What are Open Educational Resources?

As the name suggests, Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available resources for learning and teaching, such as documents, videos, syllabi, software, and images. The advantage for educators is that these resources may be deposited, shared and re-used, thus saving time in creating new courses or updating existing methods (also, the promotion of the particular institution or field and peer support for others in the same subject area is an advantage of sharing teaching materials). OERs may be available as individual objects or bundled together as a package. They are most likely open licenses through licenses such as Creative Commons or GNU and are available online or within institutions. Also, the term Open CourseWare is often used.


What types of materials?
The types of materials that are distributed as Open Educational Resources are usually those that have been previously used in a classroom setting or designed for a purely online or blended learning context. They may be materials for activities or labs, complete courses, games, lecture notes, lesson plans, teaching and learning strategies, video-recorded lectures, or images and illustrations. The audience for these materials may be lecturers (which is primarily the case), maybe students, or even parents or administrators.
What type of licences?
Open Educational Resources are usually licenced to be easily re-used within non-commercial educational content (i.e. not re-sold). Many licences allow for re-mixing, which means they may be adapted and enhanced to suit differing institutional contexts and student cohorts. Some permissions only allow for sharing and re-use and no major revision (i.e. read the fine print), and many are available within the specific educational copyright regime of the particular country (i.e.educational use of copyrighted material provisions). Attribution is always an important consideration, meaning that the materials taken from OER repositories must be acknowledged so that the original creators of the work are credited.
Where are OER found?
Many OER repositories, such as the OER Commons project or Connexions, are available on the open web. The repositories may be run by volunteers or through paid employees on project funding provided by a university or funding agency. Although OER Commons and Connexions were explicitly designed for OER, broader definitions may include projects like the Internet Archive or Wikipedia. OER repositories may also exist at a university level to be maintained by the university library or the team responsible for the university Learning Management System (LMS). Learner Management Systems such as Desire2Learn have inbuilt repositories so that course content may be deposited and shared at a school, faculty, or institutional level (or open to the broader community).
What are the archival (technical) standards?
When OER materials are placed into a repository, metadata and archival standards need to be associated with them so that they may be easily located, archived and shared meaningfully. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a common way to describe objects, zipped up into a package and reused by different Learner Management Systems (LMS). Succinctly, SCORM is a package of lessons bundled together to be understood by the LMS. What this means for educators is that when placing OER materials into a repository, the correct meta-data(data about data) is required about the material, usually inputted through a form to restrict the type of materials and subjects addressed.
What are the archival (teaching) standards?
Many OER resources align with the teaching standards in different institutions or jurisdictions. The resources available are often aligned through a peer assessment of the OERs utility, quality of explanation, or quality of technical interactivity. The value of this for educators is the certainty that OER resources are of high quality and currency and purposefully meet teaching challenges.



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