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Get Up To Speed with OER

This is a self-paced tutorial for faculty and staff to learn about Open Educational Resources - what they are, how to find and evaluate them, how to adapt and create them, and how to handle the copyright and technical implications.

Why OERs Matter

Opportunities and Benefits

OER make sense both economically and pedagogically, because:

  • They cost nothing to use, retain, reuse, revise, remix or redistribute, and nothing in terms of time to track down copyright owners and negotiate licenses.
  • We don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” OERs allow each of us to focus on our specialized expertise while taking advantage of everyone else’s. The result is, ideally, improved quality of instruction and better learning outcomes.
  • They encourage the spread of highly effective teaching methods and techniques.
  • They allow and even encourage customization to your learning objectives and your particular learners.
  • They can raise an individual’s or institution’s reputation and allow them to serve new communities.
  • As a diversified source of educational materials, they provide an alternative to the increasingly concentrated, powerful, and ideologically homogenous oligopoly of textbook publishers.
  • They bring educational resources and opportunities to inner cities, extremely rural areas, and the developing world, where many specialized subject areas are unavailable. They also help individuals who don't have access to formal education but do have the desire and ability to learn independently.

Costs and Risks

On the other hand, it would be irresponsible to ignore the costs and disadvantages of using OER.

  • If you're used to use suites of educational materials purchased or licensed from an outside entity - text book, images, quizzes, etc. - then you will have to adjust to a more ad hoc and piecemeal world. On the plus side, OERs are more flexible and conducive to multiple viewpoints.
  • It takes time and expertise to create OERs. That time and expertise costs money, because people deserve to be paid for their work.
  • It still takes time and expertise to adapt or adopt existing OERs.
    • Gathering
    • Evaluating
    • Integrating into your course as is or
    • Adapting (revising, reformatting, reimagining, etc.) them to integrate into your course
  • Textbook publishers have experts devoted to production values - copy editing, formatting for the page, technical bells and whistles. Not all of this is superfluous, and larger OER projects rely on staff with those specific skills and dedicated time. You may notice that this particular OER is almost all text with the occasional amateurish video - that is because I am a single librarian working on this alone, in between other projects. A lot more is possible with a team of people who are authorized to make it their priority. Some OERs do just fine like this; others really work better with adaptive quizzes with conditional logic, professionally captured images, well-drawn charts and diagrams, animations, interactive simulations, games, interesting and attractive videos, etc.
  • It is all too tempting for institutions to rely on enthusiastic faculty who adopt, adapt, and create OERs on their own time. Passion projects are what started this movement - they can and do change the world - but widespread and long-term success require material support from the institution.