Is it possible that you’ve become so caught up in developing and licensing your own materials that you’ve forgotten about open courseware? Searching the web for the term will yield many results, from institutions such as Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Irvine. Just last week, I was speaking with an instructor interested in OER and I happened to mention a MOOC/Open Course out of Tufts about water purification systems. This instructor’s face lit up because he was, little did I know, a hydrologist looking for just that kind of material. Although he may not use the entire course, the good thing about OER is that, for the most part, you can take certain parts and remix them with your own or other materials to create the course that you want.
As you’re conducting your search for materials, whether through OER repositories like OER Commons or simply using a search engine, don’t forget to check licenses! A common mistake is to assume that freely-accessible online content is up for grabs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is vital to remember that the defining characteristic of an open resource is that it is explicitly licensed for certain kinds of reuse and modification. /Paragraph Don’t fear, though! There are not only a number of helpful filter tools built into most OER databases, but Google advanced search allows you select the kinds of permissions you’re looking for in your content. See this video on YouTube for a quick explanation of how to use Google advanced search. /Paragraph Lastly, we’d like to add that if you’re having trouble locating the license, look to the website’s copyright information (which is often at the bottom of the page). If all you see is a little c with a circle around it (©) and the name of the publisher, it’s all rights reserved. If you don’t see any license information at all, it’s all rights reserved. However, if you see a little Creative Commons symbol and a link, you are good to go. Be sure to note which license you’re dealing with, of course.
Post by GCC faculty John Gibson
When I started this OER adventure a year ago, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I was hoping to minimize textbook costs and improve the currency of course content. But the experience has been all of that – and much more!
When my Business class met the first time last semester, some students cheered and clapped when we talked about their new textbook – which was free – a wonderful change and great way to start the class. So when they opened Canvas for the first time, their textbooks were waiting for them, the chapters arranged as flexible modules. We could start work right away. The students loved the rich all-digital mixture of updated text, images, videos, and simulations (we also have a searchable and printable PDF).
But that was just the beginning of the adventure. I found out later (on a final survey) that OER also opened new doors to learning that weren’t possible before. After the course, most students said they now preferred digital course materials – and that the change was a catalyst which prompted them to think more about how they learned best. Each developed their own personalized approach to mastering the material. And I’m considering more ways that we can learn and create our own digital content in future assignments.
Finally, by going OER, I was exposed to some very inexpensive new courseware/software called Waymaker that personalized the course even more. Interactive assessments were structured and built into the Canvas modules so that the students could learn more by practicing with these assessments (and a chapter dashboard will soon give them a quick visual summary of their progress). The approach certainly challenged my students to think deeper about the material – and discuss it with their fellow students. Waymaker would create personalized study guides for the students who needed them – and it helped me to easily communicate with everyone in a more timely manner. That resulted in some lively conversations about course material beyond what I had ever experienced before.
When we all considered the advantages of an OER approach this past year, it was an easy choice continuing this adventure into the future. You’ll never know what is possible until you look into it!
Do you want an easy way to make your first step into the Open Educational Resources (OER) ecosystem? Consider simply doing an inventory of materials you are already using that might be replaced with OER. For the longest time I taught an early American Lit course for which my students paid too much for a reader with a nice cover and nearly 300 out of the 700 pages students weren’t required to read. Upon closer review I found that most of the readings are in the public domain. 335 typed pages later (with lots of help) and a little bit of fancy .pdf formatting, I was able to provide students with a dynamic, no-cost OER version of a reader that perfectly matches the curriculum. The only addition is the set of links to author biographical headnotes that were already available to students at no cost via the college library. While public domain is only one way to find and create your own OER collection, it can begin by simply taking a look at the copyrighted materials you are already using and might be replaceable with open material.
Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are freely available for use, either because they are in the public domain or because they are intentionally released under a special copyright that allows for the materials to be used without cost.
There has been tremendous growth in the number, types, and quality of OER resources in the last few years as instructors have discovered how an OER-approach can support student learning:
- OERs ensure that resources are immediately available to students, so no student falls behind while waiting for a textbook
- OERs remove financial pressure from students
- OERs are online resources, which can be more relatable to modern students than a traditional textbook
- OERs are multimodal in nature, allowing instructors to present course material through a mix of text, audio, video, presentations, interactive approaches, etc.
- MCCCD’s Maricopa Millions Project has been encouraging the creation of OER materials and OER classes through development grants; these OER materials are then available to other instructors who want to adopt and/or customize them. In addition, many websites offer complete courses as well as course materials, which can be tailored to an instructor’s needs. OERs are a major component of efforts to expand the availability of educational opportunities and to break down barriers to student success.
Maricopa will be tweeting and blogging all week for Open Education Week (March 7-11th, 2016). We’ll be using the hashtag: #openeducationwk so follow us to learn more about how we do OER. We’ll be tweeting and blogging about:
- What is OER?
- How do I find OER?
- Faculty experiences developing OER,
- Faculty experiences with using OER, and
We’ll be using our Twitter handle @MaricopaOER and posting to the our blog: https://maricopamillions.wordpress.com. We have faculty, librarians, instructional designers, CTL directors, and administrators who will be sharing information, so you don’t want to miss that.