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Issue 26 – Open Educational Resources (OER)

By Curtin Teaching and Learning September 13th, 2011 PD Blog No Comments »

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A Wikiversity Logo for Open Educational Resour...

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This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence.  (Stephen Downes)

What are they?

OER are materials licensed in such a way as to allow free access and use by anyone in the world. The internet has already spawned a philosophy of “sharism” and now a global movement in OER is underway.  Individuals and institutions the world over are acting in the belief that a better educated population is of benefit to everyone.

OER include a wide range of materials from short worksheets, papers, books, learning objects to complete courses (often with all associated teaching and learning materials) that can be used and repurposed.

OER make it possible for anyone in the world (with internet access) to study and learn in fields that might otherwise be exclusive or inaccessible.  Anyone can be a life-long learner and pursue any subject area that is supported with OER.  What the OER pathway does not offer is accreditation or certification.  Some countries are already legislating that all government supported educational materials are made publicly available under an open license. Many universities are using Open Courseware approaches to allow people to study a subject informally, often choosing to enroll in a degree program after they have ascertained their interest and capability.

The other dimension is that educators around the world are able to access (and contribute) high quality teaching resources to the growing pool of OER.  This allows educators to more easily build a course of study around high quality resources.

Likewise, students are also able to draw upon the most relevant resources from wherever they are made available and extend the offerings of the institution where they have enrolled. Students are better placed to assess the quality of the learning materials they are being offered.

The OER movement has many parallels with the growth in Creative Commons.  An OER Commons has also emerged and is working towards ensuring that educators and learners are able to easily locate and use the best available resources.  (Jump to 3:48 in the video above to see Prof Matthew Allen discussing OER.)

How can they benefit you?

OER can be used in a variety ways to supplement and extend the opportunities that you offer your students.  High quality materials that might otherwise be unavailable to you because of access restrictions, copyright or proprietary licensing, can be used free of charge.

There can be economies of time, personnel and money.  With limited budgets and tight schedules, teachers are often pressed to create high quality courses within these constraints.  OER approaches effectively leverage the work being done around the world and shares the load across a wider community of educators.

Ideally, it isn’t simply about pillaging the resources of others, but rather it provides yet another avenue for good educators to contribute to quality teaching and learning in a much broader context.  It also provides an opportunity for recognition of quality teachers across the globe.  Curtin University retains ownership of all teaching materials created by educators in its employ – check with your line manager before sharing educational materials you have created.

Where can you find Open Educational Resources?

Just about anywhere that teachers and educators congregate on the internet.  However there are several large repositories and developing databases that will allow you to pinpoint the materials you need specific to discipline and learning strategy.

  • Internet Archive Library of Open Educational Resources and university lectures – This library contains hundreds of free courses, video lectures, and supplemental materials from universities in the United States and China. Many of these lectures are available for download.
  • OER Commons – “The OER Commons website was created to help educators, students, and lifelong learners find Open Educational Resources that are already posted somewhere on the Internet”
  • MERLOT – Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching
  • DSpace@MIT – “MIT’s institutional repository built to save, share, and search MIT’s digital research materials including an increasing number of conference papers, images, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, preprints, technical reports, theses, working papers, and more.”
  • MITOpenCourseWare – “is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.”
  • Flickr Creative Commons – Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license.

Specialised Search Engines

Many more specialised OER search engines are listed at the WikiEducator OER Handbook, UNESCO OER Wiki and Free Learning

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are a growing part of the OER movement. Open textbooks are textbooks that are freely available with non-restrictive licenses.

Copying Do’s and Don’ts

If materials are used appropriately under the prescribed licenses and termsof use then end users are quite safe in repurposing OER.  However, free use does not necessarily imply copyright free or transferable ownership.  Anyone using OER should ensure they understand their responsibilities.

Creative Commons: a user guide

“Creative Commons: a user guide” by Simone Aliprandi is a book licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
A comprehensive overview of Creative Commons licences by Tama Leaver (Curtin) from COFA
Creative Commons licences explained.
By Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand with support from InternetNZ.


Open Education Resources University

The OER university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.

Extended Reading


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