Introduction to open educational resources

Developing learning materials is time-consuming and expensive. There are many benefits to be gained if you work together. By using other people's learning materials, you can enhance your own teaching. This Introduction to open educational resources (OER) explains what OER are, how you can use them , and how you can structure your own materials.

Twee studentes kijken samen naar een laptop

Collaborating on learning materials in a professional community

Is it a lot of work to keep your learning materials up-to-date? It helps if you work on it together. Collaborating with fellow professionals raises the quality of both learning materials and your own lessons. Sharing is easier if you know each other and feel a common bond.

Samenwerking in de vakcommunity

1. About professional communities

You probably know colleagues, nationally or worldwide. Together you form a professional community. A professional community is a group of lecturers from different educational institutions who work in the same subject area, domain or discipline and who have organised themselves in some way around the shared expertise.

You can start a professional community together. There are formal communities that can take many different forms. For example, a cross-institutional consortium, trade union or national training meeting.

A professional community can have its own conferences, magazines and newsletters. It can play a part in building and managing a collection of open educational resources.

Advantages of working with your community

  • efficient compiling of collections of high-quality learning materials
  • learning from each other through co-creation
  • collaborating on up-to-date material
  • increasing quality through collaboration
  • saving time through collaboration

The design guidelines (see Developing learning materials for re-use) also apply to the learning materials that you develop with your community.

Do you want to set up your own professional community for OER? Or do you want to start working with OER within your professional community? If so, follow the Roadmap: build a professional community around open education resources.

2. Building a collection

Some professional communities build a collection of open educational resources for their own subject area, such as statistics, nursing or anatomy. They manage their own repository (see Using other people's open educational resources) and chart together where there is demand in the subject area. If certain learning materials are missing, efforts will be made to fill in gaps in the collection by way of co-creation. A time investment is needed to build up the collection, but once the collection is available, lecturers will have time to organise their time differently. The community also maintains the collection jointly, making it less of a burden on the individual lecturer.

3. Develop a professional vocabulary

A professional vocabulary is a tool that can help you share and find open educational resources. It is a list of terms defined within the subject area and used to describe related technical terms within a subject area or education. They ensure that gathering the metadata of learning materials takes less time and that the quality of the metadata improves because it is done in a more unambiguous manner. They can be used by educational institutions or communities to analyse what educational resources are needed.

The Professional Vocabulary for OER Roadmap helps you create, implement, and maintain a professional vocabulary.

Develop a topic vocabulary with your community. See what is available internationally.

4. Quality through quality model and quality mark

A quality model for open educational resources is a list of criteria with which learning materials must comply if they are to qualify as "fit for purpose". Within a professional community (or educational institution), you may opt to collaborate on the creation of a quality model like this to make it easier to share and re-use open educational resources.

Having a quality model ensures that lecturers' confidence in open educational resources will grow. It ensures that they have a way to evaluate their own materials and provides guidance when it comes to assessing others’ materials. As a community, you can develop a quality mark that you add to materials that meet the requirements of the professional community's established quality model.

Go through the steps of the Roadmap Quality assurance of open educational resources together with your community and make agreements together about the quality of learning materials.

5. Success factor: a committed community

You need a lively community for an up-to-date collection. Make sure there is a community platform where people can find each other online and where knowledge and experience can be exchanged. Mention the subject open educational resources to fellow lecturers at meetings. Attention to the community is just as important as attention to learning materials.

Make it as easy as possible for community members to collaborate on materials. Agree on a clear and simple working method and set up a collaborative environment.

Examples of good practices from professional communities that have worked together on the development of open educational resources can be found in the SURF publication Open educational resources within professional communities (in Dutch).

The Roadmap: build a professional community around open education resources helps you set up an active community. If you already have a community, then this roadmap will help you get started specifically with OER.