What are Open Educational Resources?

Useful links

Open Courseware Consortium is a worldwide community of higher...

Open Educational Resources (OERs) stem from the concept of learning objects or, more precisely, reusable learning objects. The philosophy behind OERs is that education and educational materials should be free and openly licensed to allow for open education. UNESCO defines them as, 'teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain and have been released under an open licence that permits access, use, repurposing, reuse and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions' (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007).

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Openly licensed educational materials, placed in the public domain and made available for use with few or no restrictions.

Ultimately, an OER can consist of anything from a full course (e.g. Organisational behaviour) to a simple page with a quiz or information on a particular topic (e.g. What is an independent variable?).

How can OERs help me develop an online course?

You may find there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you are looking for a way to easily explain an abstract concept, look to OERs; you may find someone has already created the kind of content you need, and provided you with a great resource to incorporate into your own course.

Where to find OERs

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Download UNESCO's Guidelines for Open Educational...

There are several organisations, including the OER Commons, MERLOT, Higher Education Academy and Connexions, which support the sharing and use of materials posted by peers. The Open University in the UK provides some excellent guidelines on the use of OERs, whilst search engine facilities – such as Google's Advanced Search, which will allow you to look specifically for results that have a Creative Commons licence – can also be a useful source. Alternatively, look to OER repositories such as Jorum and JISC. The 'Useful links' pod on the right-hand side of this screen will help you find some of these OER resource banks.

There are several organisations, including the OER Commons, MERLOT, Higher Education Academy and Connexions, which support the sharing and use of materials posted by peers. The Open University provides some excellent guidelines on the use of OERs, whilst search engine facilities – such as Google's Advanced Search, which will allow you to look specifically for results that have a Creative Commons licence – can also be a useful source. Alternatively, look to OER repositories such as Jorum and JISC. The 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section will help you find some of these OER resource banks.

Once you locate potentially useful OERs, how do you know if they are what you need? Find at least one OER that is relevant to the course you are designing, and then use the checklist below to validate using the resource.

In the following activity, have your example OER in mind as you consider each question and click on the tick or the cross according to whether your response is yes or no. Use the 'Next' button to move to the next question.

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Designing and developing your online course
UNIT | 4 : Improving your online course designs
PAGE TITLE | Open Educational Resources

  • Does the content appear to be accurate?
  • Is the author listed and do they appear to be reputable?
  • Is the OER easy to use and well presented, with clear navigation?
  • Is the OER accessible for users with disabilities?
  • Does the OER fit your intended need or purpose?
  • Is the OER interactive (if it needs to be; a single page OER may not have this issue) and engaging?
  • Is the OER set at the appropriate level for your purpose?
  • Does the OER work on different browsers/platforms?
  • Are the rights fully documented; e.g. does it carry a clear Creative Commons or other rights declaration? Is it ok to re-use it? Are there any conditions?
Source: Adapted from The Open University (2013), www.open.edu/openlearn/education/creating-
open-educational-resources/content-section-4.2
. Used with permission.

The great thing about OERs is that they can save you time and money and even present information in a way that you may have not thought of – especially for abstract concepts. However, a word of caution: think of OERs as you would a new technology – you want to use them when they are beneficial but you don't want to overuse them or your own voice, as teacher, may be lost (given that they are based on someone else's message)!


Useful links

Download

Download UNESCO's Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education.