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According to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."
In short, Open Educational Resources (OER) are things like open-access textbooks, lesson plans, course materials, and more. They are available in a variety of formats and can easily be mixed and matched to create a unique course experience.
Pros and Cons of OER
Cost - The cost of textbooks makes affording college more difficult for many students. Since open textbooks are available at no cost to students the financial burden of quality education is lessened some.
Peer review - Since OER are available online and through repositories, other users have had the opportunity to review them, taking much of the guesswork out of quality and content evaluation.
Access - Students are able to access their course materials easily from a number of locations. They also can view their textbooks before the course begins, eliminating the worry that not all students will have purchased the book by the first day of class.
Enhancement of Course Content - Traditional lectures can be enhanced by using OER multimedia content. By using OER, you have access to new assignments, teaching methods, and more without having to dedicate precious hours to designing everything from scratch.
Clarity of Reuse - Since OER are available publicly, you don't have to worry about the same restrictions that might apply to materials placed on course reserves. Each OER is labeled with the type of permissions granted, so you can know instantly what your user rights are.
Sustainability - Since OER creators are often not paid for their materials, OER can go quite some time without being updated. However, with the constant flow of new materials into the scene it can be easy to replaced dated content.
Language or Cultural Barriers - OER are produced by authors from around the world. As such, not everything is available in your preferred teaching language.
Technology Issues - OER relies heavily on the use of technology. If there is a slow or erratic internet connection the material may have difficulty loading. If students aren't comfortable with technology, OER may present a barrier to ease of access.