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An introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)
An introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

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3 Exploring OER

Many educational institutions worldwide are offering OER. This is a way to widen access to educational material to a variety of audiences with diverse interests. Note, too, that the Commonwealth of Learning declaration stressed its goal that OER should ‘enter the educational mainstream’.

In this activity we would like you to visit some OER websites. You will notice that the sites vary in format, in what they offer and in how they expect the user to engage with their materials.

Activity 2

Timing: About two hours
  • Please visit the following initiatives and reflect upon their differences in purpose, content design and the tools available for the learner. You might wish to make brief notes, or draw up a table, comparing the features of each site that interests you.
    • MIT Open Courseware [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

      MIT was the first institution to offer OER. It presented the first pilot website in 2002 with 50 courses, and by early 2015 was offering extracts from more than 2000 courses with free lecture notes, tests and videos. It’s an interesting site to look around, including under the ‘About’ tab.

    • Open Learning Initiative (OLI, Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

      The ‘Learn with OLI’ tab is a good place to start, to see the range of courses that is offered. ‘Studying Effectively’ (at the time of writing, it’s at the bottom of the home page) will give you an idea of the learning strategy that OLI proposes, including ‘learn by doing’. This captioned video from The Open Learning Initiative begins by arguing that higher education faces a major challenge:

      ‘We’re asking faculty and institutions to teach many, many, many more students. And we’re giving them 50 minutes to try and address the needs of that much larger group with a much greater diversity. And then we wonder why pass rates, failure rates are so high. It’s an undoable task without better tools and better support.’

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Exploring OER
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    • OpenLearn (The Open University, UK)

      There’s plenty of material to choose from here. You might like to pick an area you know about already, and decide what you think about the material you find. Or choose an area you know little or nothing about…

    • iTunes U (International) and The Open University on iTunesU

      At iTunes U numerous universities make their content available, in the form of lectures, videos, films and other resources. You can download the content in different formats, such as PDF or MP3. The Open University joined iTunes U in 2008 and currently provides content from over 130 of its modules.