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Open Educational Resources (OER): Learn More

This guide attempts to list different subject specific OER, and talk about different types of OER and tries to explain different licenses to understand OER.

Types of OER

Different types of OER meet different needs

The wide array of Open Educational Resources is creating an entirely new eco-system for higher education. There are entirely new types of courses that rely on advances in the cognitive sciences to create individualized learning paths that can better ensure and measure student comprehension.

Individual OER with little or no interlocking pedagogical structure are often called "learning objects." Learning objects can be used individually, or combined in a variety of ways including creating readers and textbooks. Semi-structured OER learning materials, such as encyclopedia and digitized library collections, are often most useful as reference materials.

Highly structured OER, which include textbooks and even complete courses can be used "as-is", modified to fit particular needs or styles of learning, or serve as a model for course updates or new course creation. Because these resources are free and open, they can be combined, adapted, modified and reconfigured as needed and allowed by Creative Commons licenses. The following examples illustrate the complementary nature and utility of different types of OER, all of which are now readily available on the Internet. The examples are presented in the following order:

  • unstructured OER that focuses on a single topic or idea;
  • OER with more structure, such as materials grouped by subject area; and
  • fully structured OER, such as complete courses.

The following representative but not exhaustive list of OER examples provide a snapshot of the increasing depth, quality and versatility of the free, high-quality OER that are now available.

  1. OER Learning Objects
  2. OER Digitized Library Collections
  3. OER Encyclopedia
  4. OER Online Archives
  5. Open Textbooks
  6. OER Courseware
  7. OER Courses
  8. OER Courses with Embedded Cognitive Science Techniques
  9. Nature Publishing Group's Science OER
  10. Online Tools Support and Empower the OER Community
  11. Open Course Library

This content has been adapted from Creative Commons website and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0. 

Why use OER?

Why use OER?

The open resource movement has been around for a while, starting with static learning objects (about 2000), and transitioning to OER that allowed for revision and reuse. It is the ever increasing cost of textbooks and materials for students that is now pushing the OER movement forward.  Textbooks and learning materials cost students approximately $1,200 per year.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students didn't purchase a textbook because it was too expensive.  Through OER the cost of student materials can be drastically reduced.  OER also give instructors the ability to customize the materials, creating the "perfect" textbook instead of being bound to traditional print resources. (This section is taken from Santa Ana College OER webpage).

Open Educational Resources, or OER, can benefit students in a variety of ways.  Some of the primary benefits include:

  • Cost Savings - The high price of textbooks can be prohibitive to students in pursuit of their education.  Many students cannot afford to buy their books.  OER provides no-cost or low-cost course materials, that can make higher education accessible and affordable for everyone.  OER ensures that students have access to all course material from the first day of class.
  • Provides Access to More Quality Choices - Many top colleges and universities across the country are providing free online course options to the public.  This access allows students from all walks of life the ability to enjoy high-quality courses and tutorials developed by institutions such as Open Yale Courses, JHSPH OpenCourseWare (John Hopkins University), Webcast.Berkeley (University of California Berkeley), MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon University), and Harvard Open Courses.
  • Flexible - OER provides flexibility for all learning styles.  Students have the option of electronic content, or they can print a hard copy of the material.  In addition, the same material can be presented in multiple ways using print, audio, video, and interactive technology.  This flexibility is a result of the shared nature of the content, as instructors or institutions do not have to pay to use each variation of the content.  Instructors can also modify or customize the material to best suit the needs of their students, and embody the nature of their course. (This is taken from Santa Ana College OER webpage).

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