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Open Educational Resources | Feature

OER Formats, Accessibility and More

open educational resources

Every publisher of open educational resources wants to do the right thing when it comes to producing content that any student can access. But some curriculum will be further along than others. Keep that in mind as you're selecting OER for your course.

Una Daly, community college outreach director for the Open Education Consortium, recommended looking for OER available in multiple formats, such as HTML, PDF and EPUB. Choices will provide a "path that is accessible," she noted, which may vary depending on what the student's unique needs are.

PDF is a better format for print uses. But because its margins are fixed, the content may not show up well on small screens. If you want your OER content to show up well on mobile devices, explained Daly, go with EPUB, which has a reflowing mechanism.

What about iBooks? Content in this format must be produced through iBooks Author, which is available free, but only runs on Mac OS X. Apple has done a decent job of providing tools that help authors create iBooks that are accessible for the visually impaired. Students without Apple devices will have to download alternative readers.

3 Free or Cheap PDF Tools

Melissa Barlett, instructor in biology for the Center for Life and Health Sciences at Mohawk Valley Community College, likes to keep things simple. That's why she uses PDFs for her OER content and why she's mastered the art of creating and modifying PDFs — which, contrary to what you might think, is an open standard, not one that belongs solely to its developer, Adobe. Here are her go-to tools:

  • WEB To PDF: For creating PDFs from Web pages on the iPad. "Costs a few dollars, but I got it during a free promotion."
  • PDF-XChange Viewer: For "whiting out and manipulation and adding comments." It's also Barlett's PDF reader. Upgrading to a Pro version is $79.50; she said, "I stick with free."
  • PrimoPDF: For making smaller PDF segments, Barlett prints her file to a PDF. This freebie includes "some nice functionality for type, size and saving."

2 OER Copyright Licenses That Really Matter

CC BY is the Creative Commons license that gives you (and others) free rein to copy, remix, transform, add to and distribute the material however you want.

CC BY-NC lets other educators "remix, tweak and build upon your work non-commercially."

Said Barlett, "Both of those are the two I see most often on the materials I use." Sure, there are other, more restrictive license options, but this is OER, and "Copyleft," as the experts call it, is totally the theme.

OER Events

Nov. 19–21 | Washington, DC
Organized by Lumen Learning and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), this three-day event offers keynotes and sessions on a range of OER topics.

The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources hosts monthly webinars on the topic in the spring and fall. Here are the archives in case you've missed one.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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