Creating and Utilizing OER Materials

Adapting Open and Shared Digital Educational Resources to Improve the Educational Experience – and Reduce Student Costs

A key component of the 4-VA initiative is the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) — freely accessible, openly-licensed text, media, and other digital assets applied for use in a particular course of study.  Utilizing OER materials can result in a more engaging curriculum, and provides students the latest and most current information on a topic.  Faculty also have the ability to institute a “flipped” classroom, as the class materials are available in advance of the class, allowing students to arrive at class with a basic level of understanding of the topic.  Hence, there is an opportunity for a more expansive discussion and investigation in class.  However, perhaps the greatest benefit is student savings – reducing or eliminating the outlay for an often-costly textbook.

The call for Open Educational Resources begins at the highest level in the Commonwealth, at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) in their Strategic Plan. Specifically SCHEV plan emphasizes the importance of cultivating affordable post secondary education pathways for traditional, non-traditional and returning students, as well as aligning state appropriations to insure that students have broader access to education opportunities, regardless of their ability to pay.

Considerations and criteria for a course redesign 4-VA grant include:  classes with high enrollment; classes required for a major; Mason Core classes; and classes with high textbook costs. 

Although the mission and the journey to achieve these benefits can often be markedly different for each 4-VA grant recipient, several overarching goals are consistent:

Dr. Youngsung Kim      EVPP 337
  • Provide students with the latest information and guidance on a subject;
  • Incorporate a variety of media approaches to engage and enlighten;
  • Offer a self-guided tutorial into the subject that can be digested at the students’ own pace; and
  • Create and/or identify associated materials that can inform students on a variety of topics related to the course of study.

While the goals are worthy, achieving them can often be fraught with challenges.  With the flood of information and resources comes the responsibility of vetting the material and tailoring it to the particular flow of the course as well as the needs of the students.  Often, is no easy feat.  Supervising or conducting this research is time-consuming and demanding.  But the results, when carefully produced, are of tremendous benefit.

The results have been nothing short of impressive. Read about the successes below: