Increasingly, educators are turning to Open Educational Resources (OERs) as teaching tools. OERs are free publicly available educational resources that anyone can copy, use, adapt, and re-share. Numerous OERs exist for teachers, but ever wondered if you could create your own? Do-it-yourself OER is not as daunting of a task as it may first appear.
I am a high school science teacher in the state of Maine, and in the summer of 2012, I created an OER for my Chemistry course. I was able to do this with a little training and content I already had on hand, and the course currently has over 111,000 subscribers--and continues to grow.
I feel my students have benefitted from this OER content because it specifically addresses their background understanding, is directed at their learning objectives, and can be readily edited to meet emerging needs. Now, I’m here to share my secrets with you.
So, how can you get started creating OERs?
1. Consider Devices and Delivery
Development of an OER begins with a quick (informal) survey of the devices available to you and your students. It is important that your OER is available to as many of your students as much of the time as possible. Do you want iOS, Android, Mac, or PC content? Most students in 2014 have access to multiple devices. Is it important that your content is available on more than one platform?
Once you have decided on a target device(s), you can consider how you want to deliver content. Delivery options range from learning management systems (LMSs) such as Edmodo, Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard, and Google Classroom, to digital curriculum such as iTunes U, Coursera, and edX, to electronic textbooks (which can be easier to write/create than you think). Your decision should take into account the requirements and resources of your school/district, the (friendly) advice of colleagues, and your comfort level with the technology and tools.
In other words, there is no one correct answer. And once you have an idea of what delivery option you want to use, it’s time to...
2. Test Drive the Delivery Vehicle
Now, it’s time to create a course. The best way to evaluate the ease of use, the appropriateness for the content, the compatibility with your teaching style, and the flexibility to continuously modify is to create a course. You can use your actual curriculum, or build a course with space filler text. Before you start designing your own, enroll in a course as a learner to see how it feels. Ask colleagues if you can join one of their courses or use a publicly available course. If the interface doesn’t work for you as a learner, it will likely not work for your students either.
Once you’ve tested, it’s time to decide on your delivery vehicle for your content--and know that you can “smash delivery vehicles.” You can embed books within courses, courses within learning management systems, etc.
For example, I use iTunes U as the delivery vehicle for my curriculum. With iTunes U, I can easily create courses which are very intuitive for students. I am able to include a diverse array of resources and have access to features (such as embedded note taking and discussions) that enhance the learning experience. I also use iBooks Author to write books that are contained within my iTunes U courses and that are available through the iBookstore.
Regardless of the particular delivery vehicle you select, you should…
3. Develop an Understanding of Copyright
The open in OER means that the content is available online to the public and can be legally used by anyone.
You will want to acquire a basic understanding of copyright from the perspective of material you will be using and material you will be creating. The best source of information (and support) for educators is Creative Commons, which allows you to license your work and allows you to use the work of others.
You’ve got your delivery system and you know your copyright limits. Now, you can...
4. Pull Together Content
It’s time to pull together all of the content you’ll use in your course. It is not necessary to begin with all the curriculum for a course; you can start small with a lesson or unit. It will be easy to scale up later when you have a sense of what is working well and what is not working well. For example, when I started my first Chemistry class using iTunes U, I had the first few topics ready to go and the rest in an outline form.
As you assemble your OER content, make sure to...
5. Strive for Diversity
Play to your strengths and use material you already have on hand, but also vary your content.
WIth OERs, you can deliver content in varied formats (images, audio recordings, text, videos, prerecorded slideshows, interactive quizzes, and more). Make it your own by incorporating curricula that highlights what you do well. If you are great at making screencasts, use them. If you create wonderful graphic notes, incorporate them. Use OER developed by other educators, and make use of the material you have already created.
6. Look for Support
As you develop your OER, seek out other professionals who can review your work, give you tips, and otherwise encourage you. I am an Apple Distinguished Educator, and when I am stuck, I can reach out to these colleagues for support.
You can develop your own network of educators through conferences, institutes, training sessions, and through any professional development activities you participate in.Go to events where you can work with other educators and create content. Consider a CUE Rock Star Camp or Promise to Practice, for example.
And last, but not least...
7. Expect to Evolve
I have moved from mass-produced content to creating my own content to empowering my students to create content. With each new year, I incorporate new features, new ideas, and new approaches. Some improvements come from other educators, while many ideas come from my students. By listening to them, I am always learning how to create better OERs.
At the end of the day, an open mind is one of the biggest keys to being a stellar OER creator. Good luck!