Benefits of OER
One of the most important reasons for using Open Educational Resources is for the cost savings to students. Traditional textbooks can cost up to $200 – $300 in some disciplines, beyond the budget of many students and their families. Open textbooks are free. Students unable to afford the course textbook will often fall behind and have lower levels of achievement. Open Educational Resources can help students succeed.
Taking advantage of existing OERs can provide you with inspiration for ideas for your own classes. You can learn from the work of your colleagues and implement new resources knowing that they worked well for others.
OERs can also be customized, allowing you to take an existing resource and modify to the specific needs of your students.
OERs can also save you time and add different voices to your classroom. The internet doesn’t just have cat videos. You might also find a great lecture or podcast by a senior scholar in your field. Using that as an OER in your classroom can provide another perspective on the topic for your students — and save you the time in writing up and delivering another lecture.
Challenges of OER
The biggest challenge to using OERs in your classroom is find ones that are of high quality and high relevance to the topic being studied. Most OERs should be discoverable on the internet using online guides. Fortunately, librarians are here to help you. Librarians are expert internet searchers and have extensive experience in matching information needs with available information resources. Don’t go it alone, ask a librarian!
Another challenge for using OERs is that they can be time consuming to create. While this is definitely true, you don’t need to start from scratch. Try adding an existing resource that someone else has already created (adopting). Or if you feel even more ambitious, take an existing OER and tweak it to match your specific needs (adapting).
Using OERs in your classroom doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Instead, try adopting an existing resource that is of high quality and high relevance. You can search resources like SOL*R, OER Commons or Merlot, or even popular sites like Youtube, which contain a great deal of scholarly content — if you know how to uncover it. You can also explore the OER repository rubric and other OER finding tools. Don’t forget to talk to your librarian. They are expert searchers and will help you find exactly what you need to make OERs a success in your classroom. Be sure to tell others about your experience and share your story about saving students money and improving their learning outcomes.
Beyond adopting an OER as you find it, you can often also adapt it, tweaking it to meet your students’ particular needs. You might, for example, find an excellent open math textbook, but all of the examples are in imperial measurement. You can adapt it by replacing the examples with metric.
Adapting is a great way to save yourself time, by building on the work of others. Be sure to share back your adaptation, as others will undoubtedly be able to make similar use of your work.
In addition to adopting and adapting existing OERs, you may also wish to create your own OER. This could be when there is no relevant, high-quality resource already in existence. If this is the case, and you decide to create a new OER, your efforts will not only be of value to your students, but to many other instructors and students around the world.
There are hundreds of tools available to help you create your own OERs. Some are free and open source, while other can cost hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars. We’ve provided a list of free resources to help you get started. You should also talk to your local Teach and Learning Centre, who will also have recommendations, training opportunities, and access to some of the more expensive applications.