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Eight points to help make sense of OER

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The amazing Jen Klaudinyi, PCC librarian

The amazing Jen Klaudinyi, PCC librarian

I recently sat down with the amazing Jen Klaudinyi, PCC librarian, to hear what she had to say about OER, or open educational resources. (If you are pressed for time, stop reading and go immediately to Jen’s pages on the PCC library web site.)

If you are like me and you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve been hearing a lot about OER (see blog posts by Andy Freed and Kaela Parks in this very space). Jen has been working on a project with the state of Oregon to increase the use of OER in classes.

Jen helped me formulate eight rules about OER:

Rule #1: If you have questions about OER, you don’t need to answer all of the questions on your own! There are experts in your organization, especially at the library. Are you worried about copyright issues? Completely open resources vs partially protected resources? Using primary sources? Instructors want a mix of things, usually, so when it gets complicated, ask.

Rule #2: It’s the Wild West! OER just means someone has created something and agreed to share it. You’ll find all kinds of stuff in all kinds of condition – finished, unfinished; plug ‘n play, raw ingredients; etc. Academic tech folks can help an instructor diagnose what the thing is and how to make it work. OER require we be solution-oriented.

Rule #3: Look for shared resources. See example from the PCC library web site.

Rule #4: Get away from “completist” thinking – look at what works and fill the gaps. Does it have to be a textbook? Could it be a video? What about students creating or curating their own learning resources? (CC license it!). Fits with constructivist learning theory. Don’t need to replicate the textbook!

Rule #5: OER efforts can reside in many parts of institutions (distance ed, academic tech, academic depts, and libraries). Often these efforts live in libraries, which touch all parts of the organization. Librarians also feel the anguish of students who can’t get what they need. Also it is similar to library instruction – connecting students with a plan to get resources.

Rule #6: Faculty can take the power back! – the power over their own curriculum. Textbook publishers are trying to control the curriculum (see a recent case where slaves were referred to as “immigrant workers”). Also the shift to employing part-time, contingent faculty has meant instructors have less time to develop curriculum so they rely more on textbooks (students bear the expense).

Rule #7: In Oregon, we have HB 2871, which is supposed to help promote OER and give students choice at the point of registration. Winter 2017 target at PCC to have this done, with $0 and $40 thresholds for courses.

Rule #8: In the sciences, there are lots of resources – don’t need textbooks necessarily. Question of quality: Beauty of the images is less important than students learning. A goal should be reducing or removing barriers to use.

So there you have it – your license to try incorporating some type of OER in your class. I’d recommend you start small – try to incorporate something small and simple in your class, and see how it goes. You can expand from there.

If you have more questions or thoughts about OER, PCC has formed a steering committee and you can contact any of these folks. Enjoy the journey!

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