Food for thought: OER

Why do OER matter?

The instructor’s pedagogy shapes the learning materials, not the other way around. The way that OER are licensed means instructors can customize content to their classes. Unlike traditional textbooks, where instructors have to make the textbook fit their needs, deal with continual revisions and updates, and sometimes supplement the textbook with other sources, OER can legally be adapted to fit the instructor’s goals. 

OER licensing also means a community of educators can pool resources and expertise to collaboratively refine and improve an OER. For example, if an IU Biology instructor shares OER content they’ve developed for their Introduction to Molecular Biology course, an instructor from Duke University can add a chapter and then re-share the OER. Then an instructor from Ivy Tech Community College may take that new version and update two sections where new discoveries/literature exists, teach with it, and re-share their version. As more instructors take advantage of the permissions inherent in OER, the community gains better teaching resources.

Sarah Hare's go-to sources


Learn more about Open Educational Resource services on your campus. The Indiana University system is also an Open Education Network (OEN) member, and your campus may offer OEN workshops for instructors interested in adopting OER. If you’re on the Bloomington campus, register to attend an OEN workshop on October 12 via Zoom. After you attend and write a short review of an open textbook in your field, you’ll receive a $250 stipend. Finally, if you’re on the IU Bloomington or IUPUI campuses, check out the Course Material Fellowship Program.

For reading

For listening and watching

  • Robin DeRosa’s interview on the “Teaching in Higher Ed” podcast provides both background on OER and inspiration for getting started.
  • Catherine Cronin’s keynote, “Open Education Now,” discusses the importance of open education in the context of COVID-19.

Take a deeper dive

  • The Open Education Review Project aggregates all empirical research on adopting OER in one space. Studies are focused on the efficacy of using OER instead of commercial textbooks, instructor and student perceptions of the quality of OER, and student cost savings when OER are used.
  • Open Pedagogy, or OP, happens when instructors move away from a ‘disposable assignment’ (one only used for grading purposes) toward asking students to complete assignments that are openly licensed, publicly available, and immediately useful to their community. For example, instructors might ask students to contribute to an OER or re-design an assignment so it culminates in sharing their research. The Open Pedagogy Notebook defines OP and provides several examples for instructors to consider. A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students may also prove useful.