In the previous module we talked about the resources for teaching you can develop yourselves. However, there are also other ways.
On the internet you can find a lof of educational material which is published under open licences. They are called Open Educational Resources (OER) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources [link to article on OER in Wikipedia in national language versions]. Depending on the licence chosen by the author, everyone can freely use, copy, edit and distribute them for their own purposes. This relieves a course designer of the individual and time-consuming development of resources, thus freeing up time for developing a sound didactic project and eliminates costs of buying content creation tools.
Evaluating resources online
Given the vast amount of information on the internet on any given subject, some degree of quality control should be applied to any material before using it.
It should be easy to find information on the subject we are interested in. Before using any existing material, you should check:
- its reliability (whether you can identify the author, what is his/her affiliation),
- permissions for using and reusing (whether you are allowed to copy, adapt, change, distribute the content developed by others),
- its availability (whether you can access resources without creating additional account/login or special software).
Judiciously selecting resources will help maintain a good balance between content and activities of learners, as well as avoiding overloading learners with content, by only making use of articles and book chapters that are necessary to complete an exercise or plan a project.
Try to maintain a balance between static content (text and pictures) and multimedia - this will make the material more accessible and engaging for learners.
When re-using OER, it’s often desirable to apply the procedure of localization, which refers to the process of taking educational resources developed for one context and adapting them for other contexts. These contexts can, for example, be geographical, pedagogical, political, or technical. The practice of localization encompasses more than the translation of materials into a local language or swapping a photo to reflect cultural differences. Localization is at the heart of the OER process—it exemplifies diversity, openness, and reusability.
No matter where you live or what you teach, when you modify open and freely shared materials for your own use, you are localizing the materials. There are many reasons why educators and learners would want to localize materials - e.g. to accomodate a particular teaching style or learning style, to take into account cultural differences, to support a specific pedagogical need etc.
What all these examples have in common is the ability to customize materials to meet unique teaching and learning needs. The OER process of localizing materials is an empowering activity: those using the materials can customize them the way they want to. Materials found in an OER repository such as OER Commons are different from materials received from a publisher, since OER materials most often have licenses which allow the material to be customized to meet local teaching and learning needs. Most publisher materials cannot be modified.
When you use materials found in an OER repository, modify them, and share back the modifications you made, you are practicing the OER process. You are both localizing the materials for your own need as well as making them freely available to other educators and learners around the world. Sharing back the modifications you made furthers the understanding of how the material was adapted [from Connexions: http://cnx.org/content/m15222/latest]
Sharing your resources online
The materials you create and share are a valuable resource for others to use or build upon. These materials help extend OER into becoming both a scalable and sustainable practice.
While creating materials for your own educational use, it may be difficult to imagine how someone under different circumstances in another part of the world may want to use your material. However, if you keep the following tips in mind while you are creating these materials for sharing, it can assist in making the modification process easier for the next person who wants to customize them for their own use.