Open Educational Resources

What are open educational resources?

Open Education Resources (OERs) 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 user or re-purposing by others. OERs include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, test, software and any other tool, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007).

The course materials provided by the Bridge to Success project are “Open”. As the definition above suggests, the materials are also “Open” in the sense that you can re-purpose elements of the courses and use them in different ways. For example, you could take a video or an activity from the materials and combine it with other resources to create something new. You could use it in the classroom, or construct a new course that frames the parts of the materials to suit your need in the way you want to use them. You have the ability to decide how OERs could be useful to the challenges you face, whether as a learner or as an educator.

Why use OERs?

The movement towards openness in the digital age offers innovative opportunities for sharing that can improve the reach and quality of education (Wiley, 2010). Supported by initiatives such as the Next Generation Learning Challenge, OERs are being released by recognized institutions which have been tried, tested and improved as part of existing courses before being made available (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007).

In the Bridge to Success project, tried and tested course materials from the Open University (England) are being adapted for the US college system by an instructional design team combining the expertise of Anne Arundel Community College, the University of Maryland University College and the Open University.

Open approaches to education are having a significant impact on both institutions and students: MIT's OpenCourseWare site passed 100 million visits in 2010 and the Open University has seen over 13,000 new course registrations via it's OpenLearn initiative that makes course materials freely available. An assessment from Carnegie Mellon University found that hybrid courses combining open materials with traditional instruction resulted in effective accelerated learning, with equal or better results for students achieved in half as much time as a traditional model (Lovett, Meyer & Thille, 2008). Open approaches can support lifelong learning practices where individuals can balance the needs of work and life with the continual learning that is key to success in the modern world (McAndrew, 2010).

Where can I find additional course and subject matter resources?

Below find links to additional open and free resources that can support your educations experience and goals:

The Open University offers over 600 free online courses. Available from introductory to post graduate level, each takes between 1 and 50 hours to study. You can join them through YouTube and iTunes as well. Access any of their 600+ free online courses through Learning Space.

Saylor.org is a free and open collection of college level courses. There are no registrations or fees required to take their courses, and you can earn a certificate upon completion of each course. Because they are not accredited, you will not earn a college degree or diploma; however, they have designed each course so you will be able to achieve the same learning objectives as students enrolled in traditional colleges. Their course descriptions can be found linking to their ePortfolio at course catalog.

MITx offers a portfolio of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) courses for free to the virtual community of learners around the world. You can also explore over 2100 free courses through MITOPENCOURSEWARE and courses through their edX partnership with Harvard University.

Minnesota Learning Commons provides a forum for open educational resource content and materials that can lead to affordable learning solutions for students.

As a social learning community of choice, OpenStudy.com provides a social learning community where you can ask questions, give help, and connect with over 100,000 students from 170 countries and 1600 schools. There is no cost to participate and you can earn Certificates of Participation.

What is next?

There is plenty of evidence that OERs have a bright future, but their introduction raises important questions and challenges for future practice. The Bridge to Success project will gather further evidence and build a deeper understanding of how to adapt and use OERs. With your help, we are building greater understanding in areas such as including the adaptation of content for different audiences and the efficacy of different models of integrating OERs with courses and of supporting student use. Our findings will be fed back to inform future practices and the evolution of OER.

Please get in touch with us if you think the resources we are providing might be useful to you.

If you want to know more about OERs in general, there are many resources online to help you. We have listed some of these below: