How to determine the quality of OER in 6 steps

Learn how to recognize top notch open educational recourses

Elisabeth Schmoutziguer

by Elisabeth Schmoutziguer
CEO Grasple

There are a growing number of open educational resources (OER) available on the Internet. While this is good news for educators and learners, it can also be overwhelming to determine the quality of those resources. This is especially true given that anyone can publish OER, and not all of those materials are created equal. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to determine the quality of an OER. By taking the time to evaluate an OER before using it in your teaching or learning, you can be sure that you are using high-quality materials that will meet your needs.

Before you start using open learning material

When utilizing learning content, the five criteria mentioned in the blog ‘Stem education: Using Edtech to find OER and create quality content’ are standards that apply to all forms of learning content, openly licensed materials, and copyrighted resources.
But when it comes to OER, assessing the quality goes beyond these standards. Ever since the ‘open educational resources movement’ originated, the quality of OER has been a continuous topic of interest, and adopting these resources is heavily intertwined with validating their usefulness.

Traditionally, commercially published resources are assumed to be of high quality because renowned publishers create them. These publishers validate their books with peer review and professional editorial processes, granting them authority.

OER typically uses the same methods, as many openly available textbooks are edited by professional writers. OER created and shared through EdTech generally utilizes peer reviews or community-driven rating systems. Like other peer-reviewed content such as online encyclopedia Wikipedia, trust is an important factor when using OER. Here, authority is the masses, including other experts within the field.


Quality checks

When assessing the quality of open educational resources retrieved via EdTech, we believe the following quality checks are valuable:

-   Accuracy: Educational resources are based on research-based knowledge and meet the sector-specific quality criteria.

-   Authority: The educational resources contain information about the author or affiliated institution, preferably a respectable expert in the field. 

-   Validity: Content is thoroughly documented, is updated frequently, and aligns with the course’s other materials and objectives.

-   Reliability: The sources used have been mentioned in the educational resources and have been peer-reviewed.

-   Accessibility: The sources of the educational resources are openly available and published under the appropriate licensing (such as a Creative Commons license).


6 Step OER quality roadmap

Another way of assessing the quality is by creating a quality model to assess openly licensed learning materials. This model encompasses a list of criteria with which learning materials must comply if they are to qualify as "fit for purpose". You can create a quality model by taking the following six steps:

Step 1: Define the scope

Start by defining the scope, aim and target audience of the quality model.

Step 2: Create a project team

Assemble a project team who will be responsible for creating the quality model. The team must represent the scope, the goal, and the target group for whom the model is.

Step 3: Develop a test version

When you’ve assembled a team, it’s time to develop the quality model. Make sure to create an inventory for criteria and define the weight.

Step 4. Test the quality model

You then must test the model on a number of learning material items qualified as “good”. The goal of this test is to assess if the model works and if the criteria are effective.

Step 5. Collect and process feedback from the target group

Present the corrected version of the quality model to the target group to collect feedback and generate traction.

Step 6. Publish, organize, and evaluate the quality model

After processing feedback, publish your quality model and implement it into your organization. You now own a solid model to assess the quality of OER.

This workflow is created by SURF, a cooperative association of Dutch educational and research institutions, and is freely available online. Visit their website to learn more about the above steps and their roadmap for creating a quality model for OER.


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  • [1]   Quality Assurance of OER, Surf, Retrieved via https://www.surf.nl/en/quality-assurance-of-open-educational-resources?dst=n5176