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Oct 10

How to Find Open Educational Resources on the Internet

By Viv Rolfe

What are OER? Open Education Resources (OERs) and Open Education Practices (OEP) are changing the education sector around the world, with teachers and lecturers placing their learning and teaching materials on the internet for others to use. This article is one of a series that talks about open education.

OERs that have been made available to use and reuse come in all shapes and sizes and can be as simple as an individual photograph or diagram or a more lengthy teaching resource to even an entire module or course. Therefore, there are many different places where resources can be found on the internet, and one difficulty is knowing just where to look.

Approaches to finding OER Teachers and lecturers, trainers and tutors, particularly those new in their jobs, spend hours finding suitable teaching materials, and possibly even more hours recreating materials from scratch. The beauty of a more open way of working is that there is a pot of gold from which to select resources. Also, the open resources are usable by pupils and students, and also anyone who simply wants to find out more about a subject. A challenge to those involved in producing OER is therefore placing them where they can be most easily found, and with as many websites as stars in the sky, here lies a big challenge.

How to find images A quick approach to finding images is to use Google or Yahoo search engines, and select the “Image” search option. On Google Images there is an “Advanced Search” function, and on Yahoo a “More Filters” function, and the important bit is these functions allow you to search for those images that you are permitted to reuse. These functions let you search for images that might be on other photo sharing services like Flickr or Picasa that are licensed under Creative Commons; this is a licence that allows you to reuse the image with varying levels of freedom. This means, as a teacher, you could download the image and use it within a teaching resource or show it to students in a lesson.

You would need to check the license to understand how free or restrictive the level of reuse was, and this varies from Creative Commons Licence “BY” meaning simply attribute the originator when you use it, to “BY-NC-ND” where the resource is not available for commercial use and no derivatives can be made (even cropping an image). The other big consideration here is that just because something seems to be available and you have found the licence, you must do a bit more rooting around to see whether the resource is authentic and belongs to who it says it belongs. If someone has an excellent image of red blood cells viewed down a microscope amongst their holiday snaps, ask yourself whether it is genuinely theirs? You can do a quick internet search on the image title to see if you can trace it, or also test the authenticity of the owner. If in any doubt, best not to use.

Finding video Clearly YouTube and Vimeo are obvious choices for finding teaching resources in video format. People that submit videos to YouTube are granting users a licence to access the content to use and reuse in any way. What you as a borrower cannot assume is that the content of the video belongs to the originator. So be wary of resources that might be from commercial companies. For example if a video is clearly a recording from the BBC, then it will probably not belong to the person who placed it there. Check YouTube’s “Terms and Conditions” page for more details. For more assurance use YouTube Edu which allows you to search by academic subject and is likely that the video and the content within them belong to the institution who placed it there. So rather than having to check the authenticity, you will simply need to ensure the content is up to the quality that you require.

Podcasts and audio For both audio and video files, iTunesU offers an option for finding teaching resources, and as with YouTube Edu, institutions involved offer a range of good quality content with the assurance of authenticity. You will still need to check the content for accuracy and currency. There are a wealth of other sites such as TED (ted.com) which has dozens of talks from professionals on a wide range of subjects, all licensed under Creative Commons. Other websites such a SlideShare (slideshare.net) offer a wealth of presentation material, not just for educational purposes.

Resource repositories The heavy-weights of the OER movement are the large-scale repositories including OpenCourseWare, DiscoverEd (run by the Creative Commons group), OER Commons, Merlot, and in the UK JorumOpen is an open content repository used by education institutions. Again, whilst the repositories can provide some assurance of copyright freedoms and authenticity, you still need to sense check the content, for example medical and science content may become dated. The difficulty with repositories is that the contents are not searchable from Google and Yahoo search engines, so you will need to visit each separately to search for content.

What is the way forward? For me, I have found several good sources of OER on the internet and I tend to stick with them. I have understood the copyright licenses and verified this with my institutional copyright officer. If you don’t have this level of support, you can always contact the OER originator for clarification. Finding the OER is just step one, and in my next article I will discuss the equally important steps of critiquing the authenticity, quality and reusability of open education resources.

Viv Rolfe is working on the SCOOTER Project at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Visit us: http://www.sicklecellanaemia.org

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