio files, URLs, online articles
  • Shared discussion area for posting questions and comments
  • Discussions are moderated little or not at all, no individual teacher-student interaction
  • Badges or certificates, upon successful completion, but usually not recognised by institutes for credit or admission
  • Learning analytics


Design principles cMOOCs (as identified by Stephen Downes in 2014)

  • Autonomy of the learner; learning is personal and there is no formal curriculum
  • Diversity in terms of the tools, content, and knowledge levels of participants
  • Interactivity between participants  leading to knowledge building
  • Open-ness open  access, content, activities and assessment

Read more here: Comparing xMOOCs and cMOOCs: philosophy and practice 



UM went MOOC!

Maastricht University (UM) has launched (and finished) its’ first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in September 2015. The audience consisted of teachers, course designers, professionals in education, and the generally curious joining in the experimental online course on Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Participants learned how to apply PBL in their own educational setting, and how to apply PBL to a MOOC setting.

Students at the centre! 
UM has a strong tradition in PBL, focussing on small-group learning centred around authentic problems. At first sight, this is in contrast with the large-scale and often teacher-driven set-up of MOOCs. UM is, however, interested in exploring the potential of online PBL and the potential of MOOCs. To gain first-hand experience and to explore implications for UM staff and students UM developed a MOOC about PBL which is designed –as far as possible in the setting of a MOOC- in line with modern learning principles that are also at the basis of PBL: constructive, contextual, collaborative and self-directed learning: Problem-Based Learning: Principles and design. Students at the centre!

A university-wide project team, consisting of 34 people from all faculties, was responsible for this innovative MOOC design.


The course is centred around a set of authentic problems organized in three different tracks:

  • The role of the tutor in PBL
  • Designing PBL problems and courses
  • Assessment and organisational aspects of PBL

Participants work in groups on authentic problems in a similar way as face-to-face PBL tutor groups, except that they work online and do not have a tutor.



The MOOC was executed in 2015, from 5 October to 12 December. It started with 2989 participants. Just over a quarter (26%) filled in their profiles and became part one of the 111 teams. 49 of the 111 teams finished the course (i.e. handed in the last assignment) and 264 participants were received a certificate of participation. The completion rate was almost 10%, which is quite normal in the world of MOOCs. The project team is currently analysing results, including questionnaire and observation data, and developing plans for the future.


Open Educational Resources refers to any type of educational materials that can be freely re-used, re-distributed, revised, re-mixed and retained (the five basic principles of OER).

In other words, anyone can legally copy, use, adapt and re-share these materials, free of charge. It can include textbooks, syllabi, assignments, notes, projects, tests, or other learning materials.

Examples of OER

Examples of OER

Watch: “The birth of an open resource revolution”

Open-learning visionary Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions (now called OpenStax), an open-source, online education system. It cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify course materials freely, anywhere in the world.



Open educational resources for medicine

Open educational resources for medicine

On Nature’s website (Harmon, 2010) a large grow of medical ‘apps’ for smart and iPhones was mentioned.

Apps like these provide you with easily accessible information and instructions about for instance lifesaving acts, patient files or lab results. A lot of apps are meant for patients, others for professional health caretakers. Some are perfectly suitable for educational purposes. A pilot at the UM Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML) on the use of smartphones during internships even resulted in an evaluation framework for open educational resources.

We want to inform you of a selection of apps and websites, but also on how to check the quality of the source or application. For the latter, we refer to the tutorial created in close collaboration with FHML.


Selection of sites and apps

  • MedischOnderwijs  is a Dutch platform in which 8 medical institutions offer (international) e-learning sources to anyone who creates a free account. On this website, you can also get access to the Teaching Resource Centre (founded by the Centre for Human Drug Research) database on pharmacology using a newly developed graphical language, supportive text/charts, formative feedback questions, and animated computer teaching as instruction for pharmacology.
  •  (a collection of over 300 virtual patients developed by renown medical institutions in Europe. These virtual patients are available under a Creative Commons Licence)


Kahn Academy on The kidney and Nephron


Apps for smartphones

Within the Mobile Learning @ UM project, FHML (Jeroen Donkers ea) selected and offered various apps for surgery, ophthalmology and neurology internships (some in Dutch).


  • Medische Zakkaartjes
  • Oxford Handbook of surgery
  • Oxford Handbook of clinical medicine
  • Medcalc Medicatie
  • Epocrates Medscape
  • LabDx LabGear Abbstore
  • Mindnote PubMed Tap Dx
  • Saurus Antibiotics
  • FileViewer PDF Reader
  • Reader Stanza FDA drugs
  • Anatomy 2011 MedPage


  • Medische Zakkaartjes
  • Eye Handbook
  • Ophthalmology
  • Ophthalmology Clinical
  • Medicine EyeAlmanac
  • Eye Model FileViewer
  • Pubmed on Tap
  • Antibiotics MindNode


  • Medische Zakkaartjes
  • Neuromind 3D
  • Brain Brain Tutor
  • Nerve Whiz
  • Pubmed on Tap
  • Epocrates
  • Medscape Clinicalc
  • Medcalc Stanza
  • PDF Reader

Want to know more?

Contact Jeroen Donkers, working at the Education and Research Department (task force e-learning) of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences.


Workshop for students and teachers

To learn how to check the quality of the source and use it within your daily educational practice or (for teachers) to get acquainted with the possible and qualitative good open educational resources, we created a tutorial.

Go to tutorial
OER search engines and platforms

Examples of OER repositories that offer complete collections of open educational resources in a variety of domains:

You can also check this overview of several educational search engines and repositories that contain interesting, up-to-date collections of learning materials. SURF offers a search engine which connects to the SURF Sharekit (and connected platforms or repositories, mainly created by (Dutch) professional communities): SURFzoekportaal.

Publications on OER

Publications on OER

Just before the 2021 edition of the Open Education Week ACRL announced the publication of Open Educational Resources, compiled and authored by Mary Francis. The book is number 45 in ACRL’s CLIPP series (formerly called “CLIP Notes”) and focuses exclusively on the development and sustainability of open educational resource (OER) initiatives at colleges and small universities by collecting relevant survey data and process documents for the planning, funding, and management of OER initiatives at these institutions.

The College Library Information on Policy and Practice (CLIPP) publishing program, under the auspices of the College Libraries Section of ACRL, provides college and small university libraries analysis and examples of library practices and procedures.

In recognition of the 2019 Open Education Week, the HETL Association  offered the possibility to download a free copy of the HETL book, Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education .

The book provides an insightful collection of essays, exploring ways in which open education can democratise access to education for all. It is a rich resource that offers both research and case studies to relate the application of open technologies and approaches in education settings around the world.

Global in perspective, this book argues strongly for the value of open education in both the developed and developing worlds. Through a mixture of theoretical and practical approaches, it demonstrates that open education promotes ideals of inclusion, diversity, and social justice to achieve the vision of education as a fundamental human right.

A must-read for practitioners, policy-makers, scholars and students in the field of education.

Photos available in the public domain

Photos available  in the public domain

After registering, you can search and download free stock photography (2400×1600 resolution) with no copyright restrictions, Membership also gives you access to the Lightbox feature and other goodies. [hr]


Free photos in the public domain (no copyright restrictions) or Creative Commons license. Site now owned by Shutterstock, whose for-pay images may show up in searches but are clearly watermarked. [hr]


Although small, the Image*After database contains some excellent works (photos and textures) that are free with no copyright restrictions. Supported by advertisements from for-pay sites. [hr]

Developed in 1998 for artists, developers, teachers and students, the free photos are offered under Creative Commons licenses. [hr]

At the world’s largest community of artists, you’ll find all forms of art, including photography. Most photos are free with no copyright restriction. On home page, click on “Photography” under “Category.” If you seek the strikingly unusual, you’ll likely find it here. [hr]


Quality of the free images here is worth the price of admission: registration. Add free photos to your shopping cart in the regular way, but at checkout all you’ll see are some lovely zeros for price. [hr]


The title says it all: free, public domain photos without copyright restriction unless you intend to use them commercially, when a model or property release may be required. Registration required. [hr]


Small selection but the price is right (free) as well as the usage (no restrictions). Registration not required and resolutions large enough for quality work. [hr]

Large database (nearly 700,000) of quality work that can be used in any manner. Now owned and operated by Dreamstime, you must register with your email. Searches will return mixture of free and for-pay stock.

Incentive scheme Open & Online Education

Incentive scheme of Dutch Government (OCW) on open and online Education

Incentive scheme of Dutch Government (OCW) on open and online  Education

Open and online education offers opportunities for innovation and quality enhancement of education. The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, therefore, provides funding with the incentive scheme on open and online education  giving room for projects in two pillars: Online education and Open learning materials.

Pillar Online Education

Within this pillar (link refers to Dutch website), funding is granted for the redesign of existing education or the development of new online forms of education. Projects are in line with yearly themes. For 2021 this is ‘activating teaching, learning, and assessment’  and two challenges were mentioned to which the projects need to focus on: how to get and keep students engaged and how to deal with assessment when students are on a distance (due to the massive switch to online education given the corona measures) . SURF offers a dedicated page on this theme (in Dutch).

Pillar Open Learning Materials

Within this pillar (link refers to Dutch website), funding is granted for experimenting with the sharing and reuse of existing and open learning materials with colleagues in domain-specific communities. The scheme encourages teaching staff to jointly create and (re) use high-quality collections of open learning materials across institutional boundaries. Through collaboration, they can increase the quality of the open learning materials and use their time more efficiently.

UM projects in incentive scheme on open and online Education

Maastricht University has been successful 5 years in a row in acquiring OCW/SURF grants:

  • TOOL Anatomy Platform: Maastricht University (UM) and Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) have been joining forces with Dutch and Flemish anatomy departments to develop an open learning platform in which quality-controlled anatomy content and learning resources can be made freely available to all. Last year additional funding was granted to build a curated collection. The library is involved, focusing on metadating and copyright issues and creating awareness on creating, sharing and reusing open material by faculty staff and selecting qualitative open educational resources by students. This will give students easier access to good content and provide teachers with good teaching resources.
  • We-Mediate : skills such as negotiation and mediation are important for lawyers. UM  has developed modules to train and enhance these learning skills in a multimedia environment.
  • Leading to success – Smart choices & smart tools : the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance / UNU-MERIT created online modules  to support the development of open online services to help prospective students decide if the programme is a good study for them to choose, current students select which specialisation track to focus their graduate studies on, and alumni and practitioners refresh their previous studies and receive information of new topics.
    Smart Choices & Smart Tools explained by project coordinator Katerina Triantos


And granted in 2020 (start date of projects 1 September 2020)

UM Projects that have been granted this year:

Call for proposals on Open and online education 2021

Call for proposals on Open and online education 2022

When the Minister of Education, Culture and Science makes funding again available to higher education institutions, we will update this website with all the relevant information (including the UM roadmap for submitting proposals).

Open Education in the Netherlands

Open Education in the Netherlands

The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science underlines the importance of open and online learning and has included various ambitions for the Strategic Agenda for Higher Education and Research 2015-2025. According to the Minister’s vision, the Netherlands shall become a global leader in the open sharing of teaching materials by 2025.

Higher Education Institutes exchange knowledge and expertise on the topic of Open and Online Education through SURF, the collaborative ICT organisation for Dutch higher education and research. SURF hosts Special Interest Groups (SIGs), with experts from the participating research universities and universities of applied sciences. The Maastricht University Library represents the UM in a special SIG on open and online education. In addition, the UM library participates in a Library SIG on open and online education of the Dutch consortium of the thirteen university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands (UKB).

We also participate in the Acceleration Plan (focus on digital (open) learning material) in which we aim that by the 1st of January 2023, higher education institutions in the Netherlands can offer lecturers and students the opportunity to determine and use an optimal mix of (digital) educational resources for learning and teaching processes.

What is optimal in regards to the mix of educational resources, is determined by the context of the education. In that context, learning outcomes, educational and learning activities, and methods of assessment are aligned. An optimal mix of educational resources contributes to good quality education.

SURF on Open and Online Education

SURFs introduction to open educational resources (OER) explains what OER’s are, how you can use them in your own teaching, and how you can structure your own materials in such a way that others are able to make optimum use of them.

Are you building a collection of open educational resources? If so, make sure that the learning materials are good quality and that they meet the right criteria. Creating a quality model can help in assessing learning materials.

Copyright & Creative Commons

OER Copyright Game

OER Copyright Game

To learn how to find, create, localize, and reuse of open educational resources:


OER remix game

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons Licenses

A copyright license that is easy to create and enables the copyright holder to give permission for different forms of kinds of use of their material free of charge or bureaucracy.

The Licenses

Attributed CC BY


This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Attributed-sharealike cc by-sa


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

Attributed-noderivs cc by-nd


This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attributed-noncommercial cc by-nc


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution-Noncommercial-sharealike cc by-nc-sa


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-Noncommercial-noderivs cc by-nc-nd


This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Create your own license at: Creative Commons Choose a License .

More on OER & copyright

More on OER & copyright

The Open Education Week globally celebrates the Open Education Movement. One aspect of Open Education is the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are freely accessible, openly licensed documents that are useful for education as well as research purposes.

In the development of OER and opening them up for the rest of the world legal issues can arise. The copyright of OER is protected under Creative Commons licenses [Pdf]. This protects the copyright of the author and makes the resource openly available under varying restrictions.

Are you unsure about using educational resources and their copyright? Check out the Maastricht University Library Copyright Information Point  for more information and advice.

Interesting links about OER and copyright


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