What steps can educators take towards using OER effectively for learning and teaching?


Responsibility for assuring the quality of any content used in teaching and learning environments, including OER, will reside predominantly with the programme/course coordinators and individual academic staff members. Whether prescribing core readings/textbooks, suggesting further readings, choosing a video to screen or using someone else’s course plan, educators retain final responsibility for choosing which materials — open and/or proprietary, digital or hardcopy — to use. For this reason, much of the quality of OER will depend on which resources academic staff choose to use, how they adapt them for contextual relevance and how they integrate them into various teaching and learning activities. Effective use of OER can address many of the above challenges.

In this context, it is suggested that academic staff in higher education institutions:

  1. Develop skills to evaluate OER.
    A good starting point is to increase knowledge of OER through exploring existing OER in suitable portals/ repositories and determining what might be useful in courses and modules. Academic staff may find existing OER to be useful benchmarks for reflecting on and improving their own curriculum and pedagogy as well as those of others. Such exploration and peer support/review may also develop their confidence to share new and/or adapted resources to address curriculum gaps in the existing pool of OER, which would enable them to contribute to global knowledge.

  2. Consider publishing OER.
    For some academic staff, this might be initiated most comfortably by starting small, working collaboratively with peers (including peer reviews) and publishing materials openly that are already routinely produced as part of teaching and learning, including course outlines, course information booklets or hand-outs, teaching notes and course assessment tools and instruments. Over time, such practices could generate a rich, inter-institutional repository of materials on which to draw. It would also provide students with a richer understanding of the content area.

  3. Assemble, adapt and contextualise existing OER.
    Part of the effective use of OER includes developing skills to adapt and contextualise existing OER to respond to diverse learning needs of students and support a variety of learning approaches for a given learning goal. This can be achieved by making use of, and contributing to, the diverse pool of resources available in OER repositories and sharing information on issues and processes related to adaptation and localisation of resources.

  4. Develop the habit of working in teams.
    Just as modern research is usually a team effort, so the development and repurposing of materials is likely to be more successful and more satisfying for the academic staff members involved, if they adopt a team approach.

  5. Seek institutional support for OER skills development.
    In order to exploit OER effectively academic staff will need to acquire skills and competences, such as materials design, curriculum development and the location, selection and adaptation of OER through a blended strategy of skills development and professional skills support. They should receive institutional support for professional development in these areas, both as individuals and as teams.

  6. Leverage networks and communities of practice.
    Academic staff can benefit tremendously from using existing online networks and communities of practice collaboratively to develop, adapt and share OER, as well as to engage in dialogue about their experiences in teaching and learning. Such communities of practice can also provide an excellent platform for publishing resources in existing repositories.

  7. Encourage student participation.
    Academic staff can be encouraged to use student feedback on OER to improve their own materials and encourage students to publish and contribute to OER. Students can be encouraged and supported in seeking and using OER for the purposes of self-directed study and, at the more advanced levels, even for developing their own curriculum.

  8. Promote OER through publishing about OER.
    This can help to increase the body of knowledge available on a subject, particularly if it is done via open publications, journals and other relevant vehicles. This might include articles sharing experiences on the use, reuse and repurposing of OER and encouraging students to participate in OER.

  9. Provide feedback about, and data on the use of, existing OER.
    Providing feedback and data on the OER that have been created, adapted, used and/or reused, specifically relating to success in meeting learning goals and student needs, is an invaluable contribution to their effective use.

  10. Update knowledge of IPR, copyright and privacy policies.
    This would entail having access to relevant advice and expertise on these matters, as well as a general familiarity with institutional policies and contractual agreements relating to IPR and copyright. It is particularly important to be clear about rights and conditions relating to works created during the course of employment and how these might be shared with and used by others. Academic staff should understand how these policies might affect their rights.

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UNESCO and Commonwealth of Learning (2015). Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in higher education. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002136/213605e.pdf