Criteria for good OER
In our last article, we presented various funding models for open textbooks and showed how easy it can be to integrate Open Educational Resources (OER) into everyday school practices. However, with regard to textbooks, there is still skepticism on the part of teachers: Compared to proofread textbooks, there is sometimes a fear of loss of quality, because there is no higher authority (such as usually the publishing industry) that checks the OER materials with expertise. Although it should be noted here that for the most part, publisher review is only concerned with whether textbooks are curriculum compliant. In the case of open educational materials, publishing staff are replaced by members of online communities who share their professional and instructional knowledge to evaluate existing materials and identify specific materials for closer scrutiny. The quality of OER materials is derived from the basic ideas of open thinking and can be assessed using the following OER-specific quality criteria:
OER should be easy to access and understand. In terms of content, the materials are designed to be low-threshold through simple language and formats that appeal to multiple senses (e.g., video with subtitles). The temporal and spatial low-threshold nature of the OER materials is ensured by the decentralized nature of the Internet. The materials can be accessed at any time from any location, provided an Internet connection is available.
But making educational materials and offerings available online is only the first step. Access to educational materials is still often restricted or at least made more difficult by paid offerings and the condition of registration. The same applies to the provision of materials in exclusively proprietary and closed file formats (e.g., a worksheet only as a PDF). Access to OER should therefore be non-binding and unconditional, and ideally also free of charge, in order to reach everyone. More specifically, there must be different access points to the learning content as well as different teaching formats.
If teachers have now found open teaching materials online, they are still faced with the problem that these are often not one hundred percent suitable for their purposes and must be adapted either in terms of layout, content or file format. Depending on the license form, however, the freedom of usability is quite limited (e.g. CC BY-ND, i.e. attribution and no editing as a default). Other Creative Commons license forms (e.g., CC ZERO) allow adaptation, remixing, and use of parts of other open materials to create new OER. The ideal forms of licensing for OER are therefore CC ZERO, CC BY, and CC BY-NC, as they are the most open and thus offer the greatest creative freedom.
In order to be able to use the OER in a legally secure way, they should be visibly and correctly labeled with a license (e.g. a CC license). This is because missing information means that they cannot or may not be used. If, on the other hand, sources are carefully indicated and changes to the source material are documented in such a way that they can be viewed by all users, long-term use and further development is made possible. If the rights of use are clearly and completely stated, OER materials can be used without hesitation.
In short, OER should be easily accessible and easy to use in a legally compliant manner, as well as flexible and adaptable, saving time and money and promoting educational equity.
This topic has already been discussed many times – here we have compiled more in-depth information:
- Qualitätsmanagement von offenen Bildungsressourcen (OERinfo)
- OER quality tips (Kawachi 2013)
- OER-Qualität in der Hochschulbildung (Mayrberger & Zawacki-Richter 2021