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OER and Quality: Some thoughts

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By Rory McGreal January 11, 2011 - 8:32pm

Open Educational Resources (OER) are becoming increasingly popular in educational institutions. OER include all educational resources - normally digital in nature such as learning objects, open courseware, etc. that can be freely accessed (with no cost to users) via the Internet with minimal or no restrictions.

They are normally accessed freely using the World Wide Web either on institutional sites or in organizational repositories. Course developers, teachers and instructors are principal users of OERs, but there is a growing number of students who are accessing them directly to augment their learning. OERs include learning objects such as modularized lessons, video and audio lectures (podcasts), references, workbooks and textbooks, multimedia simulations, experiments and demonstrations, as well as syllabi, curricula and lesson plans.

 

OERs, according to MERLOT, must be clear and concise, demonstrating the concepts and integrating where appropriate with pre-requisites and instructions that are clearly indicated.  Other quality measures have been posited. These included the brand or reputation of the OER creator, peer review, user ratings, use indicators, validation, and self-evaluation. Other possible quality indicators include sharability, timeliness, reach (number of users), usability (license restrictions), and accessibility.

A respected institution’s prestige, brand name or reputation can be one indicator of quality. Peer review is a time-tested approach to ensuring quality and is used extensively in academia for scholarly publishing. User ratings can also be used as another quality measure. These can be either formal or informal or both. Formal rating systems can be established such as a “five star” system or it can be more informal with comments from users made readily available.

Quality can also be improved through the sharing of OER when institutions transfer costs from the course development process to student services and support. Students could benefit by paying less for course materials. OERs can be used to provide more student choice at little additional cost. The timely updating of courses can be another benefit of OER.

A course could be of the highest quality when it is first created, but unless it is updated regularly and consistently the quality can decay.  OER can be one way of accessing and inserting updated content and other relevant course materials as they become available. Is time an aspect of quality?

 

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