User-Generated Content in Education/OER: Open Educational Resources
Open Educational Resource (OER) is content developed and offered freely for the purpose of teaching and learning. The digitized material allows for open development and reuse. Because of copyright laws, OERs either remain in the public domain or permit reuse through an intellectual property license or other copyright accommodation. OER's include education course content and materials, digitized textbooks, streaming videos, software, and other materials used to support and convey knowledge.
Although a relatively new concept in education, OER initiatives are taking place regularly by various institutions. MIT Open Course Ware (OCW) Initiative offers freely available materials for online non-commercial use. The Hewlett Foundation funds many OER projects, including UK Open University, Open Universiteit Nederland, and MORIL (Multilingual Open Resources for Independent Learning). The main purpose behind these initiatives varies by institution but include a mind set of developing life long learners and making knowledge available to all.
Pros v. Cons
Open Educational Resources is a fairly new initiative in education, however it has proven to be wildly popular and useful to both educators and consumers. This forum allows users to easily share educational materials online and freely manipulate resources for use. Benefits include:
- Increased interaction with a wider community: users are provided an easily accessible forum for collaborating with others from all over the world.
- More variation in materials for users to select from: with many providers of content contributing out of personal and professional want, there is a breadth and depth to the content that will provide an ease of use from others in the community 
- Improved quality of materials: with so many contributors providing information, feedback, approval, and revisions, the material is often improved upon and provides the best material to users 
- Decline in cost of materials: sharing resources in this forum cuts the cost to both users and producers as the are easily able to create material and with a few clicks, share this information globally 
OER faces some challenges as it breaks into cyber communities to be a leading resource for educators to collaborate and share materials. The two main challenges are in quality assurance and financial sustainability. Most consumers remain skeptical of "free" materials. This skepticism tends to be eased when the OER has established some sort of peer-evaluation system to rate and approve sources. With these resources being free to users the long-term financial sustainability of OER sites is questionable. As useage increases in this area, there seems to be a shift from a primarily donation-based financial plan to more institutional support. These include, but would not be limited to, higher-education institutions. This has already been seen as MIT provided nearly $8 million to OER 
Support for OER
OER is a highly supported online collaborative educational initiative. This support comes largely from higher-education institutions. Colleges and Universities around the globe are taking advantage of OER to facilitate the educational process and as a marketing tool for current and potential learners. These instutions are spending the most resources to create and monitor these sites in order to diseminate educational information to the online community. Many issues like financial sustainability and quality assurance are being debated and worked through by contributors of OERs in order to determine how these sites can and will be used most efficiently 
There are many self-sustaining OER servicers that support the OER initiative both in concept and in structure. The OER Foundation is one such service provider that is committed to nurturing the OER environment
- Atkins, Daniel E.; John Seely Brown, Allen L. Hammond (2007-02). "A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities". Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. p. 4. http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/files/Hewlett_OER_report.pdf. Retrieved 2011/03/04
- [https://openeducationalresources.pbworks.com/w/page/24838012/Stakeholders-and-benefits 1].
- [https://www.col.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/OER_BenefitsChallenges_presentation.pdf 2].
1. Stakeholders and benefits, JISC Open Educational Resources, Retrieved: March 2011, https://openeducationalresources.pbworks.com/w/page/24838012/Stakeholders-and-benefits 2. Hodgkinson-Williams, C., Benefits and challenges for OER in higher education institutions, Cape Town, Retrieved: March 2011, http://www.col.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/OER_BenefitsChallenges_presentation.pdf 3. Buckley, Rob, Open educational resources international symposium: OER and institutional change, Retrieved: March 2011, http://events.jiscinvolve.org/wp/open-educational-resources-international-symposium-oer-and-institutional-change/ 4. Open Educational Resource Foundation, Retrieved: March 2011, http://wikieducator.org/OERF:Join