Overview on Open Educational Resources

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What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Educational Resources (OER), can be defined as:

Educational Materials that are freely accessible and openly licensed, allowing users to adapt, share, or use; with limited or no restrictions.

There are several other possible definitions, but the main takeaways are that they have to be:

  • Free – This means that you can readily find, download, and use the material without paying someone to access digitally.
  • Open – This means that the materials are under a version of Creative Commons License (in terms of copyright) or public domain, that allows you to adapt, share, and use the material without infringing copyright.

You may also hear about the 5 R’s (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute), which is a metric used to determine if a material really is “open“.

Benefits of OER

OER is typically referenced as something worth pursuing due to the following benefits:

  • Increases Student LearningResearch has shown that using OER can lead to better outcomes in student learning.
  • Increase Student RetentionOER can assist institutions in improving student retention, as it addresses the issue of students not buying course materials due to their cost.
  • Customizable – Unlike publisher or packaged materials, you can actually customize OER. You could even create your own textbook or video library.
  • Low or No Cost to the Student – OER can be made available to students for free or low-cost, resulting in students saving a significant amount.

OER is prominently featured in the media as a response to rising textbook costs. Textbook costs are seen as such a burden to students, that it even inspired a hashtag on twitter called #textbookbroke.

For more information on the benefits of OER, please check out the “Benefits of Using OER” article that Penn State published.

How to Find OER?

OER can usually be found in what are called “repositories” or collections.

The following are some good places to start:

  • MERLOT – Arguably, one of the most well-known OER repositories. MERLOT is a curated online library of OER that has been contributed from various academic institutions. I would start here.
  • OER Commons – One of the larger repositories of OER content, it focuses on a variety of disciplines and is a good place to start.
  • Skills Commons – Created by a federal grant, Skills Commons focuses on OER related to workforce training and industry.
  • Open Course Library – Started by the State of Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges Consortium, it includes a lot of OER resources and low-cost alternative instructional materials.
  • CCCS Learning Object Repository – This isn’t quite OER, but is instead a system-wide repository of learning objects, that are shared from other community colleges in CCCS.

OER Textbooks

You can actually adopt an OER Textbook (or create your own by combining parts from different OER sources), and use it in lieu of a traditional text.

Please contact Marc Nash (marc.nash@ppcc.edu, 719-502-3073) for more information on how to do this.

To give you a good idea of some examples of OER Textbooks, please check out the following sites:

  • BC Campus OpenEd – British Columbia created a repository of OER Textbooks that is very high-quality. They have texts in a variety of disciplines and are constantly adding new sources.
  • Open Textbook Library – Based out of the University of Minnesota, this is a great place to look for OER Textbooks.
  • OpenStax – OpenStax is a nonprofit educational initiative based at Rice University, they have a good collection of core OER Textbooks and also include other instructional resources (lecture slides, test banks) with the titles.
  • Open Oregon – As the name implies, this is an initiative based out of Oregon, that includes a few OER Textbook titles.
  • Open SUNY Textbook Library – Open SUNY focuses on OER courses, but also has a collection of OER Textbooks.

Do Free Videos Count?

Technically some of the most popular sources for “free” educational videos (I.E. TED Talks, Crash Course, or channels on YouTube), are not OER.

Since, while you can freely use them and share. You can’t adapt them.

However, they are still always a good resource to utilize.

Check out the article on “Finding Captioned Videos on YouTube” for more information.

In addition, you can check out Films On Demand, a database of videos that are available via the PPCC Library.

Resources and Support

Please contact Marc Nash (marc.nash@ppcc.edu, 719-502-3073) for more resources and support related to using OER.

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