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Scholarly Communications Department: Open Education

What are Open Educational Resources?

From OER Commons: "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse, without charge. That means they have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. For some of these resources, that means you can download the resource and share it with colleagues and students. For others, it may be that you can download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license that state specifically how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared." (What is OER Commons?)

Often, OER is defined by the "5 R's". From Open Content (CC BY):

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Many of these resources are licensed under Creative Commons licenses, which allow users varying degrees of freedom to reuse, adapt, and build upon content.

You can learn more about what each license allows at the Creative Commons website.

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The 2017-2018 survey on teaching materials in U.S. higher education shows a steady growth in awareness of open educational resources (OER). Responses from over 4,000 faculty and department chairpersons paint a picture of steady improvement, with almost 50% of faculty now reporting OER awareness.

The study also shows multiple factors are in place to support rapid future increases in awareness and use of OER:

  • Faculty and department chairpersons believe that the high cost of course material has a negative impact on student access.
  • The 5Rs that underpin OER (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute) are a perfect match to the extensive use of 'revise' and 'remix' that faculty are already practicing.
  • Faculty members express considerable resentment towards commercial publishers over price and unnecessarily frequent updates, among other issues.
  • Faculty report a growing acceptance (or even preference) for digital materials.
  • The 'open' aspect of OER resonates with faculty; they see it as an excellent match to academic principles.
  • The Initiative has spurred significant expansion of OER courses and enrollments at participating colleges.
  • Students find OER materials more relevant, easier to navigate, and better aligned with learning objectives than traditional textbooks.
  • Faculty see increased student engagement with OER materials.
  • College leaders see OER degrees connected to other institutional strategic goals, including affordability, increased access and equity, decreased time to degree, and improved pedagogy.
  • Students realize significant savings from use of free and open course materials, savings that can help them with financial challenges that might interfere with their ability to continue and succeed in their program of study.