Open Educational Resources | Feature

6 Tips for Using Open Educational Resources

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1) If you're new to OER, start small, advised Erik Christensen, chair of the Natural Science Department for South Florida State College. Add a supplement, create a new activity, substitute a chapter or a homework set. Then build on that in discrete areas.

2) If you go with a complete OER textbook, expect to supplement it with content and learning objects from other sources too — just like faculty tend to do with traditional textbooks.

3) Be prepared to "sell" your OER strategy to your students so that they fully understand what's expected of them. Melissa Barlett, instructor in biology for the Center for Life and Health Sciences at Mohawk Valley Community College, honed her message from one semester to the next to make sure students realized that the material would be online and they'd need to bring devices to class to use it. For the next run, she intends to have PDF editions of all of her content, which would allow students to print out copies and forego the computer, tablet or smartphone.

4) If the faculty slides provided with your OER textbook use the same images as the textbook does, switch them out for your own to give students another way to view the concepts. To find alternatives, go to Google Images and type in your search; from the menu choose "Search tools," "Usage rights" and designate "Labeled for reuse." These images can be used as freely as any other form of OER.

5) If you teach two sections of a course, try one with OER and one with a traditional textbook so you can do a clean comparison. That's what Barlett did: "Overall, the two classes were comparable to each other grade-wise and test-wise." Christensen did the same and found "practically no difference between course grades, failure rate or withdrawals between using a traditional textbook and an online OER textbook."

6) If students have iPads, let them use the free Adobe Reader for the iPad to solve their problems right on the page, said Christensen. The app features tools for annotating, marking up and commenting on any PDF document. To hand the assignments in, all students have to do is grab a screenshot image (by pressing the home button and the power button) and e-mail it to the instructor or upload it to the LMS.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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