Leveraging the 5 Rs of OERs
How faculty can lower learning barriers through cost-savings resources along the learning journey
Post-secondary education is an exciting next step for learners looking to carve out a new path for their future.
However, along any learning journey, barriers will crop up that challenge a learner to reorient and adapt.
One of those major barriers is, unfortunately, cost.
A student must consider tuition, living expenses, and learning materials–especially expensive textbooks. Cost is a challenge that could derail a learner’s academic path, potentially causing them to drop out to escape the financial burden–or even deterring them from enrolling in post-secondary at all.
But attending post-secondary is a critical part of creating a better, brighter future, so, to mitigate the cost barrier for students, faculty should consider leveraging Open Educational Resources (OERs).
What are OERs?
Free to use, adapt and reshare, OERs are teaching, learning, and research materials that are available in the public domain, or which maintain an open copyright designation (i.e., a Creative Commons license).
Key characteristics of OERs:
- freely available
- openly licensed
The flexible nature of OERs means instructors can create custom, course-aligned content that’s cost-effective for their learners. In some cases, OERs may even replace the need for expensive learning materials like textbooks.
Alleviating financial burdens like this will allow students to focus more fully on their course work, which can increase the quality of their learning experience altogether.
With OERs, instructors can…
- Reuse content in its original format, such as in a course, video, or reference material.
- Retain, create, and control copies of content for personal archives or references, such as downloads, duplicates, and storage.
- Revise, modify, or alter content to suit specific needs, such as translating content into another language.
- Remix original content with revisions to create new material, such as augmenting a case study.
- Redistribute copies of original, revised, or remixed content with others, such as sharing a copy of content with a workmate.
Examples of OERs
OERs include a variety of teaching, learning and research resources and materials, such as:
- tests, assessments, simulations
- assignments, courses, tutorials
- books, textbooks, audio/video files, reference materials
- journals, case studies, primary sources
- learning tools, models, objects
Right here in LC’s Buchanan Library, we offer Makerspace services which create customized learning tools and models. Since 2022, instructors from Trades, Environmental Sciences, Agriculture and other departments have collaborated with Makerspace staff to create learning tools and models that have enhanced student learning and engagement.
The Buchanan Library has also created an OER Padlet that contains
- textbooks and books
- articles and journals
- massive open online courses (MOOCs)
You can also explore other OER databases in the padlet, such as:
Accessible information sparks collaboration and innovation
Beyond their cost-savings benefits, OERs create a more robust education ecosystem by promoting greater access to information and encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration opportunities.
OERs open access to high-quality, peer-reviewed teaching and learning knowledge, which allows learners to make more informed decisions about their academic path. This also creates a positive relationship between OER use and student academic achievement, which can potentially boost retention and graduation rate.
Collaboration and innovation
OERs spark networking opportunities with other experts to build new resources and adapt existing ones to work in new ways. Sharing this knowledge with peers helps to break down information silos and opens the door for iteration and innovation.
The importance of evaluating OERs
While OERs offer barrier-busting learning supports, their open-ended nature also exposes them to mistakes and incorrect information.
Think of it as the Wikipedia flaw. Though Wikipedia can be a good starting resource, it cannot be fully trusted without properly vetting the information through more accredited sources.
Similarly, with OERs, it’s essential to evaluate them to a proper standard before implementing them.
Here’s a checklist from BCOER to vet your OER:
Evolving with OERs
As OERs expand through our teaching and learning ecosystem, we must evolve with them to leverage their benefits while mitigating their potential discrepancies.
- Ensuring information and links are current and offer clear understanding – Because OERs are open source, we should continuously engage with, and test their validity as we consider how to best adapt them to support our learners.
- Maintaining engagement with the community – Unlike traditional learning materials, there is no sales team or author advertising new editions or materials. That means we should strive to stay up to date on what’s available and emerging in the world of OERs.
- Advocating for government support – To make sure OERs continue to be free, valid, and useful, educators should advocate strongly for government support and investment. For example, providing:
- funds for instructor release time to create OERs
- resources dedicated to OER librarians
- grants to support institutional development, sustainability, and expansion of OERs
- revisions to higher education policies to make OERs a priority and install quality assurance measures
Supporting our learners step-by-step through their learning journey
While traditional learning materials like textbooks are valuable, augmenting teaching tools with OERs can help lower barriers to learning that might hinder students along their learning journey.
It’s part of our job to make sure that student pathways are as clear as possible so learners can focus on what they came to the college to do: learn.
Need help building supports like OERs into your course?
Our team is here and ready to help.
Whatever you’re up to, we want to help make your course the very best it can be–and alleviate your workload if we can!
Access Services Specialist
Information Services Specialist
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