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Getting to know open educational resources

When it comes to teaching and learning, how open are you to open source?

When it comes to teaching and learning, how open are you to open source?

These days you can find pretty much anything online. When you combine the reach and accessibility of the internet with the spirit of collaboration that seems to have always existed between teachers, it's only natural you would find a growing interest in open educational resources (OER).

Simply put, OER are teaching, learning and research resources - textbooks, readings, multi-media files, software, assessment tools and even entire courses - available and licensed to use, re-mix and share at no cost to users anywhere.

OER are often praised for their accessibility - being both free for students and instructors, and available online - but they can also support innovation.

"The sharing of knowledge and ideas is really the cornerstone of any high-quality educational experience," says Jessica Norman, eLearning Librarian, Reg Erhardt Library. "The concept of OER may be fairly new at SAIT but that foundation has always been there."

Early days for OER

OER creation and adoption is beginning to take off nationwide.

Although OER adoption in Canada is currently concentrated in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, OER projects in Alberta are occurring at multiple institutions within the province, including the University of Alberta and Athabasca University.

Just this summer, SAIT adopted one of the first institutional OER policies in Canada. The policy is designed to encourage and support the adoption, adaptation and creation of OER on campus.

OER in our own backyard

William Thompson, Architectural Technologies instructor, has just started to experiment with the world of OER.

Thompson develops 3-D models as a class resource for his students, which he now freely distributes online.

"I suppose my interest in OER extends from my support of an open source sharing economy," he says.

Finding himself hampered by copyright worries associated with a typical Google image search, Thompson recently took his collection of construction site and building photos online via Flickr, an image and video hosting service.

"I realize I need to find alternative sources of photographs, so I'm trying to be part of the solution - part of the sharing community - by making my photographs accessible to others," he says. "I hope that, in turn, I find others who also share their work."

Since both the OER concept and policy are new at SAIT, classroom integration isn't without its challenges.

"I don't see a lot of true OER content for the subjects I instruct," says Thompson. "This is a bit of a challenge, but it's also an opportunity I would like to contribute to."

For Thompson, committing to sharing knowledge and ideas also means there's a chance to connect to colleagues and peers.

"I think having a network of people who are interested in developing OER content is important and beneficial to improving and distributing it," he says. "There's a bit of a community behind it."

Five reasons to give OER a try

"There are a number of reasons to try OER in the classroom," says Norman. "Yes, there's a learning curve, but your library liaison is here to help."

  • You're not starting from scratch on a learning object - you can use parts or all of someone else's work.
  • OER are licensed to allow the sharing of content - the terms are easy to understand and follow.
  • You can discover alternative, innovative ideas for presenting and teaching your subject matter.
  • OER are free - instructors and students don't have to pay fees or royalties to use them.
  • OER can increase the number and format of materials available.

Questions about OER? Contact: Reg Erhardt Library.

Check out a list of OER repositories at libguides.sait.ca/OER/FindOER


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