There is no one, standard definition of Open Educational Resources (OER). EDUCAUSE defines OER's as, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are any resources available at little or not cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings, and other learning content; simulations, games, and other learning applications; syllabi, quizzes, and assessment tools; and virtually any other material that can be used for educational purposes"
(source: EDUCAUSE. May 27, 2010. 7 Things You Should Know About Open Educational Resources)
To provide students with easy access to educational materials that are low cost or free to the student. "Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared"
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
The Instructional Technologies Committee of the ACRL Instruction Section published a Tips & Trends article on Open Educational Resources. Authors Rashelle Nagar and Jill Hallam-Miller have followed it up with interviews with three OER advocates.
View this video to get a sense of why some students are not purchasing their textbooks and how there are other valuable online resources to share with your students that are not copyrighted:
Q: As a faculty I depend on the test banks that publishers provide with a textbook adoption. Do OER or Open Textbooks provide test banks? And if they're open, what's to prevent a student for getting access to them?
A: Many open resources do provide test banks (PowerPoint lectures, and other supplementals we're used to getting from a publisher). To answer the question about "protected resources" we went to Nicole Finkbeiner, Associate Director of Institutional Relations, Rice University's OpenStax College: Finkbeiner says"In terms of "protected" resources such as test banks, you have to find a way for students to not be able to access these. And, you don't want to openly license these because then you have no way to combat them being published. At Rice University’s OpenStax College, our website is set-up so faculty have to first register for an account and then request faculty access prior to being able to download them. We check every single account to ensure the right official email is used, they are in fact teaching a course where they would need the resources, etc. Sometimes we even call the department chair directly to make sure we should be providing access, so this is definitely a labor-intensive process, but I think it is worth it to protect the resources.
Q: I am nervous about letting go of my textbook because I don't know if OER/Open Textbook authors will keep the resources up to date. How can I trust that the resources I select will be kept current and accurate?
A: It's true that adopting open resources in place of a traditionally published textbook involves a change in how you think about your course textbook. Adopting OER involves a feeling of ownership of the course resources that you might not experience with a traditional textbook. Because of the open licensing you are free to update the material as you see fit, as long as it has the appropriate Creative Commons licensing. Due to the open nature of these resources, collaboration with other instructors (within our outside this institution) or with your students to improve the open resources you use is a common occurrence, and means the work of updating is spread across many people instead of sitting solely with you. Yes, it's a shift of perspective, but it's an exciting one, full of potential.