Open Educational Resources: Question Answered

Blog Post
June 9, 2020

Community colleges, as well as other institutions of higher education, have been scrambling to plan for summer and fall classes with the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic on their shoulders. Students and colleges are both strapped for cash and trying to prepare for scenarios in the fall that involve online and hybrid models of education and possibly a shift back and forth between the two. Faculty and administrators can make use of open educational resources (OER) to provide lower cost, high-quality curriculum to students in online or in-person modalities.

On June 4, New America hosted a webinar with OER experts who offered practical resources and advice on using OER to support student success in this time of uncertainty. As it turned out, we had so many questions from attendees that panelists could not address all of them in the time allotted. So, we curated remaining questions and posed them to our wonderful panelists on Twitter to get their take. You’ll see two big remaining questions that our audience wanted to address and how panelists responded right here.

A large share of folks who registered for the webinar work at community colleges. While some of these colleges are no strangers to OER, others are venturing into this conversation for the first time and need both guidance and resources to get moving. In terms of funding to develop and/or implement OER, panelist Amy Hofer of Open Oregon Educational Resources noted that grants to faculty can be an effective way to get things started and offered a resource curating catalysts for OER development at a variety of institutions. A few key strategies include allowing funding for innovative teaching or conference travel to be used to develop or implement OER, strong cost-savings data, and specifically designated faculty stipends for OER creation.

While many in higher education may be most familiar with OER replacing full textbooks, a wide range of resources exist beyond open replacements for traditional textbooks: exams, worksheets, shorter texts for courses, lab exercise guides, and more. Maria Fieth, of Fieth Consulting LLC and SkillsCommons, pointed our Twitter and webinar audience to two repositories of open resources offering a range of learning artifacts. First, SkillsCommons serves as a repository for materials developed through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) program in the wake of the Great Recession. Any curricular resources developed using TAACCCT funds were required to be made open; this great wealth of OER is available today to support community colleges looking for free educational resources for their workforce training programs. Second, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) collection of resources offers thousands of open learning artifacts for members to access and use. Anyone can join MERLOT for free and take advantage.

As colleges explore ways to serve their students and communities in this difficult time, OER can offer ways to save money and continue instruction in different delivery methods that the pandemic may require. For those who were not able to join the webinar live, a recording--along with the slide deck and a list of other resources--is available here.

Related Topics
Higher Education Access and Affordability