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.
I attended my first OpenEd conference Nov. 6-8th in Park City, UT. Click the link and you too can see some of the sessions from the conference. I went with a team of people from Maricopa representing the Maricopa Millions Project. What I learned was that James Sousa from Phoenix College is famous in the OER world, and the SCC math department is cutting edge. Who knew? When I returned, I did a presentation last Tuesday from 2-3pm in the CTLE on OER to help everyone at GCC understand OER and the Maricopa Millions initiative. I shared information about the initiative and the call for proposals that went out last week. Proposals were due last Friday. Here is some information about the project from the call for proposals.
The main goal of the Maricopa Millions Open Education Resources (OER) Project is to reduce educational costs for students. Spending less money on textbooks and materials will foster greater access to materials for students, which may enable them to stay on track with completing their courses.
The Maricopa Millions OER Project includes developing a strategic, sustainable OER infrastructure that would include: awareness, professional development, OER development and technical support, marketing and technical structure. In order for OER to be successful at MCCCD, we have established an OER strategic planning and implementation team to establish and oversee specific OER outcomes over the next 5 years.
The driving objective for the project is to save MCCCD students $5 Million Dollars over the next five years through the use of OER materials. The sooner we begin, the sooner the students can realize the savings.
This Maricopa Millions OER project, through an internal grant process, supports the adoption, adaptation, and development of complete OER course materials for high enrollment courses in the MCCCD. The final product will be OER course materials that can be easily adopted and modified by other faculty (including adjuncts) teaching that course.
I wanted to point out many of the different facets of the program, one main one being that there is a “low cost” option available as well. This means that faculty could choose finding or adopting materials with a lower costs instead of building their own OER. For instance, in composition we are comfortable using an online publisher product with a built in ebook that is currently half the price of the average textbook cost for composition courses, so we are already saving our students money. There are many other scenarios for the low cost option.
Also, the call was for a specific list of high enrollment courses (ENG101, PSY101, COM100), but that should not discourage anyone who teaches smaller enrollment courses from participating with OER. It just means that at this time, the committee wants to start with supporting the higher enrollment courses to get a bigger impact on the numbers out the gate. Any faculty who wants to work on an OER project can do so without the support of the committee. The goal is to save students money and not everyone doing so will be able to be supported by the project.
Below is the agenda and all the links we talked about and shared during the presentation. Feel free to ask me questions about the Maricopa Millions project if you have any. In the mean time, check out some the resources below and start exploring OER. Continue reading What is an OER (Open Educational Resource) and Is It Right for You?