1.4 The OER community
The open education community has witnessed enormous growth over the past two decades. Starting with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s pioneering move to put its course materials online as MIT OpenCourseWare, the field has grown to encompass an increasingly wide range of open educational content. Much of this content was made with the broad educational community in mind and can be used successfully in a variety of settings, from high school to college to postgraduate studies. Digital libraries such as OER Commons (over 75,000 items), OpenStax and the Open Textbook Library are continuously being updated with new resources, from textbooks to syllabi to homework assignments. Notably, the latter two websites provide some peer reviews of the textbooks they store in an attempt to address a popular criticism of the OER field--a general lack of quality control. While the discoverability of much of the content remains fairly low (Google searches for specific discipline + OER are notoriously unhelpful, while the principal repositories remain generally little known), there have been notable attempts to mitigate this problem. Two OER aggregator websites, OASIS and OER Metafinder, have launched. Some educators are also engaging in innovative ways to house content, such as Baruch College’s TeachOER, which presents classroom assignments using open or zero-cost materials and multimodal workshops devoted to searching for, and converting to, open content--all alongside links to repositories.
The Creative Commons has enabled educators to create, adopt and adapt open resources, a development which has in turn triggered an awareness, and a growth of, the public domain. In the last decade, high profile holdings such as the Getty Images, the Met Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, and the New York Public Library Photo Collection have been released with the special CC0 license. The City University of New York system has been an active player in the field, largely due to the NYS OER Scale Up Initiative grant it has received for the past four years. The office of CUNY OER Librarian Ann Fiddler estimates a total of $38 million saved in textbook costs to CUNY students in the academic year 2019-2020 during the process of converting classes on each of its campuses to open or zero-cost materials. In addition, many new initiatives have been launched that target other areas of open education, such as projects with open-source digital tools, online historical games and department-wide
While open educational resources as a field only emerged in the late 1990s, open pedagogy is an older phenomenon, dating back to the 1970s and entailing such goals as participation, democracy and interdisciplinarity. Beginning around 2017, David Wiley and other noted educators (John Hilton, Robin De Rosa, Rajiv Jhangiani) have been bringing back the concept which in its current iteration, taking into account the affordances of the 5Rs, stands for the creation, re-use and free publication of open educational resources, and can be credited for rechanneling and reinvigorating the conversation around open content. Switching to OER has always been a goal of educational institutions concerned with equity and social justice. Open, or OER-enabled, pedagogy has taken these efforts to a new dimension by having students be not only consumers of open content but also co-creators and co-producers of knowledge. As described in the next chapter, active learning--with its tenets of collective engagement and independent thinking--lies at the core of this approach.
We hope that this E-book will provide a meaningful educational experience in the classroom and that your students will share its fruits with their peers in future iterations.
By Katherine Tsan