There is an expanding field of digital materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse. Social media is being used to spread awareness and use of OER. Such resources include courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals. There are growing online communities developing and sharing these resources. Here are some example sites:
How might this impact the liberal arts campus? The first thing that comes to mind is students searching for low-cost alternatives to their textbooks. I doubt they’ll find free (legal) versions of their textbooks, but they may find many other resources for research or plain old study helps. Faculty will probably have to lead by example in selecting or suggesting OER resources for their students. Instructors may also find materials they can use to help build a course, especially online content. There are many opportunities here for collaboration and knowledge building.
This development of OER reminds me of a conversation in a recent Teaching Circle that illuminated the distinction between a culture of cheating and a culture of sharing. Cheating represents the negative aspects of our society: piracy, cheat codes, doping, the present-day expansion of the fiercely independent “me-first” strain in American culture. Sharing represents the positive aspects of this shift fueled by social media: open source, collaborative, Creative Commons, remixing, sampling, Groupon, the present-day expansion of the “We the people” stick-together strain in American culture. Now that I actually articulate that spectrum, it sounds almost like the Native American story of the two wolves: which one grows stronger depends entirely on which one you feed. Here at OWU we crack down on cheating. We also practice and promote sharing. OER is one way to expand that positive trend.
(For example, the OER image above was voluntarily released by the copyright holder into the public domain.)