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Introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning and teaching materials that are freely available online for anyone to use. OERs can consist of full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, software and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge. Normally, small units of OER (eg animations, videos, podcasts, etc) are most attractive to educators from both the re-use and production angles, as they are easier to embed into existing classroom or online learning activities. Many teachers embed OER material into teaching sessions (eg classroom sessions, practical classes, workshops, seminars) and/or provide links to OERs via the VLE to enhance self-directed learning opportunities.

In this video, Neil talks to leading Open Educational Resources practitioner Antonio Martinez Arboleda from the University of Leeds about OERs. Whilst the focus of this discussion is on Higher Education, it is relevant to teachers and trainers in all education sectors.

Antonio introduces the concepts of openness, collaboration and sharing using resources available on the web, licensed using Creative Commons. Antonio also talks about the benefits of learners creating OERs and the skills and benefits they gain from the process.

What are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning and teaching materials that are freely available online for anyone to use. OERs can consist of full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, software and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge. Normally, small units of OER (eg animations, videos, podcasts, etc) are most attractive to educators from both the re-use and production angles, as they are easier to embed into existing classroom or online learning activities. Many teachers embed OER material into teaching sessions (eg classroom sessions, practical classes, workshops, seminars) and/or provide links to OERs via the VLE to enhance self-directed learning opportunities.

What are the Benefits of OERs?

There are many benefits for educators and learners which can arise from creating, sharing and utilising OERs in student education:

  • Student experience: Use of appropriate OERs can enhance the student learning experience and help to address learners’ specific needs by giving students access to media-rich materials or resources that individual staff or institutions are unable to provide.
  • Digital literacy: Helping students to search for, critically evaluate, use and reference high quality and relevant open educational resources is an important and useful skill.
  • Recognition: For the individual who creates OERs, there is external recognition of their learning and teaching activities and the promotion of their school/faculty or institution. If OERs are modified or re-purposed by users, both the original creator and their students benefit from any improvements or additions.
  • Marketing and external relations: For colleges and VET organisations, OERs provide an opportunity to promote their excellence and innovation in learning and teaching, and widen the pool of high quality applicants for their programmes.
  • Efficiency: OERs have the potential for enormous savings in cost and time.

OER Licensing

Most OERs are licensed using Creative Commons or similar licences.

Creative Commons licences mean that the creator of the resource retains copyright, but allows others to make use, copy and distribute the resource and may allow changes to the resource. There are six Creative Commons licences that can be applied to OERs, which give the user differing levels of rights to use and alter the resource. One of the common features of all Creative Commons licences is ‘By Attribution’, which means users must attribute the original creator, thereby ensuring that the creator is acknowledged in all subsequent use of the resource.

Searching for OERs

Increasingly, search engines and websites allow you to search for materials by licence type (eg. Google advanced search, YouTube, Flickr image search). This makes searching for Creative Commons licensed material easier. There are also a large number of OER repositories (see links in See Also section below). OERs should not be confused with Open Access resources: the latter also includes e-resources available on websites, but for these resources copyright and permitted usage is either unclear or not defined at all.

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