OER: Open Educational Resources

Education is the most valuable asset to someone can have in their possession. In the past, people were generally limited by their access to free educational content that could be used without restrictions. Open Educational Resources are the product of educators and institutions around the world seeking progressive and innovative technologies to expand their reach and distribution of helpful resources for learning. Regardless of occupation or other qualifiers, the free digital content disseminated and produced as OER in nature is accessible by anyone. These free resources online include free online textbooks and free course materials. OER thrives on people who have large appetites for learning and acquiring knowledge through the most efficient and fastest mediums, like the internet. In fact, many OER materials are promoted by using social media online, which raises awareness and helps others unaware of Open Education Resources find them for their own use.

The 21st century populace of the world are living in an exciting era due to the rise of educational media freely transferred, modified, and adapted. Even more intriguing is the rate at which people are taking a hold of the modern educational freedoms and technologies that help minimize any necessary requirements for acquiring new knowledge. One reason why this rapidly growing trend of easily accessible and open educational resources is gaining popularity can be found in the significant social implications created from transparent educational content. The disparity between those blocked simply by walls to read and study accurate information is combated and decreased by open educational resources. Limited resources will hopefully no longer play drastic roles in effecting certain children and students of all ages from getting an education, for free.

Open Educational Resources started to gain momentum in the early ’90s. Since then its definition and core values has changed little. People desire free online educational resources. It’s that simple. People should not be restricted to learning due to the size of their wallets or their geographic location. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has raised more than $110 million for OER initiatives and programs. Nearly $15 million was acquired by MIT for their revolutionary OpenCourseWare project, which has enabled students and teachers to access content produced by MIT’s instructors and researchers and use it for their own benefit. MIT is one of many organizations that has helped OER progress dramatically.

There are many organizations which promote, produce, and distribute material for OER purposes. Some of these organizations include: Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative, Creative Commons, African Virtual University, and of course MIT OpenCourseWare. These programs are all working and utilizing unique ideas to increase open educational resources for the public domain. An important part of OER is the innovation which builds upon itself simply because of the nature of the content and distribution methods which are used. The organizations mentioned all contribute to OER by producing open educational resources that are digital and freely accessible on the internet, allowing anyone with online browsing capabilities to take their learning to another level. The content for OER organizations generally involves course descriptions, learning objectives and purpose, syllabi, example problems and applications, tests, lectures and more. Due to the digital nature of this content, interactive  mediums are often utilized for OER materials, such as video, animations, and simulations of various learning scenarios.

One vital component to open educational resources is the licensing of free educational materials, free online textbooks, content modules, and other objective learning materials. Creative Commons is a great way for people, educators, and educational institutions to quickly and easily license their work. Typically, content release under Creative Commons for Open Educational Resources can be freely utilized and adapted to additional curriculum. Software is another vital component of OER and it plays extremely significant roles in the distribution of open educational resources. Not only is software useful for distributing OER  content, but it is also used in the development, use, and re-use of educational materials. Managing large amounts of data consisting of learning content can only be done with a scalable infrastructure.

New software helps people search for and organize learning materials. Besides the applications of software, new software has helped online learning communities to evolve and grow tremendously. This can be illustrated in the widespread growth of distance learning, which software can be recognized as being a catalysis for this growth. Distance learning has influenced the evolution of OER. Once institutions began to clearly understand just how powerful the internet was for teaching people, new programs aimed at producing and applying distance learning applications have arisen in recent years. This is because societies are faster paced and more interconnected than in the 20th century. Leaving people that are wishing for greater knowledge to find the time and resources necessary to learn on their own. However, this problem has since become less of an issue because of OER.

Translucency is a hot topic and usually a controversial debate amongst students, educators, lobbyists and corporations. On one side of the fence are people who wish to consume free curriculum and learning objects in order to benefit themselves; on the other side are those who play large roles in the publication and distribution of expertly produced educational material that often requires hefty resources or specified credentials. This divide has led to the creation of open educational resources, also referred to as OER. Finding a free and open educational resource for many areas of academia was difficult for the general population without assistance financially or socially. Free digital textbooks and other free online educational content that was once limited to distribution in hardback textbooks is now being seen by individuals on the internet, at no cost to them. Providing only positives to people who love learning about unheard of ideas. OER is the future of free education for everyone.

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