OERs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

lego Clint EastwoodI posted in diigo (inadvertently jumping the gun) about how much I really liked MERLOT. I’ve used this site for years but never really, truly understood the significance and value of this resource until we started examining and discussing this kind of content in M8. I think it’s still my most favorite, and I find all kinds of creative objects there, free. Another OER I’ve become acquainted with more recently is Khan Academy. This site is particularly good for examples in working math problems, in my opinion, but I’ve used some really good, clear, effective tutorials/short lectures on a variety of science topics, which I really like. One aspect that makes these sources of OERs more valuable is that they have more of a community presence – blogs, Q&A – than some other sites. I had the opportunity to explore Wikimedia Commons, which I thought would be a great resource for images and videos, and which was also very edifying about Creative Commons licensed content (with a shout-out to Erin and David here). I had heard of Creative Commons but honestly didn’t understand its purpose, until now. Surprisingly, one of my least favorite sites for OER was the MIT Open Courseware (OCW) site. Yes, there is a lot of material there, in a format that is somewhat searchable, but what I kept finding was content without the expectation that it would be completely usable as-is – that is to say, I found syllabi, assignments, readings and lecture notes that didn’t seem to be completely helpful outside the context of the f2f courses with which they had been associated. Many, many readings for some of these courses needed to be purchased, which seemed to contradict the idea of “open” courseware. Clearly the courses / course materials I viewed were not designed with learners in mind, but I guess you can do what you want when you’re MIT. However, they did have an awesome site for HS teachers, with some great examples.
Now, I like YouTube because you never know what you will find. (I liked flikr also for the same reason.) I usually can find something I can use on YouTube and my students (and my kids!) refer to it constantly. Using content from YouTube in an academic setting seems to involve some risk, which makes me worry. flikr is all CC licensed material – handy, but I had difficulty finding anything I could use. Like Ed, I’m glad we have librarians to assist with copyright issues, which seem to be beyond me.

(Andrew Becraft, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/2936382833/in/photolist-5ttJje-eTomR1-HYvYr-d6nc27-9YFEs-5smanB-d6nc5q-9nJtds-bmgMe3-eUJ1Xp-5rsULK-9sHjmU-bZw1L-6GF4f8-d2Vnef-gXhY7-HYw6V-cuEvF1-7BxMie-7wkMni-64LMMp-5FDAHf-5KtHK3-dP2vP-dMskqA-6ykDAQ-fkRanA-gM6b7u-5UPckS-32MkQ1-9ZmXEq-AGLSh-eUV6Vs-51heMk-bVDyQC-fK8HY-5EmaqZ-7wW7Lg-aEis3K-aD8E7C-7wW8dD-79ohzj-f4JVx-dTAc1W-7wVSfF-7wW8Jv-7wWpeK-7x19T7-7x1eHC-7wWaqx)


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  1. Ann,
    Thanks for educating me about MERLOT (although I prefer a Chablis in the summer). I dived into the video category and found an entire section devoted to Foucault – a great surprise. The first article I read was about how he unmasked the use of science as a discourse of power which was helpful to me as I require students to start their community analysis project with empirical data, not personal observations. I’m discovering how these OER sites have very few categories that sound relevant to my work, while a little mining reveals a storehouse of material in unexpected locations. Thank you. David Jenkins

    1. Hi David and Phyllis – I have to agree with you both, that OERs are like an embarrassment of riches, and it is easy to spend too much time looking for the right resource (like a picture of Clint Eastwood that’s available with a CC license). Then, I often find that I need to modify what I find, which adds even more time. Two or three iterations later (read: 2-3 years later….) I’ve got the resource in a format that I can use somewhat effectively. All this makes me ready for adult beverage, be it merlot, chablis or a cold beer.

  2. Hi Ann,
    I am somewhat overwhelmed by all the sources of information available on the web including the OER sites. Apparently my ADD is kicking in (obviously undiagnosed) with all the choices and what is appropriate and what is not; I am becoming inert with too many decisions.

    I will add MERLOT to my list of “searches” and I have found that although many other sites and topics were tagged “leadership” their content was not appropriate to mine. I did find some great CC licensed photos on Flickr so that was a good find, but in the other engines, not as much that relates to my specific online needs. Great posts as always.

    • David Key on August 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm
    • Reply

    Ann, Thanks for highlighting MERLOT. I have not investigated that site yet. Like Phyllis, I’m overwhelmed by this process. My digging has left frustration.

    David K.

  3. Hi Ann,
    I’ve also heard a lot about MERLOT, but frankly have not used it yet. I also had heard of Creative Commons but had no idea what it was nor what use it could be. What a great find.

    YouTube is indeed a great tool! and I use it frequently. I’m just glad that I now know that it has the option of searching with filters!
    BTW, I’m a Cab kind of girl 🙂

  4. Peggy,
    Since we are divulging our wine preference I’m with you on the Cab. My favorite. Bigger bank for the buck with strong legs so fewer calories per consumption!

    • Kristy Martyn on August 11, 2014 at 3:47 am
    • Reply

    I like MERLOT too, although Chardonnay is my usual choice. I need to learn how to search more efficiently. I am spending a lot of time searching and think the librarians could help me with this. Hope so! I also like YouTube and select carefully as you mention, Ann. Thank you. Kristy

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