A Guide to Using OER in the Classroom

by | May 17, 2015 | News

Is your district interested in joining the global movement toward open content? Free open educational resources (OER) – in the form of instructional videos, images, ebooks, and other digital content – are being used in the classroom to save teachers time, and save districts money.

What are OER?

In a nutshell, they’re shared teaching resources that are available under legally recognized open licenses, like Creative Commons. They’re free for anyone to use, revise, remix, and redistribute.

The scale of OER varies quite a bit. They can be as large as a textbook, or as small as a single photograph. They can make up an entire district’s curriculum, or they can simply be used to enhance existing textbooks.

Around the US (and the globe), teachers are using OER in innovative ways to create more engaging, personalized learning experiences for their students.

Best Practices for Implementing OER in the Classroom

Using OER in the classroom can be as simple as showing a video, or as complicated as designing your own courses from scratch by curating materials and writing lesson plans and study guides around them.

When properly vetted and implemented, OER can be a huge boon for teachers. Ready to get started?

Find Standards-aligned Content

The first thing to keep in mind is that districts need to ensure all OER are aligned with your state’s standards. One way to do this is by using a tool like Achieve’s Open Educational Resources downloadable rubrics that are designed to help educators evaluate OER for quality and determine the level of alignment.

A quick caveat: when looking for OER content to use, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re allowed to do according to the content’s copyright. Many will be licensed with Creative Commons, though not all CC licenses grant users the same ability to remix and reuse content.

Look for Resources That Have Been Vetted by Teachers

Along with being standards-aligned, OER need to be vetted by educators to ensure they’re compelling and academically accurate. Make sure the content is vetted either in-house, or by a trusted outside provider. There are a lot of repositories out there, so make sure to do your research.

Use a Variety of Resources

One of the biggest advantages of using OER is that it comes in different formats, allowing you to personalize each student’s educational experience.

That means offering a variety of options for teachers and students, including high-quality print resources, videos, simulations, collaborative project ideas, and more. Presenting materials in a number of ways will not only help cement that information into your students’ minds – it will also provide multiple points of entry to the content for students with different needs.

Maine science teacher Julie Willcott wrote on about her experience using OER to create a semester-long chemistry course for her high school students, which she delivered through iTunes U. It’s notable for its variety of content, from videos and audio to flashcards and ebooks.

Ensure That the Content Will Work Within Your Existing System

If you’re using digital OERs, it’s also important to make sure it will work on all the platforms and devices that students might be using, in and out of school. To make the most use of OER, districts also need ways of storing and organizing content so it can be accessed, modified, and shared by teachers.

A good wireless network, high broadband connectivity, and a solution that provides students with regular and equitable access to a device is key. This can be one-to-one, BYOD, a computer lab, or some other solution.

Provide Professional Development

Some teachers may already be using OER and leading the charge with digital content and technology. Others may be less comfortable implementing these resources. It’s important to provide training to all teachers on the best practices of using OER and digital resources

To learn more about using OER in the classroom, download our free ebook: Moving to Digital Content.

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