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Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Ed #DLNchat

By Michael Sano     Jan 12, 2018

Can open educational resources, or OER, truly create more equity and access? That was the question at the heart of our #DLNchat on January 9, which centered around OER in Higher Education. Our special guest, Lisa Petrides, creator of OER Commons, kicked things off by defining the topic at hand: “OER are teaching & learning materials freely available for anyone to use. These materials typically reside in the public domain, or have an alternative copyright license, i.e. Creative Commons or GNU, that specify how the resource may be reused, adapted, and shared. To me OER is also about the democratization of access to education, and the pursuit and sharing of knowledge. And the ecosystem of open knowledge sharing is fundamental to teaching, to learning, and to equity."

Chatters agreed OER should be available for adaptation and redistribution. Or, as a representative from the University of Mississippi PLATO program put it, OER are “materials you can retain, revise, reuse, remix, and redistribute.”

A large portion of Tuesday’s chat was dedicated to discussing how institutions can create and curate OER, including how faculty, librarians and even students play a role. Dr. Ryan Straight, assistant professor at the University of Arizona, brought up the topic of student input in creating OER, wistfully wishing for student authors and a whole lot more hours in the week.

OER pioneer and CAO of Lumen Learning, David Wiley also joined the chat, sharing an article about students who started an open-source textbook, a process through which they create “content that other students like them can relate to and understand” and “faculty become editors rather than graders.” Others also shared student-generated OER efforts at their institutions. Justin Mason shared about University of Wisconsin-Extension’s current experiment while Britt Wattwood talked about building OER curation into course assignments. Kerri DeDeo and Scott Robison also encouraged gathering student input in the process for review of OER quality and relevance.

Of course, faculty are a key part of OER creation and curation. As Lisa Petrides put it, “Faculty are one of the most valuable resource that institutions have on their campuses.” She suggests to, “Create places where faculty can share open textbooks and ancillary materials that they are using. People need time to do this—use funding to support design and collaboration on campus (and around the world!)” We also heard stories about the challenges of an OER pilot Jennifer Albat supported and of the particular pitfalls for adjunct faculty from Maria Andersen—but Kelvin Bentley had some suggestions for how to help faculty find time and support.

Librarians surfaced as key partners on campus for OER initiatives, but what about external partners? Some are educational non-profits like OER Commons while others are courseware providers. Nori Barajas-Murphy shared examples from OLC Digital Learning Innovation Award Winners who described these powerful relationships as instrumental to their success in OER initiatives. So what does the ideal vendor partnership look like? Tyton Partners says, “The best models in the market today provide content for free with digital programming as the upsell. Otherwise known as OER+ or open wrapping, which combines OER content with digital learning applications like adaptive assessments.”

There were plenty of other thoughts about how vendors and other organizations can best partner with higher ed institutions on OER projects and programs. Many urged to keep the focus on equity and access. This brings us back to question: what is the future of Open Educational Resources? You can read through the latest #DLNchat tweets to see all of our community’s predictions (including one posit about the confluence of OER and AI), but Hal Plotkin summed it up well: “Judging by this #DLNchat the future of OER is very promising. With any luck, open educational practices will form the foundation for humanity's next great leap forward, toward a global culture of easily accessible knowledge and a prosperity that is more equitably shared.”

Join the Digital Learning Network to stay up to date on all events and the latest news for higher ed digital learning leaders! At our next #DLNchat, we’ll discuss How Will Net Neutrality Changes Affect Higher Ed? Add it your Google calendar for Tuesday, January 23 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET. #DLNchat is co-hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, WCET and Tyton Partners.

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