Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Locating and Evaluating Open Educational Resources

This blog feature was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication: Mousetales.

Many faculty are looking to open educational resources to provide students with engaging and interactive multimedia resources or offer students low-cost quality content and materials that are alternatives to high-cost textbooks.  Open educational resources are “teaching and learning materials that are available freely for anyone to use” (from the Learn about the Movement page on the OER Commons web site).  These resources can range from individual items such as syllabi, lectures, learning activities, videos, simulations, and lab exercises to complete courses or textbooks.  Even though there are a lot of benefits to using open educational resources, it is often challenging to locate relevant and appropriate quality materials due to the large amount of resources available on the web.  This post aims to provide faculty with some resources that will help them find and evaluate open educational resources. 

Directories or repositories of open educational resources are one of the best places to start when looking for these types of materials.  There are also specific repositories for subject specific open education resources as well as ones for open courses and open textbooks.   Here are a few to start with.

OER Commons
OER Commons is a collection of over 40,000 resources that can be browsed by subject area, grade level or material type.  An advance search is also available to limit a search by a variety of different criteria including subject area, material type, media type, accessibility, and conditions of use.  Many of the resources have been reviewed and rated using the Achieve OER Evaluation Rubric.  And each resource is clearly marked with the conditions of use.  

Connexions
Connexions is a project of Rice University and is “a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc.” (from the Connexions web site).  There are over 21,000 reusable modules that can be browsed by subject area or searched by keyword.  Materials found here have a Creative Commons open license that allows for free use.

MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Teaching and Learning
MERLOT is a “free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services” (from the About Us page on the MERLOT web site).  There are currently over 40,000 learning materials that can be browsed or searched.  An advanced search is also available to limit a search by keyword, language, material type, audience, resources with peer reviews and comments, resources released under Creative Commons, are not copyrighted or have no cost associated with them.

Open educational resources can also be located through a variety of search engines such as Google.  For example, Google allows you to search for materials that have a Creative Commons license.  This short video demonstrates how easy it is to locate open educational resources that have a Creative Commons license.  Resources that can be freely used can also be found through the Creative Commons search.  This search allows you to easily locate images, music, videos, and other media that can be reused, remixed, and shared. 

The next challenge in using open educational resources is evaluating the resource to determine their usefulness and appropriateness.  The Evaluating OER Rubric is a helpful tool as it provides some basic questions to consider about an open educational resource.    

Here are a few more resources if you would like more information about open educational resources.
If you want to learn more about open educational resources or would like some assistance in incorporating them into your classes, please feel free to contact the Instructional Technology and Design team at itd@northshore.edu.  We would be happy to help.

Are you already using open educational resources in your classes?  If so, how are you using them?  And what resources are you using? 

What concerns do you have over using open educational resources in your classes?