Open Educational Resources: Where and How to Get Started
Pearson | April 28, 2016 - Now more than ever, there is a desire from college students to have alternative options for buying traditional textbooks. This topic was a main concern for Jill Buban, senior director of the Online Learning Consortium, at the recent CITE conference in Amelia Island. According to Buban, this desire from college students is pushing universities and colleges to find other ways for students to access materials. In turn, companies are now publishing Open Educational Resources (OER), which allow students open access to resources, free of charge.
The Pros and Cons of Open Educational Resources
The goal of using OERs is to provide students with an alternative to the cost of textbooks. When students have access to OER, they have instant access to course materials from anywhere in the world for free. That type of access can provide course materials that best meet course and program needs, as well as individual student needs. What makes this option great is that students can access course materials from home, in study-abroad programs, while abroad for the military, and many other situations that may make attending courses in person difficult for some types of students (Buban, 2016). OER provides busy students with on-the-go access, which for most students is the easier option, as well as the fact that it is cheaper.
For most faculty, “the time and effort required to find, evaluate and adopt these materials is the critical factor” (Babson, 2015). Switching to OER is a huge change for some faculty to make, and will require faculty to change their curriculum and adapt their classroom needs. One of the biggest problems is not that faculty are unwilling, but they feel they are unaware of OER. According to the Babson Survey, “depending on the strictness of the awareness measure, between two-thirds and three-quarters of all faculty classify themselves as unaware on OER” (Allen, n.d.). Another aspect to consider is that “awareness of OER is not a requirement for adoption of OER. More faculty are using OER than report they were aware of the term OER” (Allen, n.d.). What this means is that some faculty are unaware of OER, but also that many faculty at universities have used online resources without necessarily referring to them as OER.
Choosing the Right OER
If you need help choosing OER resources, Jill Buban had some good advice in her session at Cite. She explained the 4Cs of choosing the right OER for your institution. She suggested that when choosing an OER, it is necessary to think about copyright policies, the creative commons, course levels, and creativity. She also said that some questions to consider are whether or not the material is something that you as an educator want to reuse, whether it will work for all levels of your course, and how you can creatively manipulate the materials to provide your students with all different types of perspectives (Buban, 2016).
WCET can also help with finding resources. Director Tanya Spilovoy has recently launched a webinar series that provides faculty with strategies to find, adopt and manage OER. According to Spilovoy, the University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Library, as well as Rice University’s OpenStax College are both great resources that house open textbooks for university use. During the webinar, Matthew Cooper, associate provost of The Center for Learning and Technology at Thomas Edison State University, explained how they wanted to keep costs low, and design courses to learning outcomes. The university became one of a cohort of institutions using Intellus Learning software to deliver OER content (WCET webcast, n.d.).
When it comes down to it, faculty need to choose the right OER for their individual students, which may change from university to university. In order to successfully use OER, faculty need to feel comfortable with the OER they choose, and be able to adequately adapt them to their own institution’s needs. In the switch to OER, Spilovoy recommends faculty begin talking with their institution’s instructional design team. They can provide valuable guidance in finding content.
Jill Buban was a featured speaker at our recent 2016 Cite Online and Blended Learning conference. The virtual track of this conference features many great speakers on all types of topics around online and blended learning. Register today at a reduced rate to access these webinars. You will then have access through August 2016 to more than 35 virtual recordings.