Having questions about OER is important. We will try to anticipate some of your questions by asking who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Who uses OER? Faculty and students, obviously. Beyond that there is a widening circle of those who use or can use OER, these include:
Why Open Educational Resources Matter from Walsh (2012) answers the question in a two-minute video.
Beyond obviating concerns over the financial impact of textbooks on students and lessening their debt load, faculty also benefit.
Professors can now create OER to fit how they teach a topic. Course materials can now be tied to pedagogical style. No more skipping around a textbook or supplemental reading. Nor is there the wait for a new edition, while students are buying older editions to save money. Updates are available as soon as you make them and it costs your students nothing extra. OER have no additional or hidden costs. Not only are they free and legal to use, changes are not only accepted they are encouraged. Additions range from text to multimedia or scenario-based education. Some professors even include upper level or graduate students in the OER creation process using collaborative platforms. There are also opportunities to network and collaborate peers around the world. Content is also defacto peer-reviewed on an ongoing basis.
OER offer improved access as they are available prior to and after the class. Students can read ahead and have material on the first day of class. Delivery times and financial aid are no longer impediments to students being ready on Day One. OER are also accessible on various devices.
Beth McMurtrie’s article What Exactly is a 'Free' Textbook, and Other Questions About Open Resources in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s weekly newsletter offers an introduction to OER for faculty.
UNESCO has a brief video explaining OER.
Q: What are the disadvantages of OER?
A: As the field of OER is still emerging, there are inconsistences and lack of agreement in the OER community over legal restrictions & restrictions. There are not standards in place for content publishers to make all their work available to all.
Quality Control: In some OER there are problems with layout, design, and copy editing. In addition, there is no assurance that material is current or complete or even coherent. It is incumbent upon the user to review items to ensure the quality or the source.
Sustainability : Not to say OER are a phantasmagoria, but there are reports of un-backed-up OER- Links changing or even vanishing between semesters or even in the middle of the term! Beyond that links within OER can suddenly become 404ed!
Again, it is incumbent on the user to archive and back up to a reliable repository. In addition, there are number free link-checkers for publicly accessible websites to help what is still there and what has gone missing.
OER should also be ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant. For further guidance, consider consulting the WebAIM's WCAG 2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) Checklist.
Copyright/Intellectual Property Concerns: Just because something says it is OER does not mean it is. As OERs are intended to be shared openly, the “fair use" exemption from the U.S. Copyright Act ceases to apply. Consequently, it also behooves the user to check all OER content one potentially uses to ensure that it does not violate copyright law.
Consult the Creative Common Licenses to better understand how information is categorized and shared via Creative Commons.
Q: What are the differences between OER and Library resources?
A: Library electronic resources are a transparent cost. In other words, tuition pays for them. Unlike OER they are not free and eBooks often limit the number of simultaneous users.
One of the unique features of OER are the users; prerogative to copy, adapt, adopt, and share. Library materials are still protected by copyright laws do not have that degree of latitude.
Library eResources licenses and contracts are also limited to Heritage students, faculty, and staff. OER are open to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
However, while resources available from the library that are free to students can contribute to affordable learning, they are not necessarily ""open"" educational resources
OER can either be in the public domain, or under a laxer intellectual property license.
OER can be revised, remixed, added upon, translated, and then shared again to meet different needs.
OER can take many forms, such as: syllabi, lesson plans, videos, software, tests, teaching techniques, group activities, writing prompts, textbooks, learning modules, experiments, simulations, and course designs. There are no platform restraints.
So how well do these OER work? In Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices, Hilton (2016) conducted a meta-analysis of 16 articles to see how well OER influence college student learning outcomes, and/or how faculty and student perceive OER. There was little to no difference in learning outcomes, but students were very appreciative of saving money. Overall, students and professors hold a favorable perception of OER.
What does the research say about OER? This 3 minute video from the The Council of Chief State School Officers, 2016 underscores the research ( What does the research say about OER? 2016).
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So if you have gotten this far, you may be asking, “How does one get started?” Here are some suggestions:
Start small. Find an OER from your subject area (more on that later) and try it out on your students. If you like it and they like it, keep using it. If not, keep looking.
Speak up. If you and your students both enjoyed that resource, let others know. Post a review. Open Book Publishers, OER Commons, Open Yale Courses, and Merlot among other OER collections allow users to comment on resources.
If being a peer –reviewer is your thing there are a number of opportunities to systematically review
Become an OER broker. Collect them, Save them. Trade them with your colleagues. Show them off on your website or blog. Post them to social media such as Academia.edu or LinkedIn. Share them on listserves. Point them to your favorite librarian! You gotta’ catch ‘em all! All the cool professors are!
Wanna go further?
Creating OER do not require any special tools or skills. The word processing and graphic editing software you already use are enough to get started or go beyond the content you are already creating. You can share your own graphics, spreadsheets, content videos, activities, learning tools, games, assignments, assessments, etc.