Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research resources made freely available for use and often modification. Importantly, the open education approach means that many OER have been peer-reviewed either formally or informally by a community of educators. OER can be downloaded, embedded, re-used or adapted to suit particular teaching or learning activities, depending on the license, and can include:
- courses and units: structured sequences of information and activities in large chunks aimed at set learning outcomes. This also includes massive open online courses (MOOCs) which utilise and promote learner autonomy and social networking to establish very large cohorts.
- learning activities: lessons plans, lectures, tutorial and classroom activities, assessment items
- digital assets: textbooks, research, lecture recordings, image files, video clips (for textbooks see the SCU Library's Open educational resources (OERs) - textbooks page)
- diagrams, graphs, PowerPoint slides, data sets (for example, iBioseminars)
- software: simulations, games, virtual laboratories (for example, labVIEW).
Open resources are given their 'openness' in a legal sense through licensing. Open licensing such as Creative Commons are based on 'some rights reserved' rather than the more traditional 'all rights reserved'.
Open licensing allows people to use (and often re-purpose) work whilst still giving creators legal protection and a level of control over their material.
The potential for enhancing teaching and learning through OER is still being realised and will continue to change with subsequent technological developments. For example, never before have students had access to such large repositories of open digital resources, many of which will allow students to test their knowledge automatically. These OER may complement your existing resources or may offer new possibilities for supporting student learning in challenging content areas.
In many ways, using OER in your teaching is the same as using other digital resources. The Centre for Teaching and Learning website provides general support for the use of learning technologies and digital resources, especially through the Learning Technologies Online (LTO) series of web-based modules.
For example, the LTO Developing Course Content module provides information about the benefits and challenges of using and creating digital learning resources and OER. The module also includes practical support for using digital resources effectively for particular teaching approaches, e.g. inquiry-based learning.
What should you look for in OER? How can you evaluate OER? When searching for interactive OER, especially interactive resources, it is important to consider the ease of use and how readily available it is in various formats. It is also important to evaluate how any interactivity:
- generates a unique learning experience
- promotes student engagement
- supports deep learning.
What counts as quality will mostly be determined by how well a particular resource suits the needs of your learners and helps them to achieve the unit learning outcomes.
Open resources and OER can be quickly and legally incorporated into your teaching by becoming familiar with:
- finding material with the appropriate open content licence
- attributing work correctly
- accessibility principles and guidelines.
Open resources, including rich media, may use a range of licence types and technological protection measures to facilitate reuse, remixing, revision and redistribution. The most common licensing system is Creative Commons.
Understanding the various Creative Common licences helps determine which Creative Commons licence may be most appropriate for use in your teaching at SCU. The SCU Library provides a useful introduction to this open licence system. The SCU Library also provides important information for supporting legal use of this site in your teaching and learning designs.
There is no single way to attribute the author of a resource licensed under Creative Commons licencing. There are, however, core principles that can be used to ensure authors/owners are acknowledged appropriately. These are covered, along with examples, in the SCU Library's guide for Attributing Creative Commons materials.
'A principal philosophy behind open educational resources is to maximise the opportunity for others to be able to engage, not only as recipients but also as potential contributors' (McAndrew, 2012, p.86).
The quote above, which was taken from a research OER, emphasises the close association between accessibility and the ethos of 'openness'. A major accessibility challenge with respect to OER is their enormous diversity. For example, you may find a valuable computer simulation for your unit, but find that it will not work for your learners and their available technology. In this regard, the principles of accessibility are in many ways synonymous with good learning design principles. Ensuring accessibility involves thinking about the choice of content, presentation, organisation, structure and navigation, as well as of technologies and software. For more information see the Centre for Teaching and Learning's Designing for accessibility.