Adapting and OER: Part 2, 'The Why'

Dylan WoodcockBlogs

We close out our OER mini-series this week by examining a few of the benefits of adapting a text to post-secondary education. Whether you’re changing a chunk, a chapter, or engaging with a full resource, incorporating new perspectives into an OER is worthy and wonderful pursuit.

Adapting for New Dynamics

Digital teaching and learning have become the new normal in a world grappling with COVID-19, but it was on the rise before, too. Post-secondary students need more flexibility and support from their instructors than ever before. Students have to work much harder to find a balance between academic rigor and life requirements, and a major component of this balance is being able to access quality educational offerings online.

By adapting an OER – which is easily distributed via digital teaching platforms – instructors deliver relevant, accurate information to learners despite missing out on the in-person connection that comes with classroom instruction.

handwritten note

OER Adaptation lets you custom-fit your learning resources to specific student needs (Unsplash).

“Adapting is an important way to show students that you care about their education,” says Nick Harland, a University of Manitoba instructor currently working on three texts. “I know that students get the most useful information possible. And my students feel that the ‘stuff’ they get, matters. This is good for education as a whole, but especially important in online [teaching] where we sometimes miss out on the opportunity to touch base.”

Adapting for Diverse Voices

Adapting an OER also provides an opportunity to infuse education with diverse voices and ways of knowing. It allows for students to recognize themselves in the learning material, and as such be more engaged with the learning experience.

Broadly, diverse learning increases the breadth of knowledge gained by students in academia. It encourages post-secondary communities to always be cognizant of the perspectives of all. Through this social diversity, we examine life and approach learning in greater detail. Ultimately, diversity helps us grow into better people, in addition to being better teachers and learners.

Diverse perspectives also add necessary layers of complexity to texts, problems, and concepts under analysis in the classroom. As students recognize themselves and their experiences in learning resources and activities, the learning environment becomes more comprehensive because of each learner’s personal connection to matters being studied.

Within particular subject areas, OER adaptation allows for multiple experts to provide perspectives on learning standards and challenges. What results is a stronger learning experience: adapted resources rest on a solid, community-informed foundation of knowledge.

We recently highlighted the Pulling Together series, aimed at weaving Indigenous perspectives in post-secondary education. The series is a great example of how diverse ways of knowing enhance the university/college experience.

Stocking the Shelves

Lastly, OER adaptation – which can also include mixing and matching sections of resources under open licences – is a great way to build up resources for unique or highly-specialized subject areas. It also allows students to provide input into shaping learning materials. This is a more collaborative role in the teaching and learning processes.

For Steven Hills, a GIS Instructor at Assiniboine Community College, both aspects were important. He realized after some initial research into OERs that adaptation would be a fantastic venture, because ever-evolving standards in GIS often meant students were paying for resources that quickly became obsolete. Mixing and matching from some existing OERs addressed this problem. Students could fill their shelves with ‘living’ documents that reflect a changing professional field.

canoe on the water

Diverse voices provide new orientation and direction to education (Unsplash).

Adaptation also amped up Steven’s lectures with valuable student input. “I have been more specific in each of my courses, and can really customize the questions and discussions to fit the resources we use,” says Hills. “[We have] full class discussions that I integrate into my teaching and topics. I would love to continue being a part of that movement, that progress.”

In Closing

For a more comprehensive look at adaptations, we recommend that you consult Lauri Aesoph’s Adaptation Guide for OERs.

You can also contact us for support if you wish to undertake an adaptation.

Whether you make a small change or a full overhaul, digging into an OER is a time-consuming, but worthwhile effort. Adapting is an important aspect of open education. As you tweak a text you will discover your own rewards. There will be benefits to teaching and learning at your institution. They will be unique to your efforts.

We wish you all the best if this is the next part of your open journey. We are happy to help in any way we can.

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Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public universities and colleges. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.casetyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.