Open Educational Resources: What are they and why should educators care?

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER can be full courses, course materials, lesson plans, open textbooks, learning objects, videos, games, tests, software, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.” – SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)

Educators should consider using OER because they reduce textbook costs for students, increase access to course materials (e.g., available on-demand across devices), increase collaboration (between educators, between students and educators), and provide flexibility and quality of material (e.g., tailoring material for specific purposes, adding current content). In short, OER reduce barriers to education while also increasing quality of teaching and learning.

Where do I start looking for OER textbooks?

  • Find textbooks through online textbook collections. OpenStax provides free learning modules and textbooks both developed and peer-reviewed by educators. Open Textbook Library is another collection that pulls titles from multiple OER sources.
  • Find textbooks by discipline. OER textbooks are available in a variety of fields, including commonly required coursework and high-enrollment classes. The PSU Library has curated pages by discipline for a number of disciplines.
  • Find textbooks created by PSU faculty. To join the OER movement, PSU has created its own publishing initiative, PDXOpen, which supports faculty in developing their own open access textbooks.
  • Find textbooks using search engines. Two great options to begin your search are OASIS and Mason OER Metafinder (MOM), which search across OER repositories and thousands of entries. These search engines are particularly helpful for finding textbooks for more advanced or specialized courses.

How do I use OER?

  • Use existing work: Because OER are licensed under Creative Commons (CC), they can be shared easily at no cost. If you would like to use CC-licensed work that you did not create, all you must do is follow the terms laid out by the creator.
  • Modify existing work: A useful resource is an OER book titled Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know. It is a five-part, step-by-step guide designed for faculty and those who support faculty.
  • Author your own work: One helpful guide for creating OER is Authoring Open Textbooks. This book is marketed towards faculty, librarians, project managers, and others.
  • Involve students in authoring collaborative work: A useful place to begin the process is a handbook titled A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students. This book is designed for faculty who are interested in engaging in open pedagogy by including their students in the creation of OER.

Where can I find other forms of OER and free teaching materials?

  • Videos:
    • Khan Academy: A collection of instructional videos, practice exercises, and other educational videos across a variety of subject areas.
    • Moving Image Archive: Over one million free films, movies, and other videos. Many (but not all) of these videos are available for free download. Be sure to check for permissions information provided in the video description to determine whether you’ll need to contact the producer for permissions.
    • YouTube Education University: Primarily a collection of lectures in various disciplines. YouTube offers a filter so that you can search for videos published under Creative Commons licensing.
  • Photos/Images:
    • Wikimedia Commons: Openly licensed and public domain images and visual media hosted by Wikimedia.
    • Flickr: Many photos on Flickr are available for free use and editing with a Creative Commons license.
    • Unsplash and Pixabay: While all photos on Unsplash and Pixabay are free to use, photographers published on these sites appreciate being credited as it gives exposure to the artist’s work. Crediting the photographer can simply be including their name and link to their profile/photo.
    • The Gender Spectrum Collection: This photo collection seeks to add more gender diversity and representation to “stock” photos often used in traditional lecture slides, presentations, and so on. While the licensing of these photos requires that you credit the creator and use the photos as is without editing them, they are all free to use for educational, non-commercial purposes.
  • Books/Literature:
    • Bloomsbury Academic: A collection of books and digital resources in the humanities, social sciences, and visual arts.
    • Project Gutenberg: “Offers over 58,000 free eBooks. Choose among free epub and Kindle eBooks, download them or read them online. You will find the world’s great literature here, with focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired. Thousands of volunteers digitized and diligently proofread the eBooks, for enjoyment and education.”
      Supplemental Materials:
    • OER Commons: “A public digital library of open educational resources,” including syllabi, lesson plans, assignments, modules, textbooks, etc.
    • The Orange Grove: A repository of various OER materials.

Learn More Elsewhere:

This article was last updated on Nov 12, 2020 @ 3:39 pm.

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