Even though we are a #GoOpen launch district, my tech-savvy school board asked for a report that would explain open educational resources (OER). Since OER multiply faster than rabbits and have been known to disappear in a poof, this is an edited version that includes additional information that is relevant to our library world.
As far back as 2013, the Hewlett Foundation published a white paper titled Open Educational Resources: Breaking the Lock Box on Education. The authors stated “…the idea behind Open Educational Resources (OER) is simple but powerful—educational materials made freely and legally available on the Internet for anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.”
So we now know that they are free educational materials and may be shared and downloaded from the Internet. They may be simple and powerful but what are they? Just to add to the confusion, there is not a one-size-fits-all description. The closest we can get to a generally accepted definition comes from OER Commons:
Open educational resources are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.
Open Educational Resources (OER) usually fall under Creative Commons licensing, which means the creators (individuals or organizations) do not wish to retain ownership. This makes them very, very attractive to all educational entities. Less textbooks = less costs to both the schools and universities and students. Since students and teachers can edit OER in some way and re-post it as a re-mixed work, it is perfect for project-based learning, collaboration, and research.
As OER Commons stated, Open Educational Resources come in all varieties, from full courses to gaming applications. Since they are ephemeral resources, it is important to adopt and curate wisely. School boards should be wary of adopting individual or small groups of OER that could quickly become out of date. So how do librarians, teachers, and districts curate and manage OER? Luckily there are educational platforms that have been set up to define your OER footprint and curate content. Listed below are a few of the better known platforms:
- Amazon’s Inspire, MERLOT, ISKME OER Commons, Curriki, Gooru, CK-12, MVP Math, Kahn Academy, Engage NY (Common Core curricula), Smithsonian Learning Lab, and the grandfather of them all, OpenCourseware MIT.
- In a more specific visual way, Flickr and Vimeo …
Follett has done something interesting with their federated search engine, Destiny Discover. Since its inception OER has been included as a search feature along with site specific print materials, databases, and e-books. In the next few months, the new Collections feature will be added to search and curate teacher and student created OER.
All major platforms provide various templates and links to create and launch an OER. However, at the site level managing OER is similar to managing a print or digital collection. You can purchase/create, but you still need to weed/curate. If there is not a district or site plan in place, these OER might take over the world of resources. All involved in OER creation and curation should remember the old adage quality over quantity.
In this uncertain world of education funding, OER offer a unique way to supplement curriculum and perhaps… just perhaps defray the cost of those very expensive print textbooks. The federal government’s Office of Educational Technology has provided information for the #GoOpen initiative including a very detailed District Launch Packet that can be downloaded from the US Department of Education. For those in California, last year Tom Torlakson announced the launch of #GoOpen Initiative and Collaboration in Common Professional Learning Community.