The Time is Now for Open Educational Resources

July 16, 2020. – As higher education continues to prioritize remote online instruction in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, university libraries are working with others to advance, innovate and collaborate on the creation and use of high-quality open education resources. In recognition and support of the work of academic libraries, centres for teaching and learning, and faculty members leading the development of OER on campuses across the country and around the world, CARL’s Open Education Working Group is pleased to share the following resources: an FAQ on Open Education, guidance for instructors on Getting Started with OER, and an Environmental Scan of Open Education Service and Support in Canada.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free to use, openly licensed educational materials that have been produced by experts and educators in the field. Such resources carry no financial costs to the user, and are released under a Creative Commons license, enabling a full spectrum of uses. These permissions are often referred to as the “5Rs”: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute.

The availability of OER has grown tremendously over the past five years, in terms of the number and  variety of formats (e.g. images, text, video, etc.), and the range of subject areas covered. Whether instructors are seeking open “textbooks” for their first- or second-year courses or looking for ancillary content to expand their students’ understanding of an area of study, OER can provide resources developed by experts in a wide range of disciplines.

For students, finances can be a challenge at the best of times, but for those who now find themselves without a part-time job, summer employment, or are suffering other new financial stresses, buying commercial textbooks, whether digital or print, may not be possible. OER are one way in which instructors can help students fully and successfully engage in their learning.

Unlike commercial options that are currently available – for example, the temporary free access to textbook collections provided by some publishers in response to COVID-19, and the expanding textbook rental model – OER provide students with free access to texts and materials not merely while they are enrolled in a course, but long after the course has ended.

In addition to free access, OER enables flexible course design and delivery, including the ability to build tailored resources that can be altered as events and information change. Instructors can incorporate new relevant content in real time to contextualize important social, economic, and political developments.

Instructors can also increase student engagement by incorporating elements of open pedagogy into their course design, providing students with experiential learning opportunities where they may contribute to the design and development of an OER as part of their course assignments. As instructors respond to the challenge of offering courses online, they may consider whether their course resources (e.g. quizzes, exercises, guides, etc.) could be opened for use and adaptation.

For those interested in knowing more, or in learning how to participate in OER, CARL invites you to consult the following:

FAQ on Open Education
Getting Started with OER
Environmental Scan of Open Education Service and Support in Canada
Open Education page on CARL website
CARL Open Education Working Group

These new resources add to the excellent corpus of offerings from other organizations active in this area and in which librarians are participating. Notable among these are BCcampus and eCampusOntario here in Canada, and SPARC on the North American level. (Most recently, the Quebec government has supported the launch of La Fabrique REL as part of its Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education.)

The global events of 2020 have provided an opportunity to re-imagine many aspects of our world, including our approach to higher education. High quality, current, and barrier-free resources should be central to a student-focused, digitally innovative higher education system in Canada and globally.

CARL is the voice of Canada’s research libraries. The Association’s members include Canada’s twenty-nine largest university libraries and two federal institutions. Enhancing research and higher education are at the heart of its mission. CARL develops the capacity to support this mission, promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and advocates for public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information.

For more information, please contact:
Lise Brin, Program Officer

(902) 318-4485