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Open Educational Resources

When an author publishes a book, or other educational resources, they own the copyright. In most cases this means that people have to pay the author in order to have access to their work, and if they use an idea from that work, they have to reference the original author.

The internet makes it easier for everyone to share content across the world and for educators to share and adapt materials. The idea of sharing resources is the basis of OER. These are resources with an open licence, where the author or creator remains as the rights-holder but chooses which rights to retain and which rights to waive. In an OER the creator allows users to access and reproduce the materials without cost and, under certain open licences, to adapt or change the resource. The user does not need permission from the author to use the resource.

There are six types of Creative Commons license which are explained on the Creative Commons website.

graphic of OER and hands

Graphic by Ron Mader Licensed under a Creative Commons license CC-BY

The definition of OER is:

any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.

(UNESCO and COL, Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education, 2011, 2015)

Advocates of OER argue that they can support improvements in education by giving everyone access to a much wider range of materials. This is particularly important in contexts where there are few materials or limited access to institutions of learning. However, just accessing OER will not bring about change; it is using the ideas in classrooms and workshops that matters. Also, whereas some of the content in OER might be just what you need; some might not. You need to develop the ability to focus on what you need and to critically review material you find on the internet.

You are not expected to comment on this page, but if you wish to, tell us whether your institution has embraced OER and what impact this has made.

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This article is from the free online course:

Making Teacher Education Relevant for 21st Century Africa

The Open University