Julie Lazzara and Matthew Bloom give us an introduction to OER in their guest post. The Novice Professor met Julie, Matthew, and their colleague Alisa Beyer at STP’s ACT 2018, where they gave a presentation about training for, developing and piloting an OER course in Psychology. Read more below to learn about open resources and how to use them from these OER guru’s!
If you are teaching in higher education, you have likely heard the term “Open Educational Resources” (OER) used with more frequency over the last several years. From conferences to scholarly publications--and even to the congressional budget--”open” textbooks have become a hot topic. But what really is OER and why would faculty choose to transition to them from traditional publisher materials? Students and faculty alike often associate OER with low or no cost textbooks, but there is a lot more to OER than cost savings. Here are a few key tips and resources to consider if OER has piqued your interest.
Free ≠ Open
Open Educational Resources are works of intellectual property that have been made available for certain kinds of repurposing by way of explicit licenses (often those developed by Creative Commons). These licenses permit the reuse, redistribution, retention, revision, and remixing of content in ways not possible with “all rights reserved” copyright. That’s why one of the key principles of OER is that the free availability of content online does not make that content open. Free is great, but the permissions afforded by open licenses allow you to do much more with the material. For example, OER allow for redistribution and retention of material, so you can download the content and keep it for yourself (or put it in your LMS), that way you’re not relying on links (which always break at the least convenient moment). Additionally, much OER permits revision and remixing, so you can pick and choose from a variety of resources in order to customize your course content in a way that is preferable to you and best for your students. Because OER are often easily downloadable, students can also access the material offline in the case that they do not have consistent access to the internet. The permissions articulated above make much more legally possible with our course materials.
Pay Attention (to Licensing)
Of course, this means that you have to learn the basics of copyright and content licensing. That may seem irritating, but paying attention to detail is arguably an important skill in life in general, not just with respect to our decisions about course materials. Seriously, though, it isn’t too difficult to scan a resource to locate its copyright information. Openly-licensed materials are explicitly described as such. Remember: if a resource doesn’t say how you’re permitted to use it, you must assume that it is “all rights reserved,” because copyright is automatic. You can typically find the Creative Commons license of an open resource at the bottom of a webpage or along with the rest of the information on the copyright page of a book/ebook.
Changing the way that you curate course materials can be a daunting process, but don’t think that you have to do it all on your own or from scratch. The truth is that you may dabble in OER by testing out a few ancillary materials or modules before deciding to toss your textbook out the window and adopt all OER. There is nothing wrong with taking it slow. Furthermore, many resources already exist online and can be found using one of the many search aggregators out there (such as SUNY Geneseo’s OASIS or OER Commons). Your institution’s librarians may also be very knowledgeable about the availability of open resources, so don’t forget to ask the experts! They will surely be able to help you locate the best open material out there (and in some disciplines, there is a lot of stuff to sift through).
When you do decide to create and share your own materials, keep in mind that many faculty have their own way of approaching courses. Because it is often unlikely that someone else will want to teach your entire course as it is, a best practice of OER development and sharing is to focus on specific, independent learning objectives that can be easily adopted and/or adapted into someone else’s existing materials. Approaching OER in this “chunkified” way greatly increases the likelihood that others with use the materials you’ve shared.
Share Back the Remix
When you do remix or revise content that others have published, an ethical practice is to publish your version back to the “commons” so that everyone may benefit from your improvements.
Julie is happy to share her Lifespan Development course which is currently available in Canvas Commons. Once you are logged into your Canvas account, click on Canvas Commons, and then search for “Psychology Through the Lifespan.”
One of the most well known OER is through Openstax. Check out the Intro Psychology textbook and instructor resources that are available.
Another excellence repository for psychology OER materials is through NOBA.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start dabbling in OER!
To take a self-paced course about OER, check out Matthew’s. The course is available at https://www.canvas.net/ (the public Canvas MOOC site) by searching for "Making the Transition to Open."
We also invite you to attend our free OER conference in sunny Arizona in February. You can find out more and register here: Arizona regional OER conference and OER leadership day.
Written by Julie Lazzara and Matthew Bloom
Julie is Psychology Faculty at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. She primarily teaches intro psych and lifespan development. She is currently the chair of STP’s Early Career Psychologist committee. She serves on her college and district OER committees and was a grant recipient for phase 9 of the Maricopa Millions Project.. Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew is English Faculty at Scottsdale Community College, where he is also co-chair of the college's OER Committee. He is also currently on assignment as Maricopa Community Colleges’ Faculty-in-Residence OER Coordinator, where he works with the co-chair of Maricopa Millions and the Maricopa OER Steering Team to plan, organize, and execute projects designed to promote faculty adoption and student awareness of OER. Matthew.email@example.com