Open Educational Resources (OER)
The open education movement seeks to improve student learning through the use of free and openly licensed course materials - textbooks, exercises, assignments - that can be customized by teachers and easily accessed by all students regardless of their financial means. Switching to such open educational resources (OER) gives instructors the freedom to revise and remix content to match their plan for the course. OER also allow students to engage with the text in new and pedagogically powerful ways that help them recognize themselves as producers of information rather than just consumers, such as open pedagogy.
Why should instructors adopt OER?
Adopting OER is a strategic act that can create systemic, long term change in your courses. OER allow instructors to:
- Ensure that all your students have access to readings. OER are completely free to access online, which means you can use them as an equity strategy to ensure that all students have equal and immediate access to your learning materials. Research from the University of Georgia shows that all students perform better in courses that switch to open textbooks from commercial textbooks, but students from low-income households benefit the most.
- Regain control of your course readings. Professors should have the academic freedom to fully control their readings and other learning materials, and to change them how and when they want to change them. OER can be a sustainability strategy for instructors. Many instructors switch to OER because:
- they see little value in the updates commercial publishers push out with each new edition, especially in the context of price increases.
- they know things are missing from commercial textbooks and do not want to center their course assignments on the textbook.
- they want to customize their course content to become more representative of the students in their classroom and of the current context they are living in.
Many Gettysburg College instructors have already integrated OER into their courses. For examples, look at the list of courses using OER on the Open Education Guide.
Also, check out this list of ideas and examples for using OER in your classes from the Open Education Group!
Where to find OER
Librarians are happy to send a short list of OER that might support your course. Please don’t hesitate to ask – we’d rather that you use your time evaluating possible sources than finding them. However, if you’d like to do some searching, we recommend starting with the Open Textbook Library (U. of Minnesota) or the Pressbooks Directory for textbooks and the OER Commons for ancillary content. You can also view the Open Education Guide for more places to search.
Resources for creating and adapting OER
There are many online resources available to instructors who are interesting in creating or adapting an OER for their courses. The list below contains a few of these resources, and you can also find additional materials on the Open Education Guide.
- Revising and Remixing OER, Mary Elmquist and Janelle Wertzberger
- Authoring Open Textbooks, Rebus Community
- An Open Education Reader, David Wiley
- OER Starter Kit, Abby Elder
Open pedagogy and collaborative creation
Open pedagogy is typically used to refer to a practice of teaching that combines critical pedagogical praxis with the use of open materials. In different situations, this could mean involving students in editing Wikipedia articles, writing supplemental content for an open textbook, or developing their own syllabus for a class. For a fuller explanation of the concept (and additional examples), check out the Open Pedagogy Notebook's "What is Open Pedagogy?".
Examples of open pedagogy in the classroom
- Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition - Robin DeRosa (Plymouth State University) describes her experience teaching a first-year seminar designed around the concept of open pedagogy.
- My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice - Another from Robin DeRosa, explaining the process she and her class undertook to write and publish The Open Anthology of Early American Literature, an open, annotated literature textbook.
- Non-majors Science Students as Content Creators - Heather Miceli (Roger Williams University) describes how she structures a required non-majors science course around the interests of students to engage them in scientific investigation and knowledge creation.
- Why have students answer questions when they can write them? - A brief argument from Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) on the pedagogical effectiveness of having students develop a question bank for an open textbook.
- Murder, Madness, and Mayhem - John Beasley-Murray (University of British Columbia) talks the logistics of writing and editing Wikipedia articles as a class assignment.