Up until last week’s class, I was not very familiar with Open Education (OE) or Open Education Resources (OER). I had heard the term before, but never really took the time to understand what they actually encompassed. Thank you to Gillian and Leigh for sharing some resources. I was struggling a bit with this whole concept! From the article Leigh shared, PK-12 OER: Key Benefits and Sustainable Implementation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2015)outlined that open educational resources (OER) are “high quality teaching, learning, and research resources that are free for others to use and repurpose.”
This article goes on to further discuss that these resources can range from full courses, digital textbooks, images, and assessments and they can be regularly updated and reused in a variety of settings. Both of these resources have helped me better understand what encompasses OE. I see the draw to engage with these types of resources or use them in your teaching practices.
As educators, I strongly believe in the culture of sharing and not reinventing the wheel – working smarter, not harder. This was especially true during my first years as a teacher, when I would beg, borrow and steal resources from anyone who was willing to give them. I listened to the podcast Teaching in Higher Education – Creating and Extending Open Education with Terry Greene that Gillian recommended. He went on to discuss his thoughts on Open Education and mentioned that if you are sharing resources, you are essentially taking part in Open Education whether you created the content or not.
I feel that I am able to take the most away and apply to my personal teaching practices when I engage with other educators regarding ideas, resources, or strategies – to me this is a branch of open education!
When thinking about OERs, I have a hard time not thinking back to my undergraduate degrees and stressing about being able to afford an expensive textbook that is REQUIRED for the completion of the class. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford to purchase these, but I did have some friends who weren’t so lucky. Some tried to make due without the text and others pooled their money to be able to afford the text. This is where I believe OERs can and should be recommended to be used so that there is equal opportunity for all students to have access to all resources required to complete the course.
Post secondary education is already expensive enough as it is and adding the high cost of textbooks only piles onto student debt and stress. Like Gillian, I too came across the article Impacts of Open Educational Resources written by Oliver Dreon as I was doing some research into OE and OERs. Dreon goes on to say “…OER is an equity strategy for higher education: providing all students with access to course materials on the first day of class serves to level the academic playing field in course settings.” The use of OERs or a promoted culture of sharing resources in the post secondary institutions could work towards providing a more equitable educational playing field.
I appreciated the article that Leigh shared which articulated how these OERs could benefit the PK-12 educational world. PK-12 OER: Key Benefits and Sustainable Implementation, outlines 4 major benefits for utilizing OERs in the PK-12 grade range. The first they outline is the benefit of creating empowered teachers. OERs have the ability to increase teacher collaboration and student learning when adopted division wide. Next they outline that OERs provide increased opportunity to access high quality teaching material. Following this, they outline that OERs could provide divisions with the ability to reallocate funds that were previously put towards resources, such as textbooks, that can be reallocated and used differently. Finally, outlined arethe capabilities OERs have in creating a more collaborative culture throuhgout education as a whole.
OERs can help fill the gap or completely take away the shortfall of materials that are made available by school divisions for student use. Leigh also shared the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2015) that explains the K-12 education sector suffers from a scarcity of effective materials and that OERs can provide flexible and affordable materials to bridge the gap and for this reason, school divisions should look more seriously at enlisting OERs to help provide the best materials for their students.
It is also hard to not think about the quality and quantity of resources and materials that school divisions are able to procure. As in the video “Why Open Education Matters” outlines, a lot of schools are unable to afford the up to date or proper amount of learning materials which forces them to use insufficient or outdated ones. In my Grade ⅞ classroom, there is not enough Math, Science, or Social Studies textbooks for each one of my 27 students to use on their own – we are currently operating with a 3:1 student/textbook ratio for Math, 1 textbook to use for Social Studies and not near enough for a class set of Science textbooks.
OERs would be a simple solution to the lack of material and eliminate the need for students to have to share. Not only would it eliminate the lack of resources, but also ensure teachers and students are working with the most up to date and relavent information. OERs would also enable students to have access to these textbooks anywhere outside the school, as we do not permit school materials being taken home.
I feel that these benefits outlined should be taken into consideration when/if school divisions are trying to decide whether or not to promote OERs. I think school divisions should look at the possibility of implementing OERs based solely on the stretched funds that most divisions are strapped with. They could relocate these funds towards an underfunded aspect such as transportation. I realize that this would not be an easy undertaking, but these OERs and open education seems like a very attractive avenue to help school divisions in numerous ways not only financially.