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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.

Usability for OER

Design and Usability

In order for learners to engage with your content effectively, it needs to be well designed.

Do away with ideas of learners being lazy, unable to deal with challenging material, or unable to learn a new technology. Humans have natural limitations to their sensory and language processing, and if we push those limits, students will have little cognitive power left over for learning.

There are relatively rare individuals who can accommodate more sensory or information overload. Those gifts, while useful and impressive, are separate from ability and intelligence. We shouldn't screen out perfectly capable students just because they lack a neurological quirk that allows them to assimilate poorly presented content.

The principles of Universal Design for Learning will assist you in creating Open Educational Resources that work for all kinds of learners. In particular: 

Reading on a screen fatigues the eyes and the visual part of the brain, for a number of reasons. Practice and experience do not completely solve the problem. 

  • Short chunks of text - shorter than you would use in a print resource. 
  • Visual markers like bullet points and headers
  • Lots of white space
  • Highly readable typeface or font
  • High quality images (true color, not blurry, not too dark or light)
  • Images that are sized to the page, but can be opened in a new page and zoomed in on.
  • Quality images guidelines.
  • Relatively short pages, to minimize scrolling
  • No scrolling across the page horizontally
  • Clear, consistent navigation
  • If there is something you want your learners to notice right away, put it at the top left or top center. People scan a web page in a shape that looks like a capital F.
  • Use a good camera and microphone, and adjust the settings until you get great quality.

Accessibility for OER


No educational resource is really Open if it's not usable by people with disabilities. This is the law - the Americans with Disabilities Act and sections of the Rehabilitation Act require it.

  • All videos that you create should have closed captions.
  • Any information presented visually in a video should be presented verbally as well. 
  • All audio files should come with transcripts.
  • All images should have descriptive alt text. (And for the love of little green men, don't use the alt tag for anything else.)
  • All links should say what they go to, not just the URL or "click here".
  • Keep in mind how you will provide an equivalent, satisfactory learning experience to someone who can't see, can't hear, has trouble with memory or attention, can't use their hands, or can't leave their home.
  • Many people have difficulties with cognitive processing for countless different reasons, both permanent and temporary. If you've ever tried to remember a series of numbers while some jerk shouted random numbers in your ear, that's what it can be like. Chunk information down and use transitions. Be brief and clear. Summarize things at the beginning and end.

Universal Design for Learning Tool

Use this Universal Design for Online Learning tutorial from the University of Northern Colorado as preparation for creating Open Educational Resources. You will notice that many of the videos I am including only have YouTube's terrible automatic captions. These have gotten much better in the past couple of years, but they are still not ideal. Only the owner of a YouTube video can add captions - that's why, even if there's a Creative Commons license, it's not really an Open Educational Resource unless you can get the source file in an editable format!