New report sheds light on open educational resources

A new resource aims to help educators learn how to use open educational resources (OERs) most effectively, as it dives into proper implementation, costs, and other important factors.

The “Guide on the Use of Open Educational Resources in K-12 and Postsecondary Education,” from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), explains what OERs are and spells out various copyright and licensing considerations that are involved with using such resources.

A commonly-accepted definition of open educational resources, as provided by the Hewlett Foundation, is “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Those using OERs are able to abide by the “4Rs” when using the resources:

  • Revise: Adapt and improve open educational resources so they better meet your needs;
  • Reuse: Use the original or your new version of the OER in a wide range of contexts;
  • Remix: Combine or “mashup” the resource with other OERs to produce new materials; and
  • Redistribute: Make copies and share the original OER, or your new version, with others.

(Next page: What you should know when using OERs)

“SIIA expects that educational needs will be addressed moving forward by a mix of instructional materials, including OERs,” said Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division. “SIIA and this guide are focused on helping public officials, instructors, and content providers better understand the various OER models, as well as the total costs to consider in determining the appropriate strategy for developing and implementing a particular educational resource.”

When creating and delivering any educational resource, tasks fall into three main categories: initial resource development, implementation and technology maintenance, and content or design upgrades.

During initial resource development, content development and value-added tasks might include creating metadata tags, incorporating accessibility/Universal Design, aligning standards and courses, and including assessments.

Implementation considerations and challenges might include training or professional development, updating and maintaining technology, and offering support.

Content and design upgrades might require content modifications depending on current events or new standards, and changes to reflect instructional design or research and best practices.

“SIIA recognizes that content development and delivery models will continue to evolve and encourages an environment that fosters R&D investment, rewards innovation and quality, and thus provides students and faculty with a robust choice of curricular resources and related tools and supports,” said Mark Schneiderman, SIIA’s senior director of education policy. “In making cost-benefit calculations and comparisons, it is important that public leaders and educators consider that educational resources, including OERs, require not only the initial investment, but [just] as importantly, [a] budget for the total, long-term cost of [their] development and use.”

Just because a large push for OERs exists today does not guarantee the quality of all open educational resources, and the guide notes that “in assessing quality, OERs, just like any instructional materials, need to be individually evaluated based on the intended educational use.”

According to the report, “the use of OERs is not without its potential pitfalls.” Those include:

  • Considerable resources are sometimes necessary to scale the use of OERs.
  • Accuracy, completeness, standards alignment, and accessibility are not all guaranteed.
  • Some people have concerns over cost shifting versus cost saving.

But advocates of using open educational resources maintain that:

  • OERs offer long-term value.
  • Different advocacy and stakeholder groups are hoping to shed light on OER sustainability and use.
  • Building digital content can help schools and states share and learn from one another.
  • Teachers are more active in developing curriculum and resources and become more involved in teaching.

Follow Managing Editor Laura Devaney on Twitter: @eSN_Laura.

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