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Introduction to open educational resources

This is a summary of the ExperienceIT session Introduction to Open Educational Resources (OERs) held on March 15, 2012. For more information on OERs, contact Dan Reis in Teaching and Learning Technologies.

What are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

Put simply, OERs are learning materials that are free to use, remix and redistribute (Wikipedia). According to Educause, a nonprofit association that works in higher education and technology, an OER is “any resource available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings and other learning content; simulations, games and other applications; syllabi, quizzes and assessment tools; and virtually any other educational material.”

How can OERs help faculty?

Problem for faculty: Lack of time or know-how to produce multimedia content to enhance course materials.
How OERs can help:

  • Require no production time because they are pre-produced
  • Often include multimedia components like video, audio, images, illustrations and animations
  • Integrate well into existing course technology like Moodle, PowerPoint slides, course blogs, or email

Problem for faculty: Limited class time for discussion, activities and group work.
How OERs can help:

  • Flip the class by assigning one of the thousands of lectures and videos available as homework and have students come to class prepared to discuss it

Problem for faculty: Asked to design and teach a course on a topic that is outside an area of expertise.
How OERs can help:

  • Find a syllabus from a similar course and use it as a framework for your course
  • Identify themes and key materials with syllabus, activities and assessments from similar courses
  • Re-purpose materials from areas outside the discipline

Sounds great — what’s the catch?

There are a few:

  • Not centralized: OERs are scattered across several websites and can be time consuming to find
  • Inconsistent quality: some are great, some are unusable
  • Manual: inserting the content into your course materials is a manual process

What do I need to do to use them?

The only requirement for using OERs is that you cite the work and obey the licensing restrictions the content author placed on the work. Learn more about licensing and citations on Creative Commons’ website.

Where can I find them?

OERs can be found on websites operated by universities, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Saylor.org — Videos, readings and assessments organized by courses and units
  • Creative Commons Search — Searches Flickr and Google Images for photos that are free to use
  • Kahn Academy — These brief videos can be good refreshers in art history, history, finance, math and sciences
  • YouTube EDU — Lectures, presentations, interviews and other videos from leading universities


The handout from the presentation (PDF) includes more information on where to find open educational resources.


The Prezi presentation from the ExperienceIT session on March 15, 2012.

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