With the emergence of digital learning materials and open educational resources (OER), instructors have a wealth of instructional course materials at their fingertips. But just because something is free and in digital format doesn’t mean it passes muster.

“At some institutions the review and selection of course materials involves faculty collaboration and a shared responsibility to ensure course materials meet agreed-upon learning goals for students. Ideally, the decision on which course materials to use is based on the needs of the faculty teaching the course and the desired learning outcomes for the often diverse group of students taking the course,” according to a course materials guide from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

The guide offers a brief overview of OER and notes that there are always costs associated with free materials, such as costs to reproduce resources or costs associated with the manpower necessary to maintain an OER repository. Despite the costs, though, OER are a viable option for course materials.

When it comes to identifying high-quality content for courses, then, “the effectiveness of course materials is dependent on the expertise of the individual(s) who create them and the skillfulness in which the material is presented. When selecting course materials–whether OER or commercially developed–faculty should determine if the materials meet high-quality standards, including clearly-articulated student learning objectives; well-designed content that is engaging and relevant; and expertly-sources content that is comprehensive, accurate, objective and reliable.

(Next page: Seven musts for evaluating course materials)

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