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Open Educational Resources

How to find, adopt, adapt, and create open educational resources.

Creating an OER

Creating an OER is a different process than creating educational materials that will be published and distributed by a traditional publisher or even just distributed to your own students. When you author an OER, you contribute your knowledge freely and openly to a global community. That OER becomes community property, which can be used and changed--often without you even being aware of it. You should be willing to share editable files of your OER to allow others to make changes and/or add to it in the form of an adaptation, and you should consider maintaining your OER by updating the content as necessary and correcting any mistakes. This allows for the ongoing quality, relevance, and sustainability of your OER.

Steps for creating an OER:

Video "Creating Open Educational Resources" by Abbey Elder is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license. Text adapted from Not Just Another Textbook by Lauri Aesoph, which is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International License.

Plan for Your OER

As you're developing your OER project, take some time to explore the following guiding questions:

  • Does the OER you need already exist? Could your own teaching materials be adapted for use as OER?
  • How do you define your student and faculty audiences?
  • For which course(s) could your OER be used?
  • Do you plan on developing additional materials (i.e., exercises, workbook) to accompany your OER?
  • What expertise is required to create your OER?

Adapted from The OER Starter Kit by Abbey K. Elder, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Pick a Tool

You can use many of the same tools that you currently use to create educational resources for your courses to create OERs, but you may want to consider using tools that were developed especially for creating OERs, which contain features that will facilitate openness, discoverability, accessibility, and sharing.

Below are a list of criteria to consider when choosing which tool you'd like to use to create your OER:

  • Types of OER Supported: Does this tool allow you to create text-based or multimedia resources, or course modules that may contain both?
  • Special Characters: If you plan to create a resource that will include special character/equations, does this tool support that?
  • Accessibility: Does this tool facilitate creating content that is accessible?
  • Sharing/Licensing: Does this tool allow you to easily apply a Creative Commons license?
  • Hosting: Does this tool allow you to host your OER on an existing OER platform, with a permanent link for sharing?
  • Export Options: Does this tool allow you to export your content to a format that others can reuse and share? Could your students export to a printable format, if they so choose?
  • Cost: What will this tool cost to use? For you? For students? Will students have to create an account in order to view your OER? If so, what are the tool's terms of use, and how does it manage your students' personal data?

Created and hosted by OER Commons, Open Author has a Resource Builder for creating text-based resources using a Google Docs-esque editor and a Module Builder for creating a course module that could include student and instructor instructions, sequenced tasks, and supporting resources. Special features include the ability to embed multimedia content, a Google Docs import option, authoring tools that make it easier to create accessible content, and MathML support. Once published, OERs are hosted on OER Commons, making them easily accessible and discoverable online. You can export your OER in a variety of formats.

You'll Need: Free OER Commons account
When You Should Use It: If you're creating a text-based OER that you want others to be able to easily find, read, and re-use

Based on Wordpress, Pressbooks is an ebook creation tool, which also provides a number of helpful features for creating a textbook, including automatically generated front and back matter, a collection of themes for easily modifying the appearance, LaTeX support, and hosting on Pressbooks.

You'll Need: Pressbooks account. With the free account, your finished book will contain a watermark on each page, but the paid version will get you watermark-free files. The web version of your book will also be private, unless you upgrade your account.

When You Should Use It: If you're creating an open textbook, Pressbooks is one of the best tools available--but note that you will have to pay a fee in order to get files that you can share.

Created by GitHub, GitBooks is an open source tool that allows you to create a textbook that is hosted in a GitHub repository. You can create your content in Markdown or embed rich, multimedia content. There is currently no PDF export option. This tool was originally developed for creating technical documentation guides, so it does not have as many of the features of other OER tools.

You'll Need: Free account with Gitbook (or GitHub). There are some limitations on number of collaborators and spaces for the free account.

When You Should Use It: If you're creating an open textbook, are familiar with GitHub, and want to use the features provided by GitHub (versioning, collaboration, etc.) but in a "book" format.

Bookdown is an open source R package that allows you to write books and long-form articles/reports with R Markdown. Bookdown supports a wide range of programming languages, as well as graphics and interactive applications. You can export your content in multiple formats: PDF, LaTeX, HTML, EPUB, and Word. Can be published to GitHub, bookdown.org, or any web server.

You'll Need: Free account with GitHub, R Markdown and associated software packages

When You Should Use It: If you're creating an open textbook, are familiar with R and Markdown, and want an open source solution.

Jupyter Notebook is an open source web application that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations, and text. Jupyter supports over 40 programming languages and can be shared through GitHub or the Jupyter Notebook Viewer.

You'll Need: Python 3, Jupyter (Anaconda can be used for installation)

When You Should Use It: If you're creating a computational OER that involves users interacting with code or visualizations, and you want an open source solution.

Make Accessible

Making your OER accessible means making sure that people of all abilities can access your content. 

The time to think about accessibility is when you're starting an OER project. Will the tool/platform you choose to create your OER help you to create an accessible resource? What actions can you take to serve users with all types of abilities?

Use Other Resources

There are many educational resources, including images, audio visual materials, and courses, that you can reuse when creating your OER. These resources may have no copyright (i.e., are in the public domain) or have Creative Commons or other open licenses.

Share Your OER

When you finish your OER, you'll need to find a place where you can make it accessible to others. Before sharing, consider:

  • What supplemental materials do you want to provide with your resource: slides, video transcripts, assignments?
  • How “editable” can you make your resource (i.e., use open file formats, provide editable source files)?
  • Which Creative Commons license do you want to put on it?
  • On what platform do you want to share your resource?

You could store your OER on a personal website or on a cloud platform, such as Google Drive or Dropbox; however, it may be hard for others to find your OER on these sites, and these sites may not be permanent. Below are some additional options for hosting your OER.

  • Digital WPI: WPI's digital repository, showcasing research and scholarship community. It is currently migrating to an improved platform, which will tentatively launch in summer 2020. Indexed in Google and Google Scholar. To get started, contact the library.
  • OER Commons: Database for OER content that also provides resource and module builders for creating and hosting text-based resources and course modules. All content is automatically indexed in OER Commons database. To get started, create a free account.
  • Canvas: WPI's learning management system, best used for creating OER that are course modules. Can share out to Canvas Commons or make a course that is publicly accessible. But, harder for others to reuse, particularly those who don't use Canvas, and will not be indexed in Google.
  • Disciplinary Repositories and Collections: Depending on your discipline, you may have a platform available to you for hosting OER. Examples include: NanoHub (nanotechnology), GitHub/Zenodo (computer science).

Update and Evaluate

The most effective OER are those with authors who actively maintain them by gathering feedback, fixing errors, and creating revisions and new editions.

Maintain your OER by:

  • Inviting feedback from your readers, such as through a form or via email, or by enabling comments.
  • Allowing readers to report errors, through a form or via email, and recording corrected errors, by adding an erratum or recording changes on a Versioning History page.
  • Tracking adoptions. Gathering statistics about the use of your OER can help to measure your impact and promote your work.

After creating OER to use in your courses, you can also evaluate them by researching the effect of your adoption of OER. Check out the OER Research Toolkit, a guidebook and additional resources, including surveys, for researching the effect of adoption of OER.

Adapted from "Maintain the Book" by Lauri Aesoph, BCcampus, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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