Open educational resources (OER) are gaining momentum among stakeholders in higher education. From students to faculty to administrators, the benefits of OER can help offset the rising costs of traditional textbooks.
For over a decade, the pioneers of OER consisted of a group of global trailblazers dedicated to the cause of open access and cost reduction for students. Oftentimes, figuring out the logistics and lessons learned along the trail, they set the stage for broader awareness of OER.
In addition to the pioneers, there has been a myriad of both legislative and non-legislative actions that have brought OER to the attention of many higher-ed administrators and practitioners. And while OER may appear to be a “quick fix” for textbook costs, the perception that OER can be done for free is not necessarily the case, not to mention getting started is easier said than done. There are steps and considerations that can make OER conversion a project worth pursuing.
Let’s get started.
The following considerations will assist in the planning and prep work to be done prior to launching OER. Building a good base for OER will help prevent missteps in the next stages.
- Culture: Developing an OER culture is important to ensure support and buy-in from the institutional community. From the executive level, incorporating OER into strategic planning is an appropriate place to start. A survey to faculty and staff is a good method for assessing knowledge about OER and will also help with determining training needs. Developing workshops around lessons learned from similar institutions or strategic partners can be effective in motivating interest about OER.
- Systems: OER content will typically have a longer shelf life than a traditional textbook or e-text. You should develop systems of storage and retrieval with appropriate permissions and access. This may include a learning management system, your school’s online bookstore, your course materials management and delivery partner, or a centrally located database or storage file system that can be easily uploaded into online courses or accessed for ground courses. You should also create a list of permissible file types to provide to curators of OER.
- Legal: Intellectual property rights—specifically copyright policies related to OER—should be created or revised to minimize legal actions.
- Cost: One of the perceived benefits of OER is cost savings. From the content perspective, OER is free. But there are procurement and maintenance costs to consider. It’s a good idea to develop a methodology or framework to track time and resources so you can accurately calculate the cost savings of OER.
Once you’ve completed your prep, the following items will help you integrate OER content to create cohesion and accessibility within a course.
- Resources: The search and curation of OER takes time. Ensuring faculty or course designers are allocated time or relieved from other duties to research and review OER supports an institutional commitment to OER.
- Quality: There is no central database for OER content; web sites and systems house content that may or may not be peer reviewed. It’s a good idea to develop a framework or rubric to guide the quality of OER.
- Course content: Give consideration to the type (discipline) and level (undergrad or graduate) of course applicable for OER content. Courses with content that changes frequently will require more maintenance.
- Instructional design: Well-designed courses use instructional materials to support course outcomes and assessments. The integration of OER should map to outcomes and topics of the course.
- Accessibility: All postsecondary institutions are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some OER content is ADA compliant and some is not. Fortunately, OER content is revisable so institutions should plan to ensure accessibility for all students.
- OER resources: Here is a list of sites that may serve as a starting point to procure OER. Be sure to confirm designated use, as types of licensing vary.
Like most resources for courses, OER requires cyclical management and evaluation to ensure goals are being met and impacting student learning.
- Course revisions: As outcomes, content, or assessments are revised within a course, OER should be reviewed for adequacy. Optimally, student and faculty course satisfaction surveys should include questions related to OER content within courses.
- OER policies: For most institutions, OER is a new venture. Develop initial policies for OER and recognize that it may require revision as best practices emerge and lessons are learned.
- Data: Similar to any new initiative impacting teaching and learning, it is important to collect and interpret data from OER. Not only will it help you understand the effectiveness of OER, but sharing the data and results with the larger education community will help advance OER from a global perspective.
Although some considerations for OER depend on the type of institution and country of origin, this quick list is a general overview intended to help educators plan for the complexities of free content. We recommend putting a plan in place that addresses resources, systems, and training, as well as the rubrics by which content is reviewed, pedagogical priorities, course-level assessments, and quantitative and qualitative measures of success.
Planning for and managing OER will ensure that lowering or eliminating textbook costs for students comes to fruition. What’s your plan?