At the end of this section, you should be able to:
- Describe the aspects of an OER that should be assessed before use.
- Explain why it is necessary to assess an OER’s adaptability.
- Apply SAIT’s OER evaluation rubric to located materials.
Although some repositories, like the BCCampus Open Textbook Collection, provide faculty reviews of the OER that they collect, you can’t assume that there will be a review available for the exact textbook you want to use. Because of this, understanding how to evaluate OER yourself is really important. There are many organizations that have produced vetted rubrics for evaluating OER. Review the following list and select one that makes sense for your project:
- SAIT OER Evaluation Rubric
- Faculty Guide for Evaluating OER – A general checklist developed by BCcampus OpenEd Resources
- Open Textbook Network Review Rubric – A review chart used by University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Network Library
- Achieve’s Rubric for Evaluating OER Objects – This rubric includes 8 core principles found in high quality OER
- iRubric: Evaluating OER Rubric – A general rubric that is well suited for individuals just starting their review process
- OER Accessibility Toolkit – A collection of accessible design best practices developed by BCcampus
All of these rubrics ask questions like, “Who created this resource?”, “Does the information presented in the resource align with my course learning objectives?”, “Does the resource meet minimum technology and accessibility standards?”, and “When was the last time the resource was updated?” Considering these issues can help you decide if a resource is right for your class, or if it needs to be updated or adapted. Most of the criteria in these rubrics is universal to any learning material, while a few are specific to OER. Let’s look at some of the more important criteria in detail.
Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability
The most ubiquitous standard in rubrics is: can the material you are considering be read and understood by your students? Although it might seem like a simple question, it is a necessary obstacle to confront when adopting a new resource for your course.
- Is the content, including any instructions and exercises, clear and comprehensible to students?
- Is the content consistent with its language and formatting? (e.g. key terms are bold)
- Is the content well-organized in terms of sequencing and flow?
Content and Technical Accuracy
The accuracy of the content is also a major component of its usability in the classroom. Be sure to check for technical errors such as broken links or typos. In most cases, content accuracy will not be an issue, but some older resources may require updates.
- Is the content accurate based on your expertise?
- Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
- Is the interface navigable for students?
Adaptability and Modularity
Because of their open licenses, OER permit a wider range of (re)use than most traditional educational content; therefore, it is important to keep in mind how your chosen OER can be adapted. Modularity, or the ability for a work to easily be broken up into smaller pieces, is a preferred feature that improves reuse of content. If an OER has clear chapter and unit breaks, it can help other instructors more easily adopt or adapt resource for their own courses.
- Is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?
- Is the resource easily divided into modules, or sections, which can be used or rearranged out of their original order?
- Is the content available under a license which allows for modifications?
Appropriateness and Fit
Although there may be many OER available in your field, some resources may require minor edits or additions. Keep in mind that the open licenses of OER mean that they can be edited or even combined with other resources. This can be particularly useful if you would like to adopt a chapter from one OER for the first unit of your course but prefer alternate resources for other units.
- Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for your students?
- How does the content align with your course learning objectives?
- Is the content level appropriate for use in your course?
No matter what resources you plan to adopt, accessibility should always be a part of your assessment process. Many publisher-provided homework platforms are not accessible to students and can cause unexpected issues. Similarly, some OER may not be optimized for students with visual or auditory impairments. See our Accessibility & Usability chapter for more details.
- Is the content accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications?
- If you are using Web resources, does each image have alt text that can be read? Do videos have accurate closed-captioning?
- Are students able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner?
Dig Deeper: Locate an open educational resource in the BCcampus Open Collection and review the content, licence, and file format for adaption.
- Use the Faculty Guide for Evaluating OER to review the OER for reuse.
- Review the licence and file format. Is the file type easy to edit? Are there any accessibility issues with the file type?
- Does the OER have any faculty reviews currently posted? Do you agree or disagree with their findings?
Faculty from British Colombia, Alberta, Yukon, and Saskatchewan can apply to review BCcampus Open Textbooks. For more information, visit their website.
This chapter provides you the tools you need, to know how to locate and then evaluate OER for quality and fit in your class. If you have additional questions, your SAIT Library Liaison or the OER Librarian can help.
Attribution: “Open Educational Resources: How to Find & Evaluate Resources Online [Youtube]” by Abbey Elder is used under a CC BY 4.0 International License.
- Statement about OER evaluation rubrics is adapted from Elder, A. (2017). Open Educational Resources: How to Find & Evaluate Resources Online. [YouTube]. Iowa State University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbwuMQM-NG8 CC BY 4.0 ↵
- Criteria are adapted from Affordable Learning Georgia (n.d.) "Selecting Textbooks". University System of Georgia. https://www.affordablelearninggeorgia.org/find_textbooks/selecting_textbooks/ under a CC BY 4.0 ↵