The Extreme Networks survey on open educational resources (OER) shows that high-quality, openly licensed learning materials are improving the educational experience while reducing cost. Still, many of those surveyed are unfamiliar with the OER concept (37%), and even among those who are aware of OER, there are perceived drawbacks that have actually been addressed and solved.
Some of the issues raised include inconsistent quality (44%) and difficulty of evaluation (36%). When users of the survey were asked how to improve OER, many said they would like to see a standardization process with some sort of quality control, a clear licensing system, a general repository where they could search and navigate easily, better user feedback to the creators, and more resources. These are definitely important features, but many have already been resolved by OER Commons.
The Answer: OER Commons
In 2007, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, (ISKME) started OER Commons, a network for educators to share high quality, open resources. ISKME is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and works with hundreds of institutions and organizations that provide resources, along with countless individual authors who share their own content. The idea driving OER Commons is that there should be access to high-quality education around the world. These resources have the currency, creativity, innovation, and ease of use that is sought by educators and students, and come at no cost.
OER Commons has an archive of 50,000 high quality, sorted resources that can easily be searched by grade level, subject, or type of resource. On each resource, there is a picture associated with a license based on their licensing system, making the contributor’s intent of distribution apparent. OER Commons also has an area for users to contribute, give feedback via comments at the bottom of resources, and the opportunity to evaluate the piece, based on a grading structure. Achieve along with ISKME launched this system to grade various resources based on a series of criteria on a scale of 0-3. The grading system along with the comments provide the opportunity for a truly peer-reviewed resource that educators can feel comfortable using.
The only issue left unaddressed by OER Commons is that there are not enough resources out there! However, it is easy contribute high-quality resources to their site. With an increasing collection of 50,000 resources, this is just the beginning of Open Educational Resources. Using technology to share high-quality content will be a continuing process throughout the future and OER will be a big part of that. The availability of equal education should and will increase as technology advances. OER Commons and similar sites are making sure this is the case.
Popular Sources of Open Educational Resources
While OER Commons is the major repository of open educational resources there are certainly other sites that provide a similar service. These are some of the most commonly utilized OER sources:
- Project Gutenberg
- The Open Education Consortium
- MIT’s OpenCourseWare project
- Khan Academy
- OpenStax College
These additional OER sources were recommended by participants in our survey:
- Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching
- PBS Learning Media
- Beyond Textbooks
- Open Textbook Library
- iTunes University
- Google advanced search – go to the usage rights section of google advance search and choose “Free to use, share, or modify”