Open Educational Resources to Support Your Course

We’ve blogged a couple of times recently about open educational resources (OER) and open course materials, with the intent of spurring interest on the part of Duke faculty in exploring the use of these types of materials in their courses, to supplement or replace textbooks. Now, during Open Access Week, seems a good time to remind faculty about the purpose and promise of OER, and encourage faculty to talk with Learning Innovation if they need help getting started.

OER are teaching and learning materials made freely available online, and can consist of textbooks, course readings, simulations, games, syllabi, quizzes, and basically any other material that can be used for education. Educause recently published one of their popular and practical “7 Things” guides about OER, outlining the growing importance of OER and open courses in higher education:

Educational resources developed in an open environment can be vetted and improved by a broad community of educators, resulting in materials that represent what the educational community sees as most valuable. By providing educators with new access to educational material, open resources have the potential to spur pedagogical innovation, introducing new alternatives for effective teaching. Moreover, learning resources that can be modified and reused promote collaboration and participation—two key elements of a Web 2.0 approach to teaching and learning.

The resources required to develop high-quality learning materials and activities for a full complement of courses can be prohibitive for many institutions and instructors. By distributing the costs over a larger number of users, OER brings a greater range of tools within reach of more users. OER can also lower the costs for students to obtain educational content. OER…take[s] advantage of— and prompt[s]—developments in educational technology that facilitate new media, new formats, and new means of distribution.

Giving faculty the ability to pick and choose the individual resources they want to use—and to modify those resources and “assemble” them in unique ways—promises greater diversity of learning environments.

What could OER mean for you? Some possibilities…..

  • If you are dissatisfied with the textbooks available for your course, instead you could find materials relevant to your course learning objectives by searching any of the numerous repositories of OER that exist on the web (the Open Educational Resources Center for California links to several of these). You end up with materials customized for your course at no cost, and your students don’t pay for a textbook(s) you don’t feel is valuable.
  • You may want to move some of the content coverage in your course outside of class time, in order to use class time more effectively for active and engaging learning activities to help your students synthesize and think critically about the materials. You could record lectures and post them online for students to view before class, but if instead you can locate high-quality OER on your course topics, you save yourself time and can devote that time to other tasks.
  • If some of your students need some review of prior concepts in order to be successful in your course, OER materials and assessments may allow you to provide learning materials for them without a lot of development time for you.

If you are interested in learning more about OER or strategizing about how to incorporate them into your course, contact Learning Innovation.