Open Educational Resources and the University Library Website

Being a Bear of Very Little Brain, I find it convenient to think of the users of academic library websites falling into one of three ‘deliberate’ and one ‘by chance’ categories:

– students (i.e. people taking at course);
– lecturers (i.e. people creating or supporting a course);
– researchers;
– folk off the web (i.e. people who Googled in who are none of the above).

The following Library website homepage (in this case, from Leicester) is typical:

…and the following options on the Library catalogue are also typical:

So what’s missing…?

How about a link to “Teaching materials”, or “open educational resources”?

After all, if you’re a lecturer looking to pull a new course together, or a student who’s struggling to make head or tail of the way one of your particular lecturers is approaching a particular topic, or a researcher who needs a crash course in a particular method or technique, maybe some lecture notes or course materials are exactly the sort of resource you need?

Trying to kickstart the uptake of open educational materials has not be as easy as might be imagined (e.g. On the Lack of Reuse of OER), but maybe this is because OERs aren’t as ‘legitimately discoverable’ as other academic resources.

If anyone using an academic library website can’t easily search educational resources in that context, what does that say about the status of those resources in the eyes of the Library?

Bearing in mind my crude list of user classes, and comparing them to the sorts of resources that academic libraries do try to support the discovery of, what do we find?

– the library catalogue returns information about books (though full text search is not available) and the titles of journals; it might also tap into course reading lists.
– the e-resources search provides full text search over e-book and journal content.

One of the nice features of the OU wesbite search (not working for me at the moment: “Our servers are busy”, apparently…) is that it is possible to search OU course materials for the course you are currently on (if you’re a student) or across all courses if you are staff. A search over OpenLearn materials is also provided. However, I don’t think these course material searches are available from the Library website?

So here’s a suggestion for the #UKOER folk – see if you can persuade your library to start offering a search over OERs from their website (Scott Wilson at CETIS is building an OER aggregator that might help in this respect, and there are also initiativs like OER Commons).

And, err, as a tip: when they say they already do, a link to the OER Commons site on a page full of links to random resources, buried someowhre deep within the browsable bowels of the library website doesn’t count. It has to be at least as obvious(?!), easy to use(?!) and prominent(?!?) as the current Library catalogue and journal/database searches…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...