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OER Introduction

Module by: Judy Baker. E-mail the author

Summary: Overview of the open educational resources movement and available tools.

Lesson:  Introduction

Lesson Components

  • Fast Fact
  • Skills/Objectives
  • Success Indicators
  • Introduction
  • Activity
  • Review questions
  • Resources

Fast Fact

According to Wikipedia, OER is a term that was first adopted at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the Hewlett Foundation. The definition OER is:

“digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and re-use for teaching, learning and research”

Skills/Objectives

Learners will be able to:

  1. Define and describe OER.
  2. List the advantages and disadvantages of OER use.

Success Indicators

  1. Learner memberships in OER community websites.
  2. Learner-generated posting to open forum about OER issues.

Introduction

Definition

Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning materials freely available in the public domain. A definition of OER from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is:

"OER are teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge."

The term OER has been used to refer to learning materials such as:

Background

Hewlett Foundation has taken a pioneering role in the development and use of OER with its support of many initiatives: "The Open Educational Resources movement began in 2001 when the Hewlett and the Andrew W. Mellon foundations jointly funded MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), the first institution committed to making all of its course materials freely available. Since then, more than 60 additional institutions have launched OpenCourseWare Web sites." Just some of the many OER initatives supported by the Hewlett Foundation include:

The Open Educational Resources movement is part of a global effort to make knowledge available to all.  The UNESCO's Virtual University Forum provides an overview about definitions, initiatives, and community-building. Many repositories of open learning materials are listed at the Open Educational Resources (OER) Index.

Some benefits of OER include:

  • Fosters pedagogical innovation and relevance that avoids teaching from the textbook
  • Broadens use of alternatives to textbooks while maintaining instructional quality
  • Lowers costs of course materials for students

Some disadvantages of OER include:

  • Quality of available OER materials inconsistent
  • Materials may not meet Section 508 ADA accessibility or SCORM requirements and must be modify to bring into compliance
  • No common standard for review of OER accuracy and quality 
  • Need to check accuracy of content
  • Customization necessary to match departmental and/or college curriculum requirements
  • Technical requirements to access vary
  • Technological determinism created by the delivery tool

Case Study

In his May 2006 article "Bye the Book My year of teaching environmental science without a textbook" Eric Pallant describes how he and co-professor Terry Bensel experimented with teaching their Introduction to Environmental Science course at Allegheny College with no textbook. Instead they used a variety of open educational resources. Based on self-report, 41 of 46 students in their first-semester class read the same or more than they would have in a textbook. The experiment proved successful enough that the entire academic department has embraced the concept of OER. Faculty have distributed the work of collecting and banking websites for common use.

Sustainability

Recently, several websites have become available that provide tools to support the identification, development, use, re-use, collaboration, and delivery of open learning content including searching and organization of content. Some websites, such as: OER Commons, Open Learn, Open Content, WikiEducator, Connexions, OWL Institute, and OERderves, are devoted to nurturing online learning communities, wikis, and blogs on various aspects of OER. Also, a new journal has gone online with a focus on OER: Eduforge: The International Journal of Open Education Resources.

Support for OER Use on Campus

In order to promote use of OER across campus, the challenges must be identified and addressed.  Results of a two-year study are presented in the article "Why Study Users: An Environmental Scan of Use and Users of Digital Resources in the Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Education."  Based on this study, barriers to use of digital resources including the lack of direct relevance to their preferred pedagogical approaches, and insufficient time and classroom resources. Challenges

  • Resources for faculty support
  • Quality assurance of learning materials
  • Limited availability of fully vetted and comprehensive learning materials in some disciplines
  • Articulation and transfer issues
  • Printing and computer lab demands on campus by students
  • Identification of collaborative tools for development, use, and delivery of OER learning materials
  • Fostering use of the tools by faculty
  • Compliance with federal and state accessibility requirements

Resources Needed to Support Faculty Use and Development of OER

  • Training
  • Technical assistance
  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Release time

Activity

Experience

1. Get connected and become a part of the OER movement community:

2. Read at least one of the following about the OER movement:

Reflect

1. Once you have joined OER Commons, make your own posting to the OER Matters Discussions area. Click on OER Matters Teaching and Learning Forum to answer the following question:

"Opening up new avenues for teachers and learners to select and augment learning resources that meet one’s unique teaching and learning needs is the basic mission behind OER. But how do OER impact teaching and learning and what are the issues that we need to take into consideration?""

Apply

Now that you have a general idea of what OER is all about, you should be ready to make a couple of decisions:

1. Do you want to learn more about OER?

  • Decide which lessons you want to complete in this tutorial.
  • Decide the order in which you want to complete the lessons that makes the most sense for your learning needs.

2. Do you want to get the most out of this learning experience?

  • Invite a colleague to join you in this tutorial.
  • Complete all the exercises listed in the Activity component of each Lesson.

Review Questions

  1. What are Open Educational Resources?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages to using OER for teaching?

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Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

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