Intro to OER: A Wider Spectrum

I’ve done a number of introduction to OER conversations over the last few years. I did another recently. Here is my revised attempt at getting at a very broad overview and maybe going a bit farther afield than is typically the case. This particular presentation emphasized OER as addition and that you could use all sorts of pieces as augmentation rather than replacement.

The intro was focused on a quick overview of broad concepts and getting some terms for future independent google work. I try to emphasize that with the people in attendance. We aren’t diving down every rabbit hole offered here but we are tossing out some key words and concepts that you might wish to pursue later. Despite the fact that creative commons and MOOCs feel old and played out to me they remain new terms to a number of the faculty attending.

While it muddies the waters a bit, I do emphasize that VCU has a chunk of free-to-our-students resources that faculty should be aware of.


With that intro out of the way, I try to work from the typical conception of OER towards what I feel like are less considered elements. That leads to starting with courses/textbooks. They’re high structure and made with educational intent. I hit a few common places for this content and stress the fact that there are many, many specialized areas for different disciplines. QUBES (math and biology educators who share resources and methods for preparing students to tackle real, complex, biological problems) is one I’ve recently been introduced to after one of our faculty members published some work there that we assisted with. One element

We also take a quick aside to talk a bit about syllabi and open pedagogy. This also gives us a chance to point out some useful Google Advanced Search options.

Then comes individual media elements. Here we point to some random places where certain types of media are more easily found. I remind people that iTunes U exists even if Apple has pretty much hidden it. I also try to push the expectation around interactive media a bit. I want faculty to have high expectations here and hope to have them dreaming of amazing things.

Less Standard

I drift a bit farther afield here and start to look at tools for faculty to create OER content. Knight Lab’s tools are a favorite entry point for me but I’m also trying to show the far end of the spectrum with Jupyter notebooks.

I’m also still pitching primary source material as a key OER element. That’s for use as material for students to process and as ways to illustrate or expand concepts. Raw media is useful. That kind of stuff includes data – found or created by the students. There are so many options here. I also continue to stress the usefulness of having student make real content for real audiences.

I close with social bookmarking. I still think it is 100 times better than browser bookmarks but am more reasonable in my expectations of conversion after trying to convince people to do this for so many years.

Nothing revolutionary here but maybe some bits and pieces that are of use to someone below.

Getting Your Feet Wet with OER


  1. Who are you? What do you teach?

OER defined

  1. Why OER?
  2. 5 Rs
  3. Licenses
    1. Public Domain
    2. Creative commons
  4. Open pedagogy
  5. MOOCs
    1. Ed X
    2. Coursera


  1. Freely accessible to VCU students
    1. Library resources

Practical Considerations

  1. Can students get to it for free?
  2. Can I make a copy? (technical and license considerations)
  3. Can I edit it? (technical and license considerations)


The Larger OER Landscape

  1. Big Picture
    1. Courses/Textbooks
      1. OER Commons
      2. Lumen Search
      3. Open Textbook Library
      4. Open Stax Biology
        1. Open Stax books can also be imported into Pressbooks for editing
      5. Libre Texts
      6. MIT Open Courseware
      7. Open Music Theory
    2. Syllabi
      2. via Google advanced search
  2. Pieces of Media
    1. Repositories
      1. Merlot


    1. Videos/Audio
      1. YouTube Education
      2. Khan Academy
      3. The Open University
      4. Backstory
    2. Interactives and simulations
      1. PHET Simulations
      2. Music Theory
      3. Relativistic Spacetime
    3. Tools
      1. Pressbooks – ALT Lab runs its own installation of this software here
      2. – Make any website or PDF into a discussion forum
      3. H5P – embeddable multimedia items that include video annotation
      4. Knight Lab Tools – interactive timelines, maps, and other multimedia types
      5. Voyant – textual analysis options
      6. Jupyter Notebook
    4. Primary source material/Raw material
      1. Library of Congress Digital Collections
      2. Flickr Commons
      3. Wikimedia Commons
    5. Data
      1. Google’s Data Set Search
      3. Richmond Open Data Portal
  1. Student Work as OER
    1. Wikipedia Education
    2. Transcription
      1. Virginia Memory Transcribe
      2. Folgerpedia Transcribeathon
      3. Smithsonian Transcription Projects
      4. Judah Will Project
    3. Data gathering
      1. Rebel Cities
      2. Text Set Project
      3. Field Botany


A Selection of OER Created by VCU Faculty


Keeping It Organized

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  1. […] Tom Woodward from VCU wrote a bit about this recently, and I am leaning towards his approach of having two different ways to get instructors introduced to OpenEd. The Standard Approach (from licenses to Open Pedagogy) and The Less Standard Approach (diving right into tools and activities). Thinking about it now, my slide deck and SPLOT are close to this approach, but following Tom’s layout might make them even better. […]

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