Social Problems OER/Affordable Project Participant Guide

Open Education Librarian

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Christine Rickabaugh
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The Basics of OER

Understanding the basics of OER

The information on this page is about the basics of open educational resources.

Have you ever found something from the internet that could be a perfect resource (image, video, quiz, etc.) for your course, and you spent hours trying to figure out the copyright issues with that resource? You couldn’t find any Terms of Use, and there was no author information, so you didn’t know who to contact to get the permission?

Wouldn’t it have been nice if that resource somehow said: “I’m free to use, no strings attached, you don’t need to ask for my permission because it is already granted”?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are an answer to that need.

There are millions of educational resources out there that are available for others to freely use. There are all kinds: full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and many other tools, materials and techniques used to support access to knowledge.

The 5Rs of OER

Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others (definition by Hewlett Foundation).

The term “open content” describes any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

To see how others define OER, please visit What is OER (Links to an external site.)by Creative Commons.

A note about public domain

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright, which means it’s free for you to use without permission.It's really, really open content; go ahead and use it in your open course.

Examples include the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, The King James Bible, most of the early silent films, the formulae of Newtonian physics, and the patents on powered flight. In the United States, most works enter the public domain if they were published before 1923 or if they were published before 1964 and their copyright was not renewed. There are also works that automatically enter the public domain - in particular, publications of the federal government.

The American Library Association has a very handy copyright slider (Links to an external site.) that can help you determine whether a work is still under copyright. A librarian can also answer copyright questions.

Works that are in the public domain are free to use without attribution, though you should create an attribution for public domain content that you use. It models appropriate use of others' work for your students, and it helps you track down that source again if you need to. 

We won't spend much more time on the definition of public domain, but if you are teaching a course on literature published before 1923 or want to use federal data sets, or have another use for public domain content, you can learn more and find repository links on Wikipedia's Public Domain (Links to an external site.) page.

Quality

You probably noticed that this page is all about copyright status. Copyright status has nothing to do with the quality of the work. Just as you wouldn't look for a traditional copyright symbol to tell you whether a textbook is going to work for your course, an open license provides no guarantee. You're the subject matter expert - you need to evaluate open-content just as you would any materials you use for your course.

Attribution:

Content on this page was modified from the following sources: 

"Understanding OER" (Links to an external site.) by Boyoung Chae (Links to an external site.)Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (Links to an external site.), licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Links to an external site.)

"Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources" (Links to an external site.) by David Wiley, licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Links to an external site.)

"Public Domain" (Links to an external site.) by Boyoung Chae (Links to an external site.)Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (Links to an external site.), licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Links to an external site.)

"Public Domain" (Links to an external site.) by Wikipedia (Links to an external site.), licensed under CC BY SA 4.0

An Introduction to OER

Please watch the video