I have a confession to make, I am late to the OER party.  

This past year I embarked on pursuing my Master’s degree in Learning and Technology and, as such, have been introduced to the concepts of Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP). In my discovery of OER and OEP, I have tried integrating some of the methods and resources into my own practice.  Some have been a resounding success (Creating a free and openly licensed textbook on Trigonometry and AC generation), some are a work in progress (co-creating OER with my students), and some require more research and work on my part (self and peer evaluation). Any way you slice it, I have drunk the kool-aid, I’m all in, I am on board.  

I see OER and OEP as having a place in my heart and my educational practice for as long as higher ed will have me.

Most of you reading this will have more than a rudimentary understanding of what OER and OEP are.  For those of you who may not know let me give a bit of a brief description of OER.

According to UNESCO, “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium- digital or otherwise- that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits not cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions”.  At their root, these are free and openly licensed resources that are available to our students at little to no cost to them. This alone is an exciting concept. The cost savings to students (and apprentices) using OER could quite literally be life-changing. According to CBS news, “the average college student spends more than $1200 per year on books and materials”.

The 5 R’s

The aspect of OER and OEP that brought me into the fold was the concept of the 5 R’s of OER:

  1. Retain– the right to make, own, and control copies of the content.
  2. Reuse– the right to use the content in a wide range of ways.
  3. Revise– the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself.
  4. Remix– the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new.
  5. Redistribute– the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others.

This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at: http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3221

It took me a bit to really understand how powerful those 5 R’s are.  

These  5 R’s allow instructors to completely customize a resource as they need it for their particular instance.  With openly licensed materials you can do whatever you want with them to make them useful for your students. To me, this is powerful and mind-blowing. What if you could provide your students with a custom made textbook (free) that covers everything in your course?  Perhaps you find that there are things you would like to add or delete? This is not an issue. As long as the materials carry a creative commons license, you are good to go.

What’s been happening since I jumped in?

Just to give you some context, I have the fortune of teaching an electrical foundation class.  This is an entry-level trades training program and when they start many of the students have not even touched a tool.  Throughout the 6 months in the course, the students learn about the theory behind electricity as well as many of the hands-on skills they will need to gain employment.  

This term I was able to add some new tools and methods to my “toolbox” due to my introduction to OER and OEP.  Here are a few of the things I have tried under the banner of OER and OEP:

  • Co-creation of textbooks: I have built a “textbook” template for certain topics in google slides.  In these templates I have prompts on information I would like to see covered in the resource. I leave it up to the student how they curate the information they find.  Some have made videos and all of them have added text and images they created themselves. Every day I give a couple of mini-lectures on information that may be hard to understand on their own.  Each book is broken into units and the students are to develop their own “self-tests” for assessment purposes at the end of the unit. I was astounded at the quality of the slides that they built.  I had them work in teams and individually and both times the students exceeded my expectations (as they often do).
  • Creation of tutorial videos:  For the past 5 years I have built short instructional videos using an app called explain everything.  I found that my students needed examples on how to work through problems. I have posted these videos on YouTube and they are under a creative commons license.  You can check the videos out here.
  • Open repositories: I have scoured the internet looking for openly licensed materials in my subject area.  Three areas that I would highly recommend are libretexts.org, BCcampus, and  skillscommons.org. I was inspired by the quality of free and openly licensed materials available.
  • Grants: I received two grants from BCIT and BCcampus to create openly licensed materials in my subject matter.  This was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had working. The support I received from BCcampus on these projects was phenomenal!  You can see my open textbook on Trigonometry and AC generation here.
  • Assessment: I have started having my students assess themselves and their peers.  This is an area that I need to continue to research. So far I have found that my students are way too hard on themselves and way too easy on their peers.  I am looking at developing rubrics in this area that will hopefully help.
  • Twitter: I have increased my Personal learning network (PLN).  If you are not on Twitter, do yourself a favour and get in there.  The community for OER is nothing short of spectacular. Some must follow names are:
    • @actualham – Robin Derosa.  OpenEd advocate.  Her keynotes are funny, thought-provoking, and powerful.
    • @thatpsychprofessor – Rajiv Jhangiani. OpenEd advocate. He is a very powerful voice in the world of OER and OEP  
    • @jessifer – Jesse Stommel.  A powerful voice for student advocacy and critical pedagogy.  His and Sean Michael Morris’ book “An Urgency of Teachers” was one of the best books I read this year.
    • @slamteacher – Sean Michael Morris.  A leader in the world of critical pedagogy.
    • @BCcampus An organization dedicated to innovation in teaching and learning.  A great resource if you are stepping into OER.
    • @acoolidge –  Amanda Coolidge. A senior manager of BCcampus and a strong advocate for OER.
    • @edtechfactotum – Clint Lalonde.  A manager at BCcampus and an instructor at Royal Roads University.  His blog is well worth following.
    • @ecampusontario – The Ontario version of BCcampus (Or is BCcampus the BC version of ecampus Ontario?).  They are doing some amazing things in Open.
    • @greeneterry – Terry Greene works with ecampusOntario.  He is the host of the podcast Gettin’ air (Of which I was recently a guest).
    • @drtonybates – Tony Bates.  A pioneer in the world of OER and OEP.
    • @libretexts – An online repository of OER resources.  In a recent interview, Delmar Larsen mentioned he would like libretext to become the Facebook of OER.  I believe it could be.
    • @brandoncarsoned – A fellow student of my Master’s program and a friend.  Brandon is part of the future of Open.
    • @chadhflinn (of course I had to put myself in)

I have reached out and interacted with all of these individuals and they are beyond generous with their time and their resources.  Of course, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the community of OER. The best way is to jump in and get involved in the conversation.

What’s next?

As far as Vocational Education and Trades and OER?  I think we’re just getting started.  I have been lucky enough to connect with some people that are starting to do some pretty great things in OER and I’m very excited to collaborate with them.  If you’re new to OER don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet. 

OER needs your voice. 

That being said, I may be late to the party but I’m gonna make as much noise as I can now that I’m here.