Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain and have been released under an open licence that permits access, use, repurposing, reuse and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions (Atkins, Brown and Hammond, 2007). The use of open technical standards improves access and reuse potential. OER can include full courses and programmes, course materials, modules, student guides, teaching notes, textbooks, research articles, videos, assessment tools and instruments, interactive materials such as simulations and role plays, databases, software, apps (including mobile apps) and any other educationally useful materials. The term ‘OER’ is not synonymous with online learning, eLearning or mobile learning. Many OERs, while shareable in a digital format, are also printable.
Moodle is the OER software used in Skillman. Moodle is a commonly used open-source software in education. The website for Moodle is www.moodle.org. Moodle is compatible with Linux, UNIX, Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and any other system that supports PHP. In 2011 it was downloaded about 500 times a day and contains more than 28,000 registered sites, over a million courses and a learning community of ten million.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, attempts to make use of distance education methods have generally been driven by a desire to build on some or all of the following lessons emerging from the history of distance education practices:
1. Providing access to students who, because of work commitments, geographical distance, or poor quality or inadequate prior learning experiences, would be denied access to traditional, full-time contact educational opportunities. This motivation may have been the key motivating factor behind the use of distance education methods. The drive has been stimulated partly by growing awareness of the importance of lifelong learning and corresponding attempts to respond to market needs. It has also been motivated by dwindling student numbers in some of the more traditional areas of educational provision and a corresponding need to find new educational markets.
2. Seeking to expand access to educational provision to significantly larger numbers of students. This motivation is linked to the previous one, but is not the same. Its difference lies chiefly in the scale of the programmes. Many programmes motivated by a desire to provide access to students who would be denied access to traditional full-time contact education do not really have the goal of reaching significantly larger numbers of students. Indeed, it is notable that large-scale distance education programmes are, in general, confined to very few educational sectors, most notably nursing and teacher training. Most other programmes tend to be small-scale interventions, although there may be a change in this regard as alignment between industry/commerce and programme providers gathers momentum.
3. Shifting patterns of expenditure to achieve economies of scale by amortizing identified costs (particularly investments in course design and development and in effective administrative systems) over time and large student numbers. This motivation draws together the above two motivations and has been an underlying economic rationale for many distance education institutions around the world. Its success depends on limiting the number of courses but maximizing enrolments in them. Many distance education programmes simply have neither the intention nor the capacity to exploit these economic benefits. The reasons for this are varied, but most commonly it is because market demand is simply not big enough to create programmes enrolling thousands of students or because institutions or programmes have neither the financial nor the human capacity to make large-scale venture capital investments in course design and development or administrative systems to support the implementation of large-scale distance education. The latter problem is exacerbated by the reality that administrative systems at these institutions have been so narrowly designed to support full-time contact education that the investments necessary to adapt these systems would often exceed what would be necessary to set up new systems from scratch.