2.3 Why use open educational resources (OER)?

There are many reasons why people deliberately look for open resources when searching for materials. Resources with open licences can provide valuable and interesting additional or primary teaching materials, or the basis for a workshop or study group, at low- or no-cost. Within a variety of situations OER can provide content where there was none previously available or replace expensive proprietary material (for example textbooks, where cost savings can be an important motivating factor in OER adoption).

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Figure 2.3 ‘This is the best day of my life!’ (Bea de los Arcos, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ celtatis/ 26093163006/ in/ album-72157666543388905/ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , CC-BY-NC 2.0)

OER can be utilised at short notice and do not require payment or permission for their use. Open materials can often be modified to suit your specific context, so you can create unique resources based on others’ expertise. Some OER are produced by well-known institutions or shared by educators who are experts in their subject. In addition, resources are often peer-reviewed by others online or during their production process, when OER are produced at scale (as in the instance of open textbooks, see OpenStax College for one example).

Whilst the outcomes of using OER are important motivators for their use, there are also potential impacts on educator practice. Some of the possible changes in practice are implicit in in this summary on reasons for using OER produced by Glasgow Caledonian University:

  • ‘You can take existing resources and develop them in ways that suit your needs.
  • You can develop high quality resources on your own or with a small team of staff.
  • You can save time and duplication of effort.
  • You can build on best practice by experts in your subject area.
  • You can use resources which you may not have the software, equipment or facilities to create yourself.’

Research conducted by the OER Research Hub on the impact of OER found that educators are better able to accommodate diverse student needs and can be more experimental in their teaching approaches. They are not restricted to using specific resources and can develop their own materials from existing resources or find resources that they are not able to create themselves or which have interesting ways of conveying points. Open resources might provide inspiration and ideas when developing one’s own resources or expose one to different practices or approaches.

Using OER and engaging in more open practices can yield a range of institutional benefits. A JISC-funded study supplemental Good Intentions by McGill, Currier, Duncan and Douglas (2008) maps a range of stakeholder aims against different ‘sharing’ strategies, including an ‘open’ option. The open approach was described as having the potential to have ‘significant impact’ on nine out of a possible 15 ‘benefits for educational institutions’ (with ‘possible’ or ‘some’ impact possible in the remaining six areas):

  • ‘Maintaining & building on institutional reputation globally
  • Attracting new staff and students to institution – recruitment tool for students and prospective employer partners
  • Increased transparency and quality of learning materials
  • Shares expertise efficiently within institutions
  • Encourages high-quality learning & teaching resources
  • Supports modular course development
  • Supports the altruistic notion that sharing knowledge is in line with academic traditions and a good thing to do
  • Likely to encourage review of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment
  • Enhancing connections with external stakeholders by making resources visible.’

‘Openness’ therefore has the potential to raise standards, increase engagement and widen participation. For example, OER Hub collaborative research revealed that 32 per cent of learners using The Open University’s OpenLearn platform felt that their use of OER on the site influenced their decision to register for their current course of study (N=934). Research by Wiley, Hilton III, Ellington & Hall (2012) revealed that implementing the use of open resources according to the ‘successful model’ they developed as part of their two-year research study, can offer institutions significant savings when compared with the use of proprietary materials.

Open and Public Domain resources enable you to reuse materials without asking permission as long as you attribute their source and the type of licence the resource carries. OER can also change your practice by enabling you to access and rework materials, experiment with them and tailor them to your needs.

However, there are also possible questions and concerns regarding OER use. OER Mythbusting by the OER Policy for Europe project addresses the main concerns, including the quality of resources, compatibility with the curriculum, sustainability and time.

Activity 2B

Read two of David Wiley’s blog posts, ‘Evolving “open pedagogy”’ and ‘The real threat of OER’, which look at unravelling open practice within the context of teaching and the reasons educators use OER, respectively. As David notes at the start of ‘Evolving…’ the key question to consider is:

‘What can I do in the context of open that I couldn’t do before?’

Now that you have read David’s posts, look back at your reflective log notes from earlier in the course, review your notes on how and why you share and what kinds of practices you consider to be ‘open’. Now consider the following questions:

  • What does or could openness facilitate in the contexts you work in?
  • How could you incorporate more open material or practices?

Write down your responses in your reflective log.

2.2 The meaning of ‘open’ in open licensing

2.4 Why openly license my own materials?