Open educational resources (OER) are becoming more widespread in classrooms, but many educators and administrators aren’t sure how to make the leap from talking about them to actually using them.
It’s probably easier than some might think.
OER are teaching and learning resources that are free to use and share. They also are adaptable and can be customized for a specific class or student. Repositories such as The Orange Grove, the Utah Education Network, and OER Commons help educators locate and learn how to incorporate the resources into their instruction.
But often, curriculum directors feel overwhelmed when they think about locating, vetting and integrating these resources into a curriculum. Providing professional development and ensuring educators know how to evaluate the resources is another potential hurdle.
Manpower, too, becomes another concern after teachers are trained and resources are compiled. OER repositories could require considerable staff time and manpower, depending on each district. Many resources stop “performing” after several years, and staff will have to monitor and update these resources.
(Next page: Some basics for adoption)
The Software & Information Industry Association’s guide to OER can give educators background information to help them on their way to OER integration.
1. What’s the difference between resources?
- OER textbooks are usually downloadable PDF-based digital books
- Interactive digital textbooks use reading tools and additional media such as videos and animations, and they’re usually accessible online or downloaded onto a mobile device
2. Are all OER digital?
- Not all are digital–many are PDF-based that are printable
- Digital materials include traditional text- and graphic-based content but also can include embedded assessments and videos
3. Are OER free?
- While there can be costs associated with distributing and maintaining content and repositories, “open” means they are free to use, change and share
4. Are they free for students?
- Most are, but if the resources are integrated within a learning management system, or if they require supplemental materials, students might be charged to access those materials
5. Who creates OER and are creators paid?
- Anyone can create OER, and educators are among the top producers. Creators are typically not paid, although some higher-ed institutions might reimburse faculty or staff with stipends or grants
6. Who funds the resources’ creation?
- This can vary widely–funding models include a philanthropic model, public funds and venture funds