An explanation of OER: Teaching, learning and research resources

Fulton-Montgomery Community College has been working with Open Educational Resources (OER) since 2015.

As defined by the 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.” FM has twelve faculty members that have used or are using OER in twenty-two courses.

A lot of my exposure and experience with OER has been at the librarian level; meaning, I help faculty discover and implement OER into their courses. These experiences, at a small community college, were necessarily limited in scope.

A colleague had been to the open education conference in prior years and suggested that I attend the conference in 2017. I attended the 14th Annual Open Education Conference in Anaheim, California Oct.10 through 13.

As a first time attendee of the conference, I was not quite sure what to expect.

Uncertainty began to disappear with my very first conference session. The speaker was David Wiley, chief academic officer at Lumen Learning and the Founder and Steward of the Open Education Conference.

Billed as a “concise introduction to the core ideas of open education,” it reaffirmed some tenets of OER use that I had already known.

One being: “open does not mean free” but rather; “open equals free plus permissions.” Those permissions are granted by and through a series of purposefully structured licenses.

For the next three days in Anaheim, I attended sessions on a wide-range of topics associated with OER. The approximately 750 conference attendees included librarians, college and university faculty members, campus bookstore representatives, publishers, administrators, K-12 school people, instructional technologists, instructional designers, and students.

The cross-section of attendees was impressive and helped give me a greater sense of how deep and wide-reaching the OER “movement” actually is. While I may have been able to sense that depth from my role at FM, attending the conference helped me see and hear it on a larger scale.

These are a few of my observations from the conference sessions and my own experiences with OER: College students are all busy outside of college; access to materials is a huge plus with OER — students can engage with course material anywhere; OER is not about replicating the status quo; and, higher education institutions invest in people, leaders and community.

Seeing, hearing, and speaking with many different people involved with open education was a great benefit. Each point of view about “open” is shaped by what role each has in education. Hearing the student voice was critical to understanding the need for OER at FM and across higher education. FM’s use of OER is both cost-effective and cutting-edge.

Textbooks are expensive and using OER lets instructors be more creative in their teaching. Students, parents, high school teachers and guidance counselors should know that the faculty at FM are committed to providing a modern education to students while attempting to keep the cost of that education very affordable. The use of OER at FM is helping to make that possible.