Free Is Good: Open educational resources are free digital materials

Open Access PLoS

From Edutopia,  By Bethany Rayl

Open educational resources (OER) are found in the public domain and can be used for free for teaching, learning, research, and other educational purposes. These materials can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. These “5R permissions” of OER allow you to not only access the materials and resources free of charge, but also to make them even better. Sounds good, right? But what’s really out there, and why should you use these resources?

There are several examples of OER available, including image and audio resources, books in the public domain, video and audio lectures, interactive simulations, game-based learning programs, lesson plans, textbooks, online course curricula, professional learning programs, and online learning platforms.

Why You Should Use OER

OER allow educators to adapt instructional materials to the individual needs of their students. This helps ensure that content and resources are up to date and relevant and fit the unique needs of diverse student populations. Because of publishing timelines, traditional classroom materials like textbooks can often be out of date by the time they’re implemented in the classroom. And that doesn’t even take into account the curriculum adoption cycles that exist in most districts, which result in content areas updating resources on a two-, three-, or four-year rotation due to budgetary constraints.

OER also guarantee that cost is not a barrier to accessing high-quality, standards-aligned resources. Teachers can save significant time and effort related to resource development through the implementation of OER. Additionally, the open sharing of resources allows educators to collaborate across geographic, time, and space boundaries.

Where to Look

So how do you find free, high-quality resources? When looking for OER, a good place to start is one of the repositories that house a variety of tools for educators. OER Commons was created by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, and you can search a dynamic digital library of over 50,000 high-quality OER. Curriki hosts thousands of educator-vetted, openly licensed, online educational resources and allows for the creation of groups through which students and teachers can collaborate. As a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Defense, the Learning Registry houses over 400,000 open resources for educational use. OpenEd describes itself as the “world’s largest educational resource catalog” and has more than 250,000 OER aligned to standards for K–12 educators.

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