Investigating the potential of Open Educational Resources (OER’s)

To put it simply…

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner.” (definition from OER Commons)

And I’ve recently been involved with Debbie Flint and Stephen Mallinder, who work for the HEA Art Design and Media Subject Centre (HEA ADM) and Sarah Atkinson, who’s a principal lecturer in Broadcast Media at the University of Brighton, on the ARTS OER Brighton project, part of the bigger ALTO UK project.

But as part of this work the HEA ADM will be hosting the Drawing on All Resources Conference,16th May 2012 at Brighton. It’s free and promises to be an interesting insight in to how creative subjects are approaching open educational practice, with speakers from various UK institutions.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) have great potential, especially as access to the Internet has improved and social media have developed!

But what’s happening to find out how we might make best use of them?

The successful development and implementation of OERs has been a long held ambition of Higher Education strategists backed by various initiatives in the UK (JISC and HEA UK OER) and internationally (UNESCO). We only have to think of the ubiquitous MIT open courseware or the JORUM repository to know the idea has been around for some time! And in the case of MIT can work with great success.

However, the formal development of OER’s by Universities has never really fulfilled it’s obvious potential to provide readily available, authoritative and accessible learning resources that academics can easily ‘pick & mix’ into their teaching. Or indeed, to widen participation and engage with new learners. The JISC OER toolkit explains some of the perquisites needed to overcoming the perceived barriers to the production and use of OERs. Fundamental to this is making academics aware of the benefits and putting in place the necessary support for technical and copyright issues.

We’ve all used OERs without thinking about it, when searching for inspiration on the internet,  and found YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations or TED talks. But how many of us contribute to these new types of social technologies that enable us to share freely? Are we really ready to work in a culture of ‘openess’? Can we change the way we work to embed them in practice?

Here are a few ideas for tools that might help and if you know of more, please add them as a comment to this post.

There are also some dedicated search engines designed to source existing OERs:

  • XPERT – developed by the University of Nottingham, useful for finding images and media.
  • Free Learning – from Google.

And some interesting repositories, sources and projects:

Then you’ve got fully supported University tools to enable you to create OER’s:


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