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Author: Lesley Farmer

The use of open educational resources (OER) is growing in education as they save money for the students and facilitate instructor manipulation of the resource. Nevertheless, some teachers are reluctant to use OER because they have difficulty locating and evaluating sources or like their fundamental resources but just want “wrap-around” instructional materials—such as videos, worksheets, and quizzes—to supplement them.

The answer to this challenge is to turn to students. While students are usually not part of the initial instructional design, they experience the course and so can give input as to the course’s content and activities, including curating and generating additional OER. Students can create supplementary materials and learning objects for textbooks, which helps them synthesize their knowledge of content matter and serve as in-class “experts” as well as build the instructor’s repertoire of instructional materials.

A good way to enlist the help of students is by adding assignments to the course that require students to create OER as they go through the material. As these OER are created, they can be peer-reviewed by other students as well as the instructor. Not only will the results enrich the course, but the activities will heighten student understanding of the topics. Plus, the materials can be published to be made available for other students in other courses, thus contributing to the worldwide repository of OER.

Study guides

Study guides are one simple OER that students can create to supplement existing material. As individuals or in small groups, students can create study guides for each textbook chapter. These will help them, their classmates, and future students.

These study guides can include videos or podcasts that summarize course lessons or textbook information. They can then be followed by self-test OER quizzes as a way to prepare students for the course examinations. Google Forms can be used as quiz creation tool (see how to get started for Forms quizzes at this link). Students can also use online quiz and game-making tools like Quizlet or Kahoot to make study aids.

Case studies and simulations

As another type of learning support, students can write up case studies that illustrate issues for each chapter, such as critical incidents in supervising staff or a scenario that poses an ethical issue in biomedicine. Case studies may be presented as written documents, as podcast stories, or as simulation videos. A podcast is easy to record using the built-in Windows or Mac recorder feature. The Mac platform also enables the user to record a moving screen (directions at this link). Arkansas State University lists several OER video and audio tools here).

Regardless of the format, these case studies may be analyzed by peers, in terms of both how to solve the case study issue and peer review for content and writing quality. In this process, the case study creators should include their solutions, drawing from the textbook as well as other readings. After the peer analysis, the creators can refine their solutions based on their peers’ analysis. The final product then can serve as content “seed” case studies for future students.

Learning modules

Students gain even more understanding of the course topics by created self-contained learning modules that supplement the topics covered in the course. The instructor can provide students with the learning outcomes, a list of potential topics, and an outline of areas to cover within each topic, and then assign groups to choose a topic and develop a lesson using one of the OER lesson sites. An easy OER platform is MERLOT, which serves as a robust repository but also provides creation tools for its members (free to educators and students). Its Course ePortfolio is basically a template of fill-in dialog boxes that resembles a syllabus. Embedded in the template is a link for a Bookmark Collection, which is another creation tool that resembles an annotated bibliography. Users can create a collection drawing upon resources within MERLOT, or they can add resources from outside MERLOT.

Users can also select a resource in MERLOT, and create a Learning Exercise that incorporates that resources. As with the Course ePortfolio, this feature is a template of fill-in dialog boxes with all the aspects needed in a lesson. When saved, MERLOT generated a unique URL for the Learning Exercise, which is added to the MERLOT collection. The Course ePortfolio and Bookmark Collection are also each assigned a unique URL. All these elements can be linked within still another MERLOT tool: Content Builder, which is a simple website creation tool. The learning module can start with an introduction that links to the Course ePortfolio. Each web page can address one subtopic with written information, Learning Activities, and Bookmark Collections for further reading and activities.

The Content Builder is not limited to MERLOT resources; website developers can insert outside media and links as well. As with the other MERLOT tools, each Content Builder is assigned a unique URL, so the instructor can link these original OER to the preexisting course site. Alternatively, a “meta” Content Builder can serve as a structured sequenced collection of the student-generated Content Builder modules. This set of tools could constitute an alternative to a textbook.

Adding to the OER community

Beyond that course, students can contribute their learning objects to more general repositories, such as their own institution’s in-house repository; to other nonprofit educational repositories (many OER repositories are listed here); and to digital learning communities, such as Wikiversity, for possible peer review and inclusion, enabling them to participate in the scholarship “conversation” and add to the discipline’s knowledge base. Furthermore, such submissions serve as a valuable learning moment to discuss copyright issues in general and Creative Commons in particular.

As students engage with and produce OER, courses become dynamic as a result of students’ generative learning. More fundamentally, instructors and students together model a community of learners and leading to a community of practice. Each one gains a sense of ownership for learning and builds agency through the OER they generate. Not only do these original OER contribute to students’ own learning and their peers’ learning, but if they know that their products will be used in future courses (especially if they know this opportunity from the start), they have an authentic audience, which makes them understand the value of their efforts even more. Their work also adds to the academic knowledge base, jump-starting their professional careers. In short, student-generated OER constitute a valuable learning activity—and an investment in students’ lifelong success.

Lesley Farmer, PhD, is a professor of library media at California State University, Long Beach.