Using OERs

Once you’ve found resources you want to use, you’ll need to evaluate them to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The level of evaluation you’ll want to do will likely depend on the scale of the resource/s you’re using.

It’s important to think about the context in which you will be re-using material and how much adaptation will be needed. Some material can be used ‘off the shelf’ with no changes necessary. However, other resources may require re-branding and re-contextualising

Time

How much do you need to change the original resource to make it suitable for your purpose? Factor this in to your training preparation time. If substantial changes are required, particularly with an online resource, consider whether it would be easier to create your own resource using the original as basis for inspiration. You will still need to credit the original author though!

Format

This is a particularly important factor in reusing online resources. What software was the original created in? Do you need access to this software to adapt the resource, and do you have the relevant skills within your team to do it? You should bear these questions in mind when searching for resources.

If you don’t have access to the software required or the relevant skills to adapt a resource, there are other things you can do to make it applicable for your own use; see the Repurposing tab for more on this.

Other criteria

As part of the JISC-funded DELILA project, a set of criteria was developed to help you to evaluate information literacy OERs. Some of the key considerations include:

  • Reusability: can the resource be adapted to suit my needs?
  • Relevance: is the resource relevant to my purpose?
  • Impact: has the resource been effective?

Download the full DELILA criteria.

You must always check the usage terms for any materials you wish to reuse for your own teaching.

Many OERs will come with a licence attached specifying if and how they can be used. Creative Commons (CC) is one of the most common forms of licence used.

There are a number of different Creative Commons licences which grant various levels of permission for reuse. The basic, most open licence is CC-0, which allows anyone to reuse and adapt for any purpose, with no need to attribute the original author.

A number of letter designations can be added to impose further restrictions:

  • BY – the original author must be attributed
  • NC – non-commercial: must not be used for commercial purposes
  • ND – no derivatives: must not be modified or altered in any way
  • SA – share alike: any adaptions must be released under the same CC licence.

These can be combined to meet specific requirements, eg. CC-BY-NC-SA would allow a resource to be reused and repurposed for non-commercial means, as long as it was attributed to the original author and the adapted version was released under the same CC-BY-NC-SA licence.

If material does not have a Creative Commons licence, or a similar licence permitting its reuse, you must assume that all usual copyright restrictions apply. This guide from the University of Manchester Library will help you to establish if and how you can use copyrighted materials in your teaching.

It may not always be possible for you to adapt online resources to suit your purpose perfectly, but there are other things you can to do make them more relevant for your context.

  • Can you use as is with modifications built around the core resource?
  • Use OER individual activities within a wider VLE course space, provide contextual information around the OER
  • Create your own assessment to follow on from an OER
  • Use as part of a blended learning activity

The University of Ulster’s Information Skills module is an excellent example of repurposing OERs. It incorporates individual videos from Cardiff University’s Information Literacy Resource Bank within the resource to illustrate key principles of information literacy

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