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    We know some of the benefits of creating and using OER: student savings and adaptability. But are there some other ways to measure impact and efficacy? What does this look like for OER creators? How does equity fit into these frameworks for assessing OER impact?

    A lot of materials out there for OER efficacy are either scholarly journals, research articles, or geared towards institutions and administrators. This practical guidebook zooms into how creators can be mindful of OER efficacy throughout the creation process, as well as how to measure impact.

    Laying Common Ground: Defining Key Terms

    Before we begin, it’s important to first define what we mean when we are talking about OER efficacy. First, let’s start with OER. Overall what we’ve seen in research is that a big challenge of looking at the efficacy of OER is an inconsistency in definition and an inconsistency in how we measure impact.

    OER efficacy refers to the effectiveness of OER in achieving their intended educational goals.

    The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as “teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities– retaining, remixing, revising, reusing and redistributing the resources.” Open educational resources can be entire courses, a small subset of course materials such as modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, or could refer to any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

    UNESCO has a similar definition. “Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching, and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.”

    Pearson defines efficacy as having “a measurable impact on learners’ lives.”

    As a result, OER efficacy refers to the effectiveness of OER in achieving their intended educational goals.

    Pause for a moment and consider:  How do you define and measure the efficacy of Open Educational Resources (OER)? How do our definitions of goals also inform the design process? How does considering our goals beforehand impact the design outcome?

    Broadening our Understanding of OER Efficacy

    When we think about the efficacy of OER, our minds tend to immediately think of student savings – that is, how much money students save on textbooks by using OER over traditional textbooks.

    Rebecca V. Ortiz (2022) notes that “the idea of low cost, or saving money, really is arbitrary” (Ortiz) because “those price tags may be irrelevant for those who don’t have access to clean water, right, or safe soil. So an important point in looking at open pedagogy helps us step beyond that model of economics that disproportionately impacts students of colour and others marginalized and allows us to step into spaces that allow for the community creation of knowledge and the transmission of that knowledge.”

    It’s worth highlighting that our focus in Beyond the Horizon extends beyond DEI. We also delve into establishing objectives, crafting OER to meet these objectives, and subsequently assessing their attainment. OER creation doesn’t occur in isolation. What’s the underlying intent of individual projects? What drives extensive statewide initiatives? OER efficacy involves creating connections between  these puzzle pieces.

    Guide Roadmap and Goals

    In this Guide, we lay out a roadmap on how to plan for, act, and reflect on reporting OER’s impact. In order to get a clear picture of your OER efficacy research, you first must deeply reflect on the purpose of what you’re doing. From there, you’ll begin to understand the story you are trying to tell with your research. Next, you can  contemplate how you’ll go about conducting your research and ways you can prevent biases in your research (such as incorporating equitable practices into your research methodology). Finally – and arguably most importantly – you want to think about how this research (whether the findings themselves or the methodologies) can be used to support communities outside of your own classroom, institution, or state system.

    Simply said, the goal of this guide is to help broaden your understanding of OER efficacy. With the projects we’ve supported, we’ve spent many months conducting research, developing materials, resolving issues, sharing joys and sorrows, and more – all the while being receptive to their needs and learning from both them and the larger OER community. This guide is our endeavor to distill that wealth of knowledge and experience into a comprehensively documented process. You’re welcome to utilize it wholly or partially, staying as close to it or departing from it as much as you like.

    Learning Objectives

    After reading this guide, readers will be able to:

    1. Evaluate how to measure the impact of OER within your own educational institution.
    2. Discover effective strategies for sharing the impact of OER with the wider open education community or other key stakeholders.
    3. Gain an understanding of various OER efficacy models implemented across different global regions.
    4. Find inspiration to envision and implement long-term OER initiatives that can bring lasting benefits to your educational community.
    5. Identify and address the challenges and opportunities associated with the adoption and usage of OER.
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