Leveraging OER for Online Courses

Learning Rebus Community

Open & Online. Post 1

Instructors around the world are faced with the challenge of shifting their teaching to an online format. This shift isn’t just about finding an online textbook, but also involves rethinking around pedagogy and ways to assess students’ learning. Open Educational Resources (OER) and open tools and platforms are an excellent path forward for this problem. Why? OER is created to be accessible and transformable, so you can customize a learning material to suit the learning objectives for your course. Additionally, open tools will help ensure that your students can access this material regardless of where they are located. 

By OER, we’re talking about more than textbooks—manuals, assignments, question banks, quizzes, exercises, etc.. There’s a similar variety in the types of tools—remixing and authoring platforms, homework systems, publishing tools, video conferencing software, discussion forums, annotation tools, and more. All of these forms can be deployed to enrich the online learning experience. And because they are openly licensed, instructors can benefit from each other’s work and contribute to the educational community. 

If you’re an instructor and wondering where to start with this transition, we have some suggestions for you:

  • Look for what’s already out there: Instead of creating a brand new course from scratch, you can look to pre-existing open & online courses in repositories like OER Commons, MERLOT, or your state/regional repository. If you’d prefer to find an open book and build ancillaries around it for a course, you can search for textbooks on BCcampus, Open Textbook Library, LumenLearning, OpenStax, and Rebus Community.
  • Meet with your centers for learning and teaching: You’re not walking the rope alone! There are offices at your institution that are set up to help instructors make the switch to online teaching and learning, so be sure to reach out to them. While they might understandably be busy at this time, they will get back to you and connect you with tools or resources that will be helpful. Centers are usually equipped with instructional designers, librarians, and technologists who can offer additional support.
  • Connect with instructors who regularly teach open or online courses: If your department offers online courses as part of the regular curricula, try to get in touch with instructors who facilitate these courses to get their tips.

If you’re involved in education in a non-instructor role, here are some ways you can lend your support to instructors at this time at this time:

  • Help familiarize them with OER: Many instructors might be hearing about OER for the first time, and unsure of its benefits and advantages. If you have a good understanding of what OER is, offer to guide them through the major principles of an OER (the 5Rs) and show them examples of OER that exist in their field. See below for a list of documents we share with new Rebus employees as part of our OER onboarding process.
  • Put together a list of OER for standard courses: If you’re aware of OER that have been created for general education courses in your region, compile an easy to reference list that you can share with instructors. This will help them more easily find texts, and decide whether to adopt them for their course.
  • Balance student & instructors’ needs: This can be a challenging time for students’ too, so if you’re working with an instructor, let them know that a simple method of instruction may in fact be more beneficial to them and to their students. 
  • Encourage collaboration: Make introductions between instructors and others so that they can combine their efforts, instead of repeating them. Delivering content quickly might be one of the most critical needs in the current moment, and working with others can help make this more efficient. 

If you’re curating a set of resources and would like to present them in a singular format, we recommend using Pressbooks and as participants of this program you have access to a shared instance of PressbooksEDU. We’ve partnered with them to deliver free access to educators, so you can quickly and easily create a book/collection of resources, complete with elements like images, audio, video, interactive quizzes, annotations, and more. The Berkeley Library’s Demo Book does a great job showcasing different features in Pressbooks. 

These are some simple tips/suggestions from us. There’s a lot more we can discuss, but first, let’s open up the floor for questions. What struggles are you having as you’re trying to deliver content online?

Rebus OER Onboarding Reading Suggestions

Other resources for those new to OER:

Some libguides: 

This post sums up the information discussed in our Open & Online initiative. If you are interested in participating, learn more in this announcement.

Rebus and Pressbooks are leveraging the community’s experience with OER to ease the shift to online instruction. Here’s how: Rebus is offering weekly community gatherings on a theme related to open textbooks as courseware. Pressbooks is offering free access to a shared instance of PressbooksEDU for participants of Open & Online. 

If you have additional questions, feel free to drop them in the Help & Questions section of our forum.

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