Open educational resources (OERs) are free digitized materials offered to educators, students, and self-learners through an open license that allows users to copy, use, adapt, and redistribute for educational and research purposes.
It is important to pay attention to the type of copyright assigned to an OER by its author and to use the OER in strict accordance to its stipulations. In order to facilitate their use, modification, and distribution, many OERs have flexible copyright licenses from organizations such as Creative Commons; these licenses provide varying amounts of protection, ranging from “all rights reserved” (full copyright) to “no rights reserved” (public domain). UMGC’s Office of Legal Affairs can provide additional copyright-related information and guidance. Non-UMGC users should consult the appropriate body within their own institution for detailed guidance in this area.
To protect individuals with disabilities, federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require public and private higher education institutions to ensure that digital materials are accessible by all students, including those students with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) serve as an industry standard and provide specific recommendations for improving accessible web-based content.
UMGC is committed to ADA compliance, Section 508 accessibility, and the latest WCAG guidelines. It is part of the university's mission and core values to provide open access to higher education and equal opportunity for students with disabilities. More broadly, designing digital content and systems to be equitable and easy to use for all students ensures fair treatment, incorporates diverse perspectives, and enhances the learning environment.
OERs and Student Success
Research shows that OERs are as effective and of the same quality as textbooks in terms of student engagement and performance (Hilton, 2016). In addition, faculty members have found quality OERs more effective in supporting diverse learner needs and promoting an inclusive learning environment, in part through the ability of faculty and others to customize course content and improve alignment to learning outcomes.
OER use also plays a role in removing barriers to student success. UMGC and other institutions use OERs as one way to address the needs of low-income and underserved students, who are at a disadvantage with peers who can afford textbooks more easily. OER use is seen as an effective way to ensure that all students, regardless of economic status, have the resources they need to succeed.
OER Quality Guide
To find the open educational resources (OERs) that are best suited for your courses, it’s important to ensure that they not only contain the right content for students, but that the resources comply with copyright restrictions and are accessible to all.
The university has compiled resources that can be used by faculty members, administrators, design teams, and librarians. The OER Quality Guide is an extended checklist that provides a matrix for evaluating an OER. The OER Quality Guide Q&A includes answers to typical questions that users of the guide may have.
Hilton, J., III. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research Dev 64(4): 573–590. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-016-9434-9