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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., (August 22, 2011) – A consortium of leaders in the open education movement has been awarded a grant from the European Union’s Lifelong Learning program. The consortium partners include the OpenCourseWare Consortium, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands), Universidad Politécnica Madrid (Spain), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Universitat de Barcelona (Spain), Université de Lyon, VetAgro Sup (France), Creative Commons, and the European Association of Distance Education Universities. The project, entitled “OpenCourseWare (OCW) in the European Higher Education Context: How to make use of its full potential for virtual mobility” will focus on virtual student mobility through the increased use of OCW and the positive role that OCW plays for lifelong learners.

The project will support closer ties between universities through the use and production of OpenCourseWare, encouraging mutual use of materials among institutions. It will also create a European OCW network that will support open exchange of educational materials, quality assurance and sharing best practices. Increased availability of high-quality online materials with support for their use from the network should result in higher usage of online courses, and support greater virtual student mobility. This network of institutions across Europe can lay the groundwork for other types of collaboration in line with the aims of the European Union’s Erasmus programme.

“OpenCourseWare provides free access to many high quality courses from different European universities, accessible to enrolled students as well as lifelong learners”, said Drs. Anka Mulder, secretary general of Delft University of Technology and president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium’s board of directors. “Having free and open access to such rich educational material provides insight not only into the subject matter, but also the pedagogy and cultural underpinnings that inform it. Promotion of the benefits of OpenCourseWare in European higher education can stimulate cross-cultural understanding through virtual means. These efforts will be greatly enhanced by the expertise brought by the OpenCourseWare Consortium.”

Goals for the project include improving the infrastructure that will make the OCW network possible, including quality control, legal considerations, promotion, and joint development of OCW. Partners will also develop models for sustainable cooperation between institutions to ensure the ongoing benefits of the project. “The European OCW network has the potential to raise the importance of OCW in higher education very quickly”, said Mary Lou Forward, executive director of the OCW Consortium. “We are thrilled that the European Union has provided grant funding to support these efforts.”