FAQs: Open Education Resources

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What are OERs?

The Internet provides unique opportunities for educators to access, use, modify, and share educational materials. Open Educational Resources (OERs), are educational materials which are licensed in ways that provide permissions for individuals and institutions to reuse, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OERs can, and do include full courses, textbooks, streaming videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques supporting learning.

The OER Foundation uses Creative Commons licenses which are approved by the Free Cultural Works Definition. Specifically, these licenses afford permissions to reuse and modify educational materials on condition that the original copyright owners are properly attributed. The OER Foundation uses the Creative Commons Attribution License or the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License for its OER. (Contributors are also most welcome to use the Public Domain declaration for gifting materials to the project.) The legal permission framework of Creative Commons licenses significantly reduces the transaction costs associated with sharing teaching materials for the social good of education. You can find out more about licensing OER by consulting the list of resources below.

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Web Resources

What is the significance of Open Education and the WikiEducator Project?

The WikiEducator community is improving access to education globally by radically expanding the availability of free learning content (Daniel 2009)[4] using a mass-collaboration model of OER development. The 2009 Horizon Report for Australia an New Zealand identifies open content as a key trend and "technology to watch" on the 2 - 3yr horizon. Organisations need to ensure that they are well positioned and prepared to maximise potential benefits through professional development and laying solid foundations for open content engagement. WikiEducator has an established track record and extensive experience in peer collaboration models of OER development and reuse and is therefore well positioned to support successful implementation of open education at your institution.

Who is the WikiEducator community?

WikiEducator is an international community of teachers, lecturers and trainers creating OER and sharing their experiences in using OER to improve teaching and learning around the world.

Vital statistics
  • WikiEducator has 80,796 registered users and is one of the fastest growing and most productive OER wikis in the world.
  • WikiEducator is an international community of educators with 72% of our members being teachers, lecturers or trainers working in the formal education sector.
  • Approximately half of registered WikiEducator users are over 45 years old and evenly distributed in terms of gender.
  • WikiEducator and the OER Foundation support Learning4Content -- the world's largest wiki skills training initiative. Since January 2008, we have offered training to more than 3,500 educators from 110 different countries. (Read our report: Learning4Content - The first 18 monthsPDF down.png)

How will OER benefit my institution?

First and foremost, your institution's participation in OER will affirm your organisational commitment to the social good of education, global citizenship and shared responsibility for sustainable education futures. The OER Foundation represents an international community of practice collaborating on the attainment of these goals now possible through social software and open content licensing.

The OER value proposition for OER lies in its potential to reduce the cost (and time) associated with the design and development of teaching materials. Sharable materials offer opportunities to reduce teacher workloads, because open materials do not need to be recreated from scratch for every reuse. Sharing development costs among many institutions while retaining the right to adapt, modify and brand materials for your own institution generates tangible benefits from participating in OER. Moreover, OER is a low cost alternative to expand and widen curriculum choice for your students by sharing development and delivery costs in subject areas that typically do not achieve the break-even enrolment threshold.

"Community and collaboration are seen as key components that enhance collections of open resources for education"[5], which is easier to achieve from the platform of an international non-profit than single institutional hosted projects. Participating in global OER initiatives (i.e., WikiEducator) will extend your international web presence and opportunities for internationalizing your programs and courses, and networking beyond your existing networks.

How will students in your institution benefit from OER?

Students will benefit from your participation in OER in a number of ways:

  • Lower cost text-books which can be customised to suite local learning and curriculum needs.
  • Promoting more engaging forms of learning, particularly courses utilising student centred approaches to teaching where learners become partners in co-creating, enriching and reconfiguring the learning materials they use in their courses.
  • Providing authentic and engaging learning assignments, for example student teachers who develop OER as part of the official course requirements practising and refining their skills in a live OER community. See for example the Biology in elementary schools course taught by Saint Michael's College, Vermont, USA or the Instructional Design and Learning Technologies in Open and Distance Learning graduate course at Massey University, New Zealand.
  • The OER Foundation's free wiki skills training can be integrated into official courses where learners are required to collaborate on course projects. For example students receive skills training under the OER Foundation's Learning4Content project as part of their Master's in Educational Technology Degree at the University of Mauritius where students are assigned tasks within WikiEducator; and for instance courses presented by the Regional Institute of Education (NCERT), Bhopal, India where students sign up for training in WikiEducator.
  • Extended opportunities for community service learning courses where academic study is linked to community service, for example DeAnza College's community service and engagement courses hosted on WikiEducator.
  • Internationalisation of the learning experience for your students through the extensive international networks and community of the OER Foundation.

Will OER increase my institution's "educational advantage"?

Yes. OER can increase your institution's "educational advantage" by:

  • reducing the cost of course development, revision and delivery;
  • reduce the cost of textbook development, revision and delivery;
  • improving staff professional development outcomes;
  • increasing the quality of the learner experience and student support;
  • attracting new students with scalable and blended delivery models
  • internationalizing programs and courses

The opportunities for reusing and remixing digital course materials created through OER will change our perspectives and operational models associated with educational publishing, textbook selection and distribution. Organisations need to prepare themselves for navigating these futures.

Can OER savings be reinvested to improve quality and student choice?

Yes. By allowing institutions to share the cost of development and to save time which provides greater flexibility to reinvest these savings into the quality of your service thus increasing your "competitive' and educational advantage in attracting students. For example, tertiary educational providers can:

  • Widen access and curriculum choice for your students by increasing the range of course offerings at your institution using OER models of course development and delivery;
  • Reduce the cost of textbooks for your students by collaborating on the development of open textbook projects;
  • Time saved through participation in OER initiatives can be reinvested in improving the quality of learner support and/or increased time for research activities;

References and links

  1. http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook/educator_version_one/Introduction
  2. http://wikieducator.org/Archbiship_Emeritus_Desmond_Tutu_on_the_importance_of_freedom
  3. http://www.capetowndeclaration.org
  4. Daniel, J. 2009. eLearning for Development: Using information and communications technologies to bridge the digital divide. Article prepared for the Commonwealth Ministers Reference Book 2009. Published by Henley Media Group for the Commonwealth Secretariat. Online: http://www.col.org/resources/speeches/2009presentation/Pages/2009-06-CMRB.aspx
  5. 2009 Horizon Report Australia-New Zealand Edition. Online: http://wp.nmc.org/horizon-anz-2009/section/two-to-three-years-open-content