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Open Educational Resources

Free and Open-Access Educational Resources

Evaluating OER

In principle, evaluating an OER for use in a course is just like evaluating a traditional resource. However, it will be like evaluating a new title rather than a new edition of a familiar title, since the publisher may be unfamiliar, or the title hasn't been been refined through numerous editions.

Bear in mind, too, that one of the chief attractions of an OER to your students is that it's free, unless they desire a bound edition.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • If there is vital material in the book you currently use, can it be included in the lectures or added as supplemental material?
  • Would reducing student costs and increasing student use of the material be worth the inconvenience of adjusting a syllabus?

New Possibilities

OER textbooks aren't just free textbooks (great as that is).

  • You can revise them, "remix" them, cut and paste content, and more.
  • OER, with their open licenses, give instructors a lot of freedom to rethink how texts are presented, engaged with, and adapted to a class's particular requirements.
  • Since OER are free to students, you can pick and choose from several options without feeling like you're assigning seven textbooks. If you look around at OER choices, you might find surprising contrasts.
    • For instance, the US History textbook at OpenStax is a fairly straightforward textbook, which stands nicely alongside the most popular traditional options. Meanwhile, The American Yawp (hosted and published by Stanford University Press) is primarily written by younger scholars, and tends to be more radical. Contrasting the two is easier with two free texts than with traditional material.
  • Over time, an OER can become almost a brand-new textbook as you refine it and the course. There are a lot of tools available for editing and remixing books, as detailed in links from the University of Illinois.

Instructors Discuss OER

Instructors and administrators at a community college discuss the advantages of adopting OERs in the classroom.  One instructor helped develop material; the other adopted her psychology text off-the-shelf.

A technical college English 101 instructor discusses adapting the handouts and other material he uses into a broader OER plan.

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