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Open Education Resources: An Introduction

OER overview, licensing, evaluating, ethics, citating, and more

Open Educational Resources

What is an OER? 

Open educational resources are free shareable resources which have open licenses.  They are useful for teaching, learning, and research.  They have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others or, reside in the public domain.   The term was first adopted at UNESCO'S 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries. 

Why use OER?  

One way to address the rising cost of education to students.  Faculty have greater control over their resources.  OER expands access to more learners

What is the difference between "open" and "free". 

  • Cost is free to the end user because the creator waives all rights to the intellectual property
  • The end user (student) might have to pay the medium of distribution for the content
  •  Adaptation of an OER may cost significant time and creativity

What does "freely available" or "open access" mean in the OER sense? 

  • Freely available materials are not always open resources.
  • The copyright holder releases their material to be shared in a publicly available space but retains copyrights
  • We can use the material in its current form or may make make changes or copies - it depends on the license.
  • Material may be distributed freely under certain conditions.

How do I find an OER to use in my class?  

There are many repositories for finding OER which includes textbooks, course materials, and multimedia resources.  The research guide OER: A Guide to Resources provides sources which are open source or freely available.  

Some information provided in this research guide is based on the Tacoma Community College OER PROJECT wiki and  Open Washington CC BY 4.0

What do Students think?

In late 2017, over 10,000 Washington State higher education students responded to a survey on the affordability of course materials.  The survey, conducted by WACTCSA and SBCTC, has provided a summary of findings:  Research Brief

  • The majority of students thought that class textbooks/materials should cost no more than $50
  • Over half of students have used borrowed materials (57%) 
  • They reported that they often took classes without the required materials. (44%)
  • Many have taken fewer classes (37%)
  • Financial aide money does not arrive in time to purchase materials by the first day of class

Students have recommended various strategies for improving textbook affordability.  

  • Actively use free and open materials 
  • Avoid costly homework websites, don't require newest editions.
  • Advertise the full cost of the course
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