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Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and more. This Guide provides information on using OERs in your courses, and tools to locate OERs by type and topic.

OER Mythbusting

I Don't Know What OER Are So I Can't Use Them

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. 

Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere. “Open” permissions are typically defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials. - SPARC

You may already be using OER. FAA manuals and other government documents are in the public domain and can be used freely. More sources of OER materials can be found throughout this guide or by contacting the Hunt Library for assistance.

Common OER Myths

While OER textbooks usually start out as digital files so they can be easily created and adapted, they can also be made available in print format. PDF files can be printed out, and many OER publishers and services can produce print books for a low cost. Thanks to open licenses, OER can also be adapted to fit individual format needs without requesting permission. The goal of OER is to be as accessible as possible and usable across a variety of formats, devices, and platforms.

With any course materials, it's up to instructors to determine their quality and appropriateness for their students. OER are no different. Widely available OER are written and reviewed by subject specialists, usually faculty who are actively teaching in the subject area. Major open publishers like Openstax, Lumen Learning, the National Academies Press, and others are also highly concerned with accessibility, and produce books, videos, and other learning objects to high standards.

Even better, there is proof that students benefit from OER use, as discussed in this 2018 study, The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.

Creating or adapting OER can be time consuming, but no more so than writing a traditional commercial textbook or creating additional supplements for your course. In fact, by adapting open materials, you can save time by not needing to request special permission to make changes.

Often, it can be as simple as finding and adopting readily-available OER. Some publishers, like OpenStax, even include supplemental materials like slides, study guides, and answer keys. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to the Hunt Library, and we can help you find options for your course.

Getting started with OER doesn’t have to be a major endeavor. It can be as simple as adopting an existing OER textbook, video, assignment, or other learning object. Several ERAU faculty members have been using and creating OER for some time, and the Hunt Library can assist faculty members who wish to explore and use OER in their own courses. To see examples of materials adopted or created here at ERAU, browse the Scholarly Commons OER collection.

The idea of open content and open education has been around over 20 years, and has grown into robust, permanent parts of many institutions. For example, MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) was founded in 2001 and presents the core academic content from nearly all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate curriculum. OCW is now a permanent part of MIT’s outreach. Funding for OER is also part of state and federal budgets and is well supported by grant funders such as the Hewlett Foundation. OER producers such as OpenStax and Lumen Learning also provide additional support at a small cost to ensure the OER content remains free and open for all.

Due to the rapid growth of OER in recent years, they are easier to find than ever. There are several large repositories of quality OER content such as OER Commons and the Open Textbook Library, as well as specialized OER search engines. In addition, the Hunt Library’s Open Educational Resources Guide provides tips and tools for searching, and the Scholarly Commons OER collection lists OER currently being used at ERAU.

In traditional publishing, authors must sign contracts which transfer copyright to the publishers. OER open licensing, on the other hand, allows authors and creators to retain the rights to their work and have control over how others use it. Open licenses work as blanket permission for the public to use the work in certain ways, and users who want to go beyond the license can always contact the creator to ask for special permissions. Since creators keep their rights, they get the final say instead of a publisher.

Any subject that can be written about in a traditional publication can be written about in an OER. OER exist for subjects such as Aerodynamics, Biochemistry, Cybersecurity, Law, Neural Networks, Project Management, Quantum Physics, and Virtual Reality. In fact, you may be using OER and not realize it! At ERAU, many classes already utilize publications from NASA, the FAA, and other government entities. US Federal government works are also OER because they’re in the public domain.

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