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Student Perceptions of OER in Leadership and Non-Profit Organization Courses

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Michael S. Dillard
December 9, 2022

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) was established to offer open access as an approach to share intellectual content focusing on teaching and learning. The “open” in open educational resources designates that these materials are copy written with permissions for anyone to participate in the 5R activities—retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute (Baas, Admiraal, & Berg, 2019; Orzech, 2021; Wiley & Hilton, 2018; Zaid & Alabi, 2021). By this, materials can be translated, mixed together, broken apart and openly shared again. The digitized materials are offered freely and openly to educators, students and self-learners to use and re-use for teaching, learning and research. This phenome resulted in the development of communication technologies that are widely used and adapted for non-commercial purposes. To support this shift, the blended teaching approach gives students time to reflect on the course, empower students to participate and to enable the instructor to innovatively achieve course goals. The thoughtful approaches and technologies used in OER can be adopted to increase student participation, engagement and interactivity. This work is to show various ways to enhance classroom instruction with blended learning to create, access and share knowledge to support the learning community.

Use in Leadership and Nonprofit Organization Courses

The wide range and variation in which OER are designed, broadened the scope of learning. Building the infrastructure to implement OER in Leadership and Nonprofit Organization courses required changes in the delivery of teaching practices. The range of open materials which included videos, simulations, partial lectures, journals, pictures, assessment tools, hyperlinks and other materials were used in its original form, revised and/or remixed to transition into a path of new knowledge garnered by the creativity in its application. Applying YouTube, TedTalks, podcasts and other means of technological fanfare captures the imagination of students to enhance the quality of research projects and to contextualize the content. For example, in leadership-based courses students are required to understand authentic leadership in the field of public and nonprofit administration. TedTalks are utilized to aid students in gathering diverse content to improve their understanding of what it means to lead and manage with integrity and efficiency, even during turbulent times. In nonprofit organization courses, students learn about hard skills, such as fundraising, grant writing, marketing, volunteerism, human resources, board development and program management. YouTube videos are used as an additional resource to complement lectures, as well as offer illustrations intended to increase student engagement. Podcasts are also used for informational and educational purposes.

Student Perceptions

Since OER design projects are part of an open educational practice, student’s perceptions of open pedagogy support the curation and creation of making knowledge publicly accessible, and/or happen through collaboration with other practitioners within the field of study. The students’ learning was energized and OER served as a great approach to help design courses for future students. In other words, the students had a better appreciation for the material. The students easily connected theory with practice and appreciated the creativity that went into the course. Most students recognized the advantages of utilizing OER as a framework to identify the complexities and ambiguities to real-world problems. During class, many students mentioned open texts were better than traditional textbooks because it helped them financially. The students recognized the pedagogical advances when guest speakers shared their lived experiences and motivations in their desired professions. This was evidenced by the student’s eagerness to follow-up with job shadowing and internship opportunities. The students expressed that the learning aids, such as hyperlinks and embedded videos, assisted them with navigating course content effortlessly—eliminating the daunting task of typing in a URL incorrectly. The videos supported the integration of OER. These approaches benefited the students and expanded and deepened their knowledge with difficult subject matter.  


Given the wide range of teaching and learning strategies, OER offers a student-centered approach that plays a more transformational role than traditional teaching and learning practices. OER drives open sharing of teaching practices intended to support learning. Using OER, as opposed to traditionally copyrighted resources, students are free to engage in a broader range of activities and, therefore, learn in a broader range of ways. In this regard, OER has contributed positively to the sharing of ideas without promoting the use of costly textbooks. This trend is pushed by models for curricula changing to develop a greater understanding of ways to adapt materials to students. Wide scale OER implementation requires sustainable support structures and processes to support faculty. Recognizing the value of OER on student success is innovative, challenging and is filled with tremendous possibility. At its most fundamental level, an OER is free to all and it is adaptable to serve the needs of the user, fostering greater equity for accessing content to those with limited background knowledge. 

This is one in a series of PA Times articles from the Section on Public Administration Education aimed to foster attention on the use of OER in Public Administration Education.

Author: Dr. Michael Dillard serves as Director of the Undergraduate Program in Public and Nonprofit Administration and Assistant Teaching Professor at the School for Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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