Creating and using OER isn’t as complicated as some educators might believe

OER-creationOpen educational resources (OER) offer educators a chance to align learning materials to students’ needs–and teachers can create their own OER through a surprisingly straightforward process, using materials they likely have in abundance in their classrooms.

OER are commonly considered resources that are freely shared and able to be modified and redistributed. Educators can use OER in small bits to supplement textbooks or other learning resources, or they can use OER to replace traditional textbooks and revamp classroom instruction.

This “grass-roots, bottom-up” approach to content creation enables educators to tailor content to meet students’ needs,” said Tyler DeWitt, a MIT Ph.D. student and a student coordinator for the new MIT+K12 video outreach project, during a Connected Educator Month edWeb webinar.

(Next page: The keys to OER creation)

One of OER’s biggest benefits is the collaboration it promotes, DeWitt said. The “remix and reuse” mindset surrounding OER encourages the evolution of material so it continually improves.

OER content can be placed in a wide variety of repositories, such as OER Commons, Gooru, Connexions, and Net Texts.

Educators should make sure they give their self-created materials a designation that allows it to be used freely and be repurposed by others, such as this one from Creative Commons.

The trick to actually creating OER, DeWitt said, “is realizing that everything that goes into OER must be your work, in public domain, another OER, or similarly-licensed material.” Images pulled from an internet search, for instance, could be copyrighted, and therefore all parts of the OER would not truly be open.

Video and audio are both good tools to create OER content, DeWitt said. They’re the most common tools used to flip classrooms, and can be used for content coverage, delivery, and to capture the classroom experience.

Educators can create podcasts and other audio resources using free or inexpensive tools. Smartphone apps often enable high-quality audio recording capabilities, and desktop programs such as Audacity, which is free and open source, to edit audio.

Teachers can create video OER using programs such as Camtasia or ScreenFlow to record presentations or work through documents

To get started, DeWitt suggested the following:

  • Educators should reach out to content creators whose content they like
  • Students can help with technological hurdles
  • Don’t worry about making things perfect on the first try

An important part of OER creation is to start simple—often, worksheets and documents are perfect OER candidates.

“One of the great things about starting OER creation with text and static images is, if you’re like most educators, you’ve already created hundreds of resources that could become OER–worksheets, handouts, quizzes, and tests,” DeWitt said.

Although technology enables much of today’s connected learning, DeWitt cautioned that educators shouldn’t let their OER creations suffer for the sake of technology.

“[Sometimes] when using technology, teachers feel they have to use technology for absolutely everything–it can be frustrating,” he said. “I hate having to change the way I would present material just because I’m pulling it together in a technological manner.”

A prime example is when educators use text and symbols when they create math OER.

“Teachers bend over backwards trying to use various software programs that format mathematical symbols,” DeWitt said.

But teachers shouldn’t worry about this, he said, and instead, they can use their own notes and handwriting in combination with computer documents. This, he said, puts the focus on the content, and OER creation isn’t prevented by a complicated process.