The Budapest Declaration on Open Access promised that open access would “lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge”. The Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources said that open educational resources would “Improve both cost-efficiency and quality of teaching and learning outcomes”. In one sense the promised revolution has not materialised: the impact so far within formal education may seem small. However, openness has transformed the online world that we all inhabit, whether as students, staff, or members of the public. Some of the most popular sites on the internet are open educational resources, and together they share hundreds of millions of images, articles and other files for educational use.
Students come to university already familiar with Khan Academy, with Wikipedia, with iTunes and other openly available sources. Their choice of degree may well have been shaped by video clips and other materials found online. Openly available materials do not replace the university experience, but they can complement it, as supplements to diversify the presentation of an idea, or as building blocks to be repurposed in making new materials. They are a commons that anyone can draw on, and which professional educators are best placed to make innovative use of.