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Open Educational Resources (OERs): Getting started

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OERs), are educational materials which are openly licensed and allow individuals and institutions to reuse, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OERs might include textbooks but can also be entire courses, videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques that support learning.

The OER Foundation uses Creative Commons licences which are approved by the Free Cultural Works Definition. 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 OERs.

Why should I use OERs?

2014 Study by the US Public Interest Research Group showed:

  • over the past decade college textbook prices increased by 82%
  • 65% of students did not buy their textbook, and 94% of those said they suffered academically
  • students spent an average of $1,200 a year on books and supplies

What should I consider when choosing an OER?

We recommend asking the following questions:

  • Has it been peer reviewed?
  • How has it been licensed?
  • Are there clear instructions on how to use the resource?
  • Is it accessible?
  • Can it be used on multiple devices?
  • Can it be used on different web browsers?

You might have other questions which are also important. Your Liaison Librarian can also help you with some of these questions.

Once you have chosen an Open Educational Resource you should check your links regularly to see that it is still available.

How do I know if it’s an OER?

Something qualifies as an Open Educational Resource if you can:

  • Retain it (e.g. make and save copies)
  • Reuse it (e.g. use in class, in a video, etc.)
  • Revise it (e.g. adapt, alter, modify, etc.)
  • Remix it (e.g. combine to create something new)
  • Redistribute it (e.g. share copies with students)

Some examples of what you should be able to do with an OER:

  • Translate it into a different language
  • Change it to suit your students’ needs
  • Change the format (e.g. narrate or copy to a disk)
  • Make a new textbook or anthology from existing works

Check your resource by reading any associated Creative Commons License and learning what rights you have in relation to the learning object.

Also see the OEL Toolkit, a joint project of Swinburne University and University of Tasmania.

You should also get into contact with your Liaison Librarian or the Information Officer (Copyright and Compliance) if you are considering remixing or creating new OERs.

Approaching and evaluating Open Textbooks

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