There still appears to be confusion among faculty members when it comes to open educational resources (OER). According to a 2014 Babson Report, 75% of the more than 2,000 faculty members it surveyed said they were unaware of OER, with 67% unable to provide the right explanation of what OER are.
While instructors expressed interest in using OER, finding high-quality resources that fit the goals of the course was an issue. Nearly 60% of the instructors who said they were aware of OER claimed locating appropriate material was a barrier to its use.
“The lack of a catalog and the difficulty of finding what is needed are the most-often-cited barriers,” wrote the authors of the report Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Education. “All three of the most-mentioned barriers are related to the ease of finding appropriate material.”
A solution for finding OER content could be just around the corner. Russ Walker, a former software designer and faculty member at DeVry University-Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, created OER Assistant to “semi-automate” the selection of OER for himself and his colleagues.
Using OER Assistant, instructors are able to copy and paste a learning objective of a course into a form and the software then uses key phrases to search OER repositories, such as Merlot II, OER Commons, and OpenStax CNX. The software then ranks the top possibilities.
It’s still possible the user will have to work through the hundreds of results, but OER Assistant does push to the top rankings used by OER repositories, when available, and key phrases it finds the most often.
“I’ve just pulled together some available resources and put them to a particular task,” Walker said in an article in Campus Technology. “I think this is something that many folks could easily re-create on their own, maybe with their own particular tweak to how it displays the results or what repositories are searched and so on.”