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Meet Mira Zhuk, Open Educational Resources Specialist

16 November 2020
Mira Zhuk
Mira Zhuk
“Open Educational Resources become more prominent in higher education. They facilitate a quicker transition to online teaching, help educators to create innovative resources while taking into account students’ needs and learning goals.”

Mira Zhuk is an academic information specialist at the University of Groningen Library (UB). She is actively engaged in building services to support UG teachers in the areas of Open Educational Resources (OER), copyright and open licensing.

What are Open Educational Resources?

The subject of Open Educational Resources is becoming more prominent in higher education, especially nowadays as we need to rapidly switch to online teaching and learning. As part of  Open Science, OER can be best described as teaching, learning and research materials in any format or medium that reside in the public domain or under an open license. They can be retained, revised, remixed, reused and redistributed free of charge, without technological or financial restrictions (2019 UNESCO Recommendation on OER).

OER encompass a variety of materials: from open textbooks to massive open online courses (MOOCs), video-clips, test banks, syllabi, case studies and lecture notes, to name a few.

Where can I find OER?

There are numerous online platforms that host vast OER collections. I advise to structure your quest and start by exploring the following resources:

While exploring these and other resources, do keep in mind the importance of the copyright issue: OER will always be either published under an open license with certain conditions (the most popular one is Creative Commons) or belong to the public domain. Moreover, our everyday browsing tools and multimedia repositories such as Google and YouTube also have integrated license filtering options and can be used for finding OER in your area of interest.

Why are OER so relevant nowadays?

OER reduce financial barriers to accessing education, save resources and allow for customization and localization of content. They also serve the purpose of a quicker and less painful transition to online teaching and learning. The importance of this feature is amplified during the current pandemic: Students are facing decreased access to materials and teachers are working with the increased burden of transferring the courses online.

So OER enable educators to reuse or create innovative and learner-centred resources while taking into account the variety of students’ needs and learning goals.

Additionally, OER can serve as an optimal alternative to copyrighted materials. If a UG teacher chooses to reuse such copyrighted materials in their courses (for instance, in lectures or on Nestor), the University and its faculties bear substantial costs that could be better used for other educational matters. Therefore, we encourage UG teachers to use, whenever possible, free and openly licensed options, with open educational resources being a great solution for such cases.

How can I incorporate OER into my education?

One of the ways to incorporate OER into your teaching is to reuse openly licensed materials created by others and embed them into your course. Redesigning the whole existing course can be overwhelming. Why don’t you start with one course element or unit? I advise you to stay pragmatic and align any OER with your course learning objectives.

Furthermore, OER created by your peers could serve as inspiration for the development of your own courses. You can take a look at how education is designed and delivered at other institutions or simply get some ideas for home assignments and interactive exercises (e.g., CORA and Case Centre collections).

Another way of enriching your teaching with OER is to go a step further and become a creator of such open materials. This can be easily done by licensing your work, be it an academic publication, textbook, lecture slides or recorded video-clips, with an open license. Here you can find a tool, Creative Commons License Chooser, that helps you select an appropriate license for your educational material. It is important to keep in mind that, unlike in the case of research publications, the UG owns the copyright to all educational resources created by its staff members, unless agreed otherwise. The UG encourages open sharing and non-commercial (re)use of such materials.

How does the UG Library support educators?

The UB actively supports teachers in OER and copyright-related issues and stimulates the use of OER in their teaching. We have an OER information point and online guide on OER. We organize webinars on redesigning courses with open materials. You can sign up for the upcoming session on 17 November or view the recording and slides of one of the previous sessions. Our team also provides individual advice by email.

What can we expect in the future?

Due to the amount of requests, we are looking into setting up faculty-specific OER webinars for teachers. We are also engaged in a few initiatives on building a Netherlands-specific OER repository (SURF Sharekit) and a relevant search engine (SURF Search Portal). By using these platforms, educators can easily share their own OER and search for open teaching materials created by their peers from other Dutch universities.

Together with the University of Groningen Press (UGP), we launched a pilot for teachers to publish the UG’s first open textbook. We are looking for (groups of) teachers willing to participate in this pilot and publish their own open textbook that can be easily shared, reused and updated. Our experts will guide the successful author(s) and in the meantime set up a best practice infrastructure for open textbook publishing.

Last modified:29 June 2022 11.39 a.m.
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