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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Evaluating OER

Considerations

An Introduction to Open Educational Resources" by Abbey Elder is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license. 


Evaluation Criteria

When considering the adoption of OER into college classrooms, faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants first need to consider various factors about the materials that could impact student usage. Access to free textbooks is the most obvious benefit of OER, but other factors need to be evaluated as well. 

Relevance

The relevance of OER to the course content is indisputable. That said, before latching onto a particular resource, make sure that it covers your course objectives. Don't waste your or your students' time listing an OER in your syllabus that you haven't fully explored to make sure it matches your course content. 

Quality

Accuracy and quality should likewise impact your decision to integrate a particular OER into your course. Often, faculty resist using OER because of the theoretical lack of academic rigor applied to its creation, but many OER repositories have some form of quality control. This usually falls comes in one of two forms:

  • Peer Review
  • Crowdsourcing 

Peer Review

  • Many repositories run their submissions through an academic peer review process. MERLOT's OER Peer Review process is one example.
  • Peer review helps ensure a review standardized and high quality materials upon submersion.
  • However, OER can go through a lot of revisions and updates, and repositories in general do not have enough reviewers to reexamine every change, so there may be major differences between the object that was reviewed and what is currently available. 

Crowdsourcing

  • The other major method of review is crowdsourced, relying on those who make use of OER to review it after submission.
  • Repositories may or may not provide a standardizing structure for how to do these reviews, and not every material will have any reviews.
  • The advantages are that reviews are generally by instructors who actually used the OER in their teaching, and they review the OER as it appeared when they used it, now as it was when it was first submitted. 

If you are deliberating using a particular OER, check to see what sort of review process is available. Similarly, if you find glaring content, language, or formatting errors or inconsistencies, you probably need to move to your next available option. 

Accessibility

In terms of accessibility, instructors should remember to keep the following details in mind: 

  • If the OER you've chosen requires users to open an account to the repository where it is housed, you need to inform your students and lead them through the process of setting up their accounts and accessing the material(s). 
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded teachers across the globe, not all students have access to high speed internet. Try to balance your use of large files or multimedia that requires broadband internet with html links and smaller files. 
  • As the UofM transitions to Canvas in the summer of 2021, we acknowledge that everyone, students and faculty alike, will experience a learning curve. Fortunately, UofM faculty have access to UM3D Instructional Design assistance, as well as the Information Technology Helpdesk, who can show instructors how to upload content into their course shells. As we move forward, University Libraries (UL) is also looking to expand access to library materials within Canvas, which will further instructors' ability to incorporate materials free to students from our own UL subscriptions. 
  •  Lastly, teaching faculty need to keep considerations for students with disabilities at the forefront of their curriculum choices. For those who require additional assistance with accessibility standards, the UofM Disability Resources for Students office is available for consultation; they have also added videos to their website that demonstrate how faculty can access the DRS portal for their students who are registered with the office. 

Interactivity

Interactivity is yet another factor of OER to scrutinize prior to adoption. As designed for online materials, OER can allow for interactive elements such as video, audio, and hands on learning.  The very nature of OER allows instructors to compile material from a variety of sources to fit their individual course needs, so it is possible that you will need to find or build your own homework assignments or assessments in addition to whatever texts you have selected.

Copyright Licensing

Finally, OER licensing is a necessary element to remember when making your course content selections. Use the 5Rs to think about how you plan to use the OER. Which of these uses will you need?

  • reuse 
  • revise 
  • remix 
  • redistribute 
  • retain

For a refresher about the tiered levels of public domain, copyright, open access, and Creative Commons licensing, please refer to the Creative Commons page within this LibGuide.

Faculty Guide for Evaluating Open Education Resources. Text alternative below.

Text Alternative: Faculty Guide for Evaluating Open Education Resources

With so many freely available resources online, choosing OER can be overwhelming. This checklist contains some suggestions for faculty when choosing resources for use in the classroom.

Accuracy

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Are there major content errors or omissions?
  • Are there spelling errors or typos?
  • Has the material been peer reviewed?

Production Quality

  • Is the information clear and understandable?
  • Is the layout and interface easy to navigate?
  • Do the design features enhance learning?
  • For multimedia resources, are the audio/video quality high?

Accessibility

  • Is the resource available in alternative formats (e.g. .doc or .odf)?
  • For audio or video resources, is there a transcript or subtitles?

Interactivity

  • Does the resource encourage active learning and class participation? If not, are you able to add that to the resource?
  • Are there opportunities for students to test their understanding of the material (e.g. a video with embedded questions)?

Licensing

  • Does the license allow for educational reuse of the materials?
  • Does the license allow modifications or adaptations of the materials? If so, can you modify the resource to better fit the class objectives or encourage active learning?

This guide is a creation of the BCOER, a group of BC postsecondary librarians working together to support the use of quality Open Educational Resources (OER). For more information about BCOER and its activities, go to open.bccampus.ca.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.