Considering Your Options

The OER movement is all about sharing your knowledge and opening it up to the world. Anyone can create OER and add to the wealth of content already available.

There are a few reasons you might decide to create your own content. Perhaps you have already been using original content in your courses and want to formalize and publish it. Perhaps you can’t find content for your specialized or unique topic. Perhaps you want to add something new and unique to the currently available OER in your field.

Things to consider before creating new OER content:

  • Is what you’re creating unique? Do you have something new to add? Make sure you are not trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • Is your content truly original? Adapting open content is fine, but even open content needs to be attributed. Plagiarism still exists in the world of OER.
  • Do you need help with editing? Reviewing? Graphic design work? Are there resources available to you for this?
  • Do you have the right to license your content as you please? If your content was originally published elsewhere, such as a journal or by a traditional publisher, you may need to clarify your rights to the content.
  • Is your content general enough to be used or, at least, adapted by others?
  • Which rights do you want to retain and what rights do you want to share? This will help you determine which license to use.
  • How do you want to share/publish your content? Keep in mind that the publishing platform can impact what users are able to do with your content and how users might find your content. An open license is not as useful to others if it’s locked in a closed platform.

By creating original content and openly licensing it for others to use, you’re contributing to the growing field of OER. You’re not only benefiting your own students by offering tailored, affordable content, but you are also helping colleagues and students around the world.

Listen to this episode of the OER Stories podcast series for insight from Mindy Boland, Director of OER Services at ISKME, OER Commmons.

Content Considerations

Just as you would review available literature before starting a research project or writing a professional paper, start your OER creation process by reviewing available OER on your topic. This analysis will ensure that you are contributing new and unique content without recreating what is already available.

If you are unable to find suitable OER on your topic, then you have identified a gap that you can fill with your own original content.

If you are starting from scratch, you will likely want to create content to use in classes you teach. However, it is advisable to be “open” minded when creating content. For example, if there’s an open textbook already available that serves some or most of your needs, consider adapting that rather than building new content from scratch. That contribution is more likely to be directly helpful to other users of that original text.

When writing or creating or editing, consider how others might use your content once it’s released into the wild. Try to clarify any uncommon terms and/or references, and provide more background or explanation of processes than you might for content that only you would use.

Collaborating on OER

You most likely already create your own teaching materials, and you should consider publishing those materials as OER. In addition to avoiding the cost of purchasing (or renting, or accessing) textbooks, your decision to use OER will provide all students in your course a level of equity that traditional course materials cannot match.

Photo of students working together on a laptop

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If you are an individual looking to create OERs, think in simple terms. Creating OERs is digitizing your materials and putting an open license on them. Remember, types of OER you can create include videos, graphics, photos, lesson plans, interactive labs, problem sets, assignments, assessments, full textbooks, and even full courses.

You can also choose to collaborate on creating OER – either with other faculty peers, or even students.

For example, the Computer Science faculty at the City University of NY (CUNY) are collaborating on an initiative to create a breadth of OER course materials that can be assembled into a full semester computer science course for non-majors (or pre major). The faculty group is creating sample course syllabi, content, and lab materials and making them available to the community via a campus OER repository.

Student-Created OER

A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students Image of Book Cover

Though students may be beginners with most of the content in your course, they are often adept at understanding what learners need in order to understand the material. Asking students to help reframe and re-present course content in new and inventive ways can add valuable OERs to the commons while also allowing for the work that students do in courses to go on to have meaningful impact once the course ends.

For example, you can have your students create (yes, create) a question bank to go along with your course textbook – even if it’s not an OER text. Consider the learning value of having students craft key questions along with answers to those questions! You can even have students in future years review the question sets and provide new questions/answers where they feel there could be more applicable or engaging content.

The Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students is a handbook for faculty interested in practicing open pedagogy by involving students in the making of open textbooks, ancillary materials, or other Open Educational Resources.

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