Open Educational Resources
Just as the cost of accessing scholarly material restricts access, many teachers and learners find the cost of teaching and learning material to be too high and out of the reach of many learners. In response, as part of the same trend towards open access and the use of open source software, there has been a move towards creating and sharing open educational resources (OERs). These are freely accessible, textbooks, course materials, videos and other digital content that are used for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes and can be adapted, modified and often redistributed, depending upon the terms of the licence. The big difference between OERs and open access material is that OERs can be adapted and modified for reuse.
OERs have some advantages over 'closed' materials:
- They are free for learners to use, potentially saving learners a lot of money
- Online content can be accessed anywhere and any time
- They can contain a mix of different formats, such as text and interactive video
- They can be adapted and modified to suit particular courses or modules
- As they are online, they can be created and disseminated more rapidly than conventional published textbooks
They do have some have some disadvantages however:
- Quality and reliability: there may be no peer-review process
- Confusion over licencing: some OERs might contain copyrighted material (used by permission) which cannot be used - so it's important to check the licence
- Access: learners may not have good enough Internet access, or the software/hardware require to access the OER
OERs are more popular in North America than in Europe, at the moment, but OERs do have significant potential, especially in the Further Education and Training Sector as many of the OER sources listed below contain FET equivalent content
- A collection of open textbooks managed by the University of British Columbia, freely available to use and adapt. The collection includes FET equivalent textbooks, including a trades collection intended for use by apprentices.
- State-backed effort to reduce the cost of tertiary education by creating open textbooks and course materials
- Non-profit online educational resource project based at the University of California Davis.
- Provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators. In simpler terms, it's a search engine for OERs. A neat feature is being able to enter the ISBN of a textbook and MERLOT will search for an OER equivalent.
- Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of OERs easier
- A public digital library of open educational resources. Includes a career and technical education section.
- A charitable corporation set up by Rice University (USA) providing good quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks that are free online
- A growing catalogue of free, peer-reviewed, and openly-licensed textbooks managed by the University of Minnesota
- Free and open learning materials and program support materials for job-driven workforce development