Open for Learning: OER Materials Continue to Rise

There is a large and growing number of works released with open licenses, which encourage sharing and remixing. These works (both creative and academic) can be used extensively within classrooms for little to no money. Over a billion such works were created under Creative Commons licenses alone. Yet for many, open educational resources (OER) are a yet-unknown element. A recent study found that about 3 out of 4 higher-ed faculty members could not name what OER was, despite making access to textbooks and other learning materials easier than ever for students. The common trope of professors writing textbooks that they require students to buy doesn’t quite hold up: few professors make money from textbooks, even if they do write and require their own textbooks, and the process systematically locks students out of learning.

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Combining pedagogy with open learning materials is the subject of multiple websites and conferences, including the Open Education Global Conference in Krakow, and oerstrategy.org. OER advocates say that campuses save almost as much time and expense by adopting these resources as their students do. Cable Green of the Creative Commons points to OER efforts in British Columbia and the University of Minnesota, which snowballed into an effort that Washington, Oregon, and California have since joined. Green hopes the efforts will lead to more efficient usage of faculty time and more uniform, less redundant learning materials: “They said, ‘Let’s not duplicate efforts and let’s not waste money’ — butwe can actually do better than that. We can set plans together. We can divide the labor, so everybody doesn’t have to work so hard. We can share the expenses on projects.”

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