This blog post is part of our Open Access Week series. The theme of Open Access 2021 is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.”
Open educational resources (OER) are a critical feature of the open access content landscape. Per the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), OER are “teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use.” Beyond the ability to access these materials at no cost, the open licenses assigned to OER by creators grant users permission to modify, remix, and redistribute derivatives of these works. Practically speaking, this means that instructors have the flexibility to make these materials more relevant to their students, the learning outcomes of their course, and to their own teaching practice. They may update the OER with more recent research, swap out case studies and examples that better reflect the demographics or interests of their students, or translate the content into new languages. Open licenses afford any user these rights, and the possibilities for creating better course materials are endless.
However, instructors’ time and ability to find, modify, or even create these materials is not endless. Surveys demonstrate that one of the primary obstacles to adoption or development of OER is a lack of time and financial or institutional incentive to support this work. Beyond this, instructors also cite low expertise or ability to locate relevant, high-quality OER for use in their classrooms.
This year, UT Libraries seeks to support instructors who wish to adopt, adapt, or create OER through two pilot programs.
- This fall, our first OER-focused instructor learning community joins 10 participants from various disciplines and departments to learn about and discuss the selected theme: “Fostering Inclusive Classrooms with Open, Free & Affordable Course Materials.” Over six weekly meetings, community members will engage with the facilitators and one another to search for OER that may be relevant to the courses they teach, evaluate course materials for basic accessibility best practices & cultural responsiveness, and identify and interpret open licenses. In addition to guidance and support from the facilitators, participants who complete all requirements will receive small stipends in recognition of their time. Based on the application volume for the first community, the OER Working Group intends to offer another learning community focused on this topic in the future.
- The Open Education Fellows program will support a small cohort of faculty who commit to adopting or creating OER that replace commercial materials in the courses they teach. Over the program period, UTL will provide Fellows with professional development opportunities to support their activities in finding, evaluating, and/or creating OER as well as stipends to offset the time and effort that we recognize these activities take. In addition to OER adoption and creation, Fellows will be expected to share their experiences in formats that may include participating in UTL and/or campus events, presenting at conferences, serving as an advisor to future Fellows cohorts, and more. The call for applications is open now through October 31.
UTL librarians are also pleased to support instructors in their OER search, adoption, and creation needs outside of these programs through consultation and reference services. Contact us to learn more about any of these options, or fill out this form to request a review of OER and other free or affordable course materials that may meet your needs.
Want to get started with OER or find other free or low cost course materials? Contact Ashley Morrison, Tocker Open Education Librarian (email@example.com).