When you think about the future of education, what does it look like? As open education advocates, we at Campus Manitoba envision a future where education is accessible to all, thanks in part to open educational resources (OERs). OERs are free and fully adaptable online resources that help make education more affordable and accessible for all students – be sure to read our recent blog post to learn more about the many benefits of OERs.
To learn more about how OERs will play a crucial role in the future of education, we talked to Doug Cameron (author and retired instructor from Red River College) and Iwona Gniadek from the Manitoba Flexible Learning HUB, two of the leaders of the OER pilot project that Campus Manitoba is currently supporting.
Top 3 ways OERs can benefit the future of education
Unlike traditional or digital textbooks, OERs are flexible, adaptable resources that help create a more accessible future for education. Here are some of the key ways OERs can support the changing educational landscape:
OERs update easily
Since OERs live in an electronic environment, these resources can be updated with any new discoveries, theories, or technological advancements. “You’re not stuck with a book that took a few years to publish, which may or may not be out of date by the time it hits the shelf,” explains Gniadek. “No more 5th edition – just update your OER.” When using the Manitoba OpenED site, you can easily follow a book and sign up to be notified of any new updates.
OERs save students money
For many students, having access to a free resource can make an incredible difference in making education affordable to them. With a single textbook often costing several hundred dollars, Gniadek emphasized the importance of affordability in making education more accessible in the future. “Walking through the bookstore and seeing the price of the textbooks made me realize how badly we need OERs,” said Gniadek.
OERs encourage more collaborative and experiential learning
As education continues to become more cooperative and digitally focused, Cameron stressed the importance of using educational resources that support this shift. “OERs allow for the potential for more collaborative work to be done to support teaching and learning in an online format,” said Cameron. “It’s important [for OERs] to have many contributors, to engage two-way communication, and to support active and experiential learning.”
Cameron said that he wasn’t aware of OERs before being involved in creating one. However, he explained that the idea of having online resources isn’t new. Cameron recounts a similar experience he had creating curriculum in the 1990s. “Our goal was to create curriculum that would be living documents. They wouldn’t stand still, but as technology and teaching methods change, then that curriculum could be easily updated and managed,” he explained. “Teachers and experts in the field could contribute to it. That was a dream we had years ago, and it’s not unlike what an OER could be.”
In order to help the OER movement progress and improve the future of education, Gniadek emphasized how important it is that institutions support these initiatives. “Professors cannot be expected to work full time and then also create a resource for their course. There should be support from the institution for the creation of OERs, either technological support, time, or financial support. Instructors intrinsically have the passion to share knowledge. We need to support them in getting that knowledge to the world.”
For more information on OERs and how you can support their development, Campus Manitoba is here to help. We can direct you to the many support resources available, connect you with experts who can guide you through the creation process, and identify possible funding sources.