If you have ventured forth into the world of OER, you probably experienced the shock and awe (as many of us have) at the sheer number of resources available: Repositories, Open Textbook Publishers, Open Courseware, and so much more. While this is really cool (people are sharing, and sharing is caring) it can make the task of finding the right OER for your needs feel a bit overwhelming. Something that can help guide your search and help inform how you use an OER is an OER Evaluation Tool.
There are many OER Evaluation Tools available in the form of checklists, rubrics, and course maps (linked below in Further Reading & Resources). Instead of going through all of them, let’s take a look at the major areas of evaluation suggested by most of these tools:
As we learned yesterday, there are six different creative commons licenses that creators can use to indicate the level of permission a user may have, in addition to public domain resources. Openness ranges from a very open license like the CC-BY which allows users to do pretty much anything they want as long as they give attribution to the original creator, to CC BY-NC-ND which pretty-much only allows users to copy and redistribute content for non-commercial purposes. Remember that linking to a source is not making a copy, so you are not bound by most copyright rules BUT you do need to make sure the thing you are linking to isn’t an infringing work.
This is probably the most basic question when starting an evaluation: can you identify signs of accuracy and quality? Some repositories, like Merlot, use a peer-review system to help searchers easily and quickly identify quality resources in their repository. Other ways to quickly identify content accuracy include the reputation of the authors or publisher (if relevant) much in the same way you might currently evaluate a traditional textbook. For example OpenStax, based in Rice University, is a popular publisher of OER Textbooks. They also use a peer-review process involving faculty from a range of different schools to help ensure the quality of their content.
In addition to accuracy, it is helpful to also consider the clarity and comprehensiveness of a resource. Is the use of jargon appropriate and consistent, and is context provided? Is the reading level of any text appropriate for the level of your course? If any figures, tables, or images are used do the authors explain and contextualize them? Any resource you use in your course should also align in some meaningful way with your course learning outcomes/objectives (this is where course mapping is useful – CITT has self-paced training that can help!).
Is this resource accessible to people with disabilities? Do images have alternative text? Do videos have closed captions? Is any text set in such a way that it can be easily read by a screen reader? Below are resources that can help you learn how to better evaluate for accessibility:
Resources should also use examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds in addition to being free of culturally insensitive or offensive content. These practices lead to a more inclusive teaching environment in both online and face-to-face classes. Check out the links below that will help you better understand and find inclusive resources:
Credits: Josh Hill, Ilene Frank, and Kathryn Walling provided valuable assistance with today’s research!