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School Librarians as OER Curators: A Framework to Guide Practice: About OER

Module 1

About OER

Have you heard about Open Educational Resources (OER) and want to know more? This module presents an overview of what they are and why they matter for libraries—and for teaching and learning.

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that reside in the public domain or that have been released under a license that permits no-cost use, adaptation and redistribution. Many folks identify OER solely as open textbooks or full courses that are openly licensed. However, OER, by definition, also include single resources such as videos, primary source texts,

What is OER Graphic

OER and Open Licensing

OER are typically licensed under an open licensing system, the most popular being the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system. Open licenses support creators who want to share their works freely, and allow other users more flexibility to adapt and share their original work. Specific benefits include:

  • Allowing others to distribute the work freely, which in turn promotes wider circulation than if an individual or group retained the exclusive right to distribute;
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for others to ask for permission to use or share the work, which can be time consuming, especially if the work has many authors;
  • Encouraging others to continuously improve and add value to the work; and
  • Encouraging others to create new works based on the original work - e.g. translations, adaptations, or works with a different scope or focus.

See the About Licensing section of this LibGuide for more information on open licensing.

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"About OER text is a derivative of "About OER" from the Ontario Colleges OER Toolkit, by Ontario Colleges Library Service and ISKME, originally licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, and reused under CC BY 4.0  with permission from Ontario Colleges Library Service. Definition of OER is adapted from UNESCO and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  “OER Can Be” is a derivative of the BCOER Poster by BCcampus, licensed under CC BY 4.0.  Images from the Noun Project, licensed under CC BY 4.0. “OER and Open Licensing” text is a derivative of Guide to Open Licensing, by Open Knowledge International, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Why OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) enable possibilities for new, more collaborative instructional practices and for more personalized learning experiences—because through open licensing, materials can be used, adapted, localized, and shared across learning communities.

 Benefits for Libraries:

  • Supports the library's effort to provide more relevant and engaging materials for students
  • Enables the role of library staff as collaborators on instructional design through their expertise in finding quality materials and knowledge of open licensing affordances
  • Expands the curatorial role of the library through enhanced opportunities for describing and organizing content
  • Provides a mechanism to bridge the gap between historical library curation practices and the benefits of 21st century technologies

 Benefits for Classroom Teachers:

  • Assures academic freedom to modify or add content to their specifications
  • Extends their academic profile
  • Provides more relevant and engaging materials for students
  • Invites peer review and collaboration, which in turn makes room for the educator voice in curriculum decisions at their schools

 Benefits for Students:

  • Opens up possibilities for more customized content that meets local learning needs
  • Opens up access to instructional content that truly resonates in today’s classrooms, by allowing for adaptations so that content can meet the diversity, inclusion and equity needs of all learners
  • Invites peer review and collaboration, which makes room for the student voice in curriculum decisions at their schools

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“Benefits for Libraries” is a derivative of “Why OER Matters for Libraries”, from the Ontario Colleges OER Toolkit, by Ontario Colleges Library Service and ISKME, originally licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, and reused under CC BY 4.0  with permission from Ontario Colleges Library Service.  “Benefits for Students” and” Benefits for Classroom Teachers” texts  are a derivative of "Benefits for faculty and students", from the poster “BCOER” by BCcampus, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

What's Not OER?

Below are four key categories of resources that are often considered to fall outside the definition of what is truly the intention of OER, because their licenses and use permissions do not allow for the full range of possible use cases—from sharing, to repurposing, to adapting and remixing resources. Of course, the best mix of materials to meet any given set of learning outcomes will vary, and may include a combination of OER and the materials listed below. The key is knowing which resources will best meet your objectives for curation, for instruction, and for learners.

Resources That Are Not OER Examples

Subscription-Based Library Collections

A library’s subscription-based resources (journals, videos, and other materials), while accessible to students and educators, are not OER. This is because their use in education may be limited by license agreements.

  • Discovery Learning
  • CultureGrams
  • Proquest
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Digital Course Materials Provided to Your School That Do Not Carry an Open License

Instructional materials purchased by your state, school, or district from commercial publishers, while accessible and free to use by your educators and learners, are not OER.

  • ReadyGEN Digital Resources for English Language Arts
  • Great Minds Eureka Math Digital Resources
  • StudySync Digital Curriculum

Free Resources Found Online That Do Not Carry An Open License

All the available resources on the web that you may have access to at no cost, but that are not in the public domain, or do not carry a Creative Commons license or other  open license, are not OER.

  • Newsela
  • BrainPOP
  • Curriculum Pathways
  • PBS Learning Media

Openly Licensed Resources That Do Not Allow for Adaptations

A widely-held tenet of the OER movement is to encourage the full range of possible permissions for use. Some argue that unless an open license allows for adaptations (edits or refinements), then the resource is not truly OER. Under this rule, resources that are licensed as Creative Commons No Derivatives (ND) are not considered OER.

  • Open Access research journals that restrict users from adapting or modifying their articles through a Creative Commons No Derivatives (ND) license—e.g., Karger Open Access articles
  • TED Talk Videos, which are licensed as Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

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“What’s Not OER” text  is a derivative of What’s Not OER, from the Ontario Colleges OER Toolkit, by Ontario Colleges Library Service and ISKME,  originally licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, and reused under CC BY 4.0  for this document, with permission from Ontario Colleges Library Service.  Table is a derivative of Finding and Adopting OER, by Heather Blicher, licensed under CC BY 4.0

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