Open Education Week: Exploring Open Textbooks #OEWeek #OER

“Brigham Young University faculty survey seeks to advance open education through academic libraries” flickr photo by opensourceway https://flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/6555466069 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

This week has been OER Week so it seems an ideal time to be talking about Open Textbooks. This guest post is by Suzanne Tatham, Academic Services Manager (Library).

First of all, what is an OER? Here is the Creative Commons definition:

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/education-oer/

A quick trawl of Twitter’s #oerweek will give you a flavour of the types of OER activity that are taking place in universities and other interested parties across the globe.

OERs are not new to the University of Sussex. Prof Lucy Robinson worked with the University of Sussex Library and the Mass Observation Archive to launch the Jisc-funded Observing the 80s in 2013, an OER that brought together voices from Mass Observation and the British Library Oral History Collections.

In this short video, Tim Seal of the OER SCORE Project discusses the benefits of Open Educational practice. He gives advice on how to license, create, publish, remix and redistribute Open Education.

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A lingering concern around OERs is highlighted with the recent attention given to them by commercial publishers who have introduced open resources alongside proprietary material.  Inside Higher Ed have written an enlightening Guide to Good OER Stewardship, advocating the CARE Framework to encourage the following:

  • ‘Contribute’ via financial or in-kind contributions to ‘advance the awareness, improvement, and distribution of OER.’
  • ‘Attribute’ by making sure that those who create or remix OER are ‘properly and clearly credited’ for their contributions.
  • ‘Release’ by ensuring that OER can be shared and used outside the platform in which it is was created or delivered.
  • ‘Empower’ by striving to make OER meet the needs of all learners, and supporting the participation of diverse voices in OER creation and adoption.

That said, within this OER landscape, open textbooks have been gaining popularity. Open textbooks are written by academics and shared using open copyright licences such as Creative Commons. These licences allow authors to share their textbooks. They also grant permission for anyone to access and reuse the textbook. They reduce the “hidden costs” of university study by replacing expensive textbooks with free ones. For the tutor, they present opportunities to adapt the content to suit their particular teaching needs. The open licences enable you to mix and match, so you can actually create your own book using chapters from different open textbooks.

Sourcing good quality academic open textbooks

The following sites have large collections of open textbooks, available for you to use in your teaching and link to from your online reading lists:

For updates on news about open textbooks, follow @UKOpenTextbooks on Twitter.

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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