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Why OER?

Module by: ISKME. E-mail the author

Summary: Why consider using open educational resources? This module will cover the what and why of OER and how you can get started using OER materials in OER Commons.

OER Commons would like to welcome you to the ever-expanding community of educators and life-long learners who are using and creating content in the open education movement. The objective of this hands-on course is to help you quickly start using and creating open educational resources (OER). This module “Why OER?” is the first module in this self-paced online course “The How-tos” of OER Commons.” Here is the complete list of modules:

These modules can be completed in any order; work on the ones most relevant to your needs. Consider working through this module “Why OER?” first: it provides the framework you’ll need for the other modules.

Let’s begin by making sure we are on the same page with some OER basics.

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for anyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student, or self-learner. OER can exist as smaller, stand-alone resources that can be mixed and combined to form larger pieces of content, or as larger course modules or full courses.

OER is also a process of engaging with the materials. This process involves sharing materials that you have created, either individually or in groups with other teachers and/or learners; using and adapting others’ materials for your own use; and sharing back modifications to or comments about others’ materials so that future users can benefit. In this course, when we use the term OER, we are talking about the process of engaging with the materials.

Here are a few examples of materials that have been submitted for anyone to use and adapt for their own use:

Circle of Pong

From The Tech Museum of Innovation come a collection of fun design challenges which present students from grades 4 to 8 with problems that require them to apply their knowledge just like designers and engineers in the "real world." In this challenge, learners use their knowledge of potential and kinetic energy, and explore forces and motion to place a ball into the center of a 6-foot diameter circle. These informal exercises are licensed for use and reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5.

Time Management

From KQED Education Network, this lesson's aim is to develop students' understanding of the importance of managing time. It is the first lesson in the study skills series and is intended to support adult learners who are embarking on a course of study and need to acquire skills which will help them to be successful. The lessons are designed as a package with key skills reinforced in each subsequent lesson so that a study culture is developed over time. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5.

An Ad for an Element

A lesson plan for Grades 9–12 Chemistry and Physical Science from LEARN NC. Build an understanding of the structure and properties of matter while practicing communications skills. The author comments: "My students really showed creativity. I have had every form of ad turned in from video commercials to pamphlets to movie posters". Licensed for use and reuse under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5.

These materials, as well as thousands of others, can be found in OER Commons, a comprehensive open learning network that provides the platform for facilitating the OER process.

OER is much more than a collection of resources. It is more than a thing. It is also a process that is dependent upon teachers and learners who continuously improve the resources, and share their use scenarios so that others can also benefit. It is also about collaborating to create materials.

Why OER?

OER is a relatively new movement in education; educators and learners as well as learning institutions are driving its development. OER provides an alternative to the rising costs of education. For example, in some countries like South Africa, some educators and learners are tapping into OER as the only source for textbooks. OER provides an opportunity to try new ways of teaching and learning, many of which are more collaborative and participatory.

Some educators are using OER as a way to get students more involved, using the OER process as a way to collaborate with them on content creation. This process brings students into a larger context of learning and sharing knowledge beyond the four walls of their classroom.

Flexibility is a key concept in OER—materials can be adapted for your specific needs. Because these materials can be searched by a wide variety of criteria, you can quickly find what you specifically need.

OER is relevant, usable, adaptable, and free

Because of the flexibility of OER materials, you can make them relevant to you and your students’ needs. Why are educators and learners prompted to search for teaching and learning materials? An OER Commons survey of over 400 teachers and learners in 2007 reveals that:

  • 29% use OER to expand knowledge or learn a new topic
  • 17% use OER to stay current
  • 15% use OER to get ideas for lessons or coursework
  • 11% use OER to supplement lessons or coursework
  • 10% use OER to improve teaching methods
  • 10% use OER to connect with teachers or learners who have similar interests
  • 5% have other reasons why they use OER
  • 3% use OER to complete a class assignment.

Discussions with teachers and learners illustrate the precise ways they are using OER materials. One educator in particular describes his experiences with OER as a way to create a much-needed textbook with his colleagues. Here’s what he says:

“I guess about five years ago, being a professor, there was just a loose group of individuals who had expertise in signal processing spread over the country and we all were teaching and thinking about teaching courses. We all kind of felt like there was no common textbook that all were excited about. There just seemed to be a need like a textbook for this class. So it just seemed to be a possibility for all of us together to take notes and things that we have developed for classes and combine them into this particular way.”

And a student describes his use of OER to complement his notes and lectures:

“I just look for any concepts that I need for [my] classes that are a little shady from my notes and lectures. That’s pretty much what I do now.”

OER Commons, an evolution in learning

OER Commons is in the forefront in providing a teaching and learning network of shared materials, from K-12 through college, from algebra to zoology, open to everyone to use and add to. We’ll be using OER Commons in this course for all the hands-on activities.

As of 2007, OER Commons has nearly seventy institutional partner collections bringing over 11,000 resources to instructors and learners. And it’s growing every day!

You, the important contributor

The power of OER is the contribution of individual educators and learners, like you. Your contribution makes a difference worldwide in education. The following two stories illustrate how OER has touched the lives of both students and educators.

OER stories from around the world

Students in New York and Barcelona collaborate on a global climate change presentation.

An educator in Hong Kong finds group exercises for her learning sciences class.

Your experience using open and freely shared course-related materials is valuable in the reuse and evolution of the materials. Tell us your story; how you’ve used these materials and how their use has impacted how you teach or learn.

Activities in this Module

The following activities have been created to help you get started with OER using OER Commons.

Activity: Join OER Commons

If you don’t have a free OER Commons account yet, complete the short registration form. Your account will be created immediately.

Activity: Join the OER Commons electronic newsletter

To receive regular updates about the exciting developments in OER Commons, subscribe to the newsletter on the OER Commons homepage. Look for the blue box on the right side of the computer screen called “Sign Up to Receive e-News!” Enter your email address and click the “Sign Up Now” button.

You can also view archives of the newsletter online.

Activity: Using OER materials

In the OER Commons discussion “How and Why of OER,” post your stories, suggestions, and questions with using OER in your teaching and learning. Here are some questions to consider in your post:

  1. How have you used OER in your teaching and learning?
  2. How have your students used OER? What were their learning outcomes?
  3. What have been your challenges in using OER?
  4. What impact has OER had on your institution?
  5. If you had unlimited resources, how would you contribute to the OER?

If you haven’t started using OER, consider these questions:

  1. What challenges have you had in trying to use OER?
  2. What would assist you in starting to use OER?

Optional Activity: Facebook

If you are a Facebook member, add OER Daily to your profile to receive a new-featured item from the OER Commons site every day.

Facebook members can find the OER Daily application at: http://apps.facebook.com/oercdaily

To add OER Daily to your profile, click the link "GRAB THIS APP!"

For More Information

The following resources have been selected to provide more information on concepts we covered in this module.

What is OER

About OER Commons

In this module, some OER basics were presented and opportunities were provided to help you get started using OER Commons. In the next module, “Finding OER Materials You Can Start Using Now,” will cover finding OER materials you can start using right now in your teaching and learning.

OER Commons Links

For more information about OER Commons, send an email to info@oercommons.org.

Use this feedback form to send OER Commons general feedback, a feature request, or information about a bug/problem you had using the site.

To see the ever-growing list of the new content providers and contributors to OER Commons, visit the Content Providers page often. You can be one too!

“Quotable Quote”

For all information’s independence and extent, it is people, in their communities, organizations, and institutions, who ultimately decide what it all means and why it matters1.

About This Module

The "How Tos" of OER Commons is a set of learning modules evolving out of the development of OER Commons (http://www.oercommons.org), a teaching and learning network for free-to-use educational materials from around the world, created and licensed by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME).

Course contributors are Lisa Petrides, Amee Godwin, and Cynthia Jimes, and online learning consultant, Patricia Delich.

For more information, visit http://www.iskme.org and http://elearningnetworks.com.

Footnotes

  1. Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002). The social life of information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

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What are tags? tag icon

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