Open was a big buzz word at the recent Distance Learning Administration conference. Open educational resources basically aim to reduce barriers to academic content. Could such materials work in your class? Let’s have a look at some basics.
An American Enterprise Institute article claims that textbooks prices have increased a whooping 812% since 1978. While publishing companies stand to lose from open textbooks, according to a 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education article, the education system stands to gain. A recent Student Public Interest Research Groups report concluded that open textbooks save students an average of $128 per course if used as a replacement of the traditional published textbook.
What are open textbooks? They are copyrighted texts made available to the public at no cost in print, electronic (eBook), or audio format.
For specifics on how you can use the open texts, read the details of the respective open license (unless the text falls in the public domain, in which case you have complete freedom).
There are numerous repositories of open textbooks, such as:
- Cool4Ed Open eTextbooks
- College Open Textbooks
- Creative Commons
- Open Stax Books
- Open Textbook Library
- Merlot eBooks
- Student PIRGs Open Textbooks
- The Orange Grove Open Textbooks
- Wiki Books.
A word of caution: these texts may or may not go through rigorous quality assurance processes. Always make sure the at the open text you wish to use is accurate, up to date, and accessible.
Open courseware (sometimes written as two words, i.e., “course ware”) refers to digital, copyrighted lessons or courses made available to the public under an open license.
Courseware can refer to learning objects (such as those found in the Orange Grove Learning Object Repository) or entire courses – as is the case with massive open online courses (MOOCs).
There are numerous places where you can find open courseware:
- Cool4Ed: Courses and Course Materials
- Coursera (my personal favorite MOOC central)
- Harvard Online Learning
- Khan Academy
- Saylor.org Open Course Resource Center.
Since such courseware is open, you are free to take components for your own use (after you’ve carefully examined the terms of the open license).
Open Educational Resources
Open educational resources (OER) is the umbrella term for any education materials that are freely available under an open license or public domain. Examples of OER include textbooks, courses, software, and learning objects (including everything from mixed-media presentations, practice, tests, to entire course modules).
The following video (Figure 4) talks about how OER is a free, flexible, modern, and interactive option in education.
Fig. 4: About OER
The following video (Figure 5) was created by Florida Virtual Campus through a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant. The video explains how you can create OER and troubleshoot complications that arise when combining different licenses.
Fig. 5: Creating OER and Working with Open Licenses
To learn more about open education resources, visit:
So now, back to the original question. Could such materials work in your class? As always, I welcome your thoughts and personal experiences related to this topic.