Open Educational Resources (OER) are accessible, open, and free resources that you can embed into your courses. Other organizations, individuals, and educators share resources freely, providing an open license for them to be used by others. These could be images, photographs, videos, interactive sites, lesson plans, textbooks, and more. Because the license is open, the resources can then be edited and adapted in new ways, and reshared. This is an open exchange of resources between educators. There is a world of possible teaching and learning resources that are just a few clicks away.
Using OER Materials
OER can be used and adapted in a myriad of ways. This gives educators free reign in terms of creating creative and educational experiences that meet the needs of their classroom. This is also helpful for educators working in areas with limited resources or funds to invest in physical books or classroom subscriptions. OER materials can be used and adapted based on the 5 Rs.
The 5 Rs of OER Use
1. Retain: Gather materials that you want to use and adapt in your classroom. Download them, save them, and integrate them into your curriculum.
2. Revise: Take the materials that you find and put your own spin on them. Find new ways to add or adapt them to meet your specific classroom needs.
3. Remix: Find ways to integrate the new materials that you find with your preexisting materials to create a unique new set of classroom teaching materials.
4. Reuse: Use and reuse your materials and newly adapted OER materials with others.
5. Redistribute: Take your materials or your newly adapted OER materials and share them in an online OER database for others to use in their classrooms.
For more information about the 5 R’s, please visit OpenContent.org.
Reasons for Using OER Materials
OER are helpful for educators, and there are many reasons why educators would choose to integrate OER materials, create OER materials, and share OER materials with others. However, there are four main resources to consider using OER.
One great thing is that you do not have to pay a thing to use or create OER materials. Often, when trying to integrate something new, there is a cost associated with it. However, OER materials are free. They are always there for you to use. You can add and integrate these on your own time, one at a time. This is also helpful for students, as textbooks can be quite costly.
Using and integrating OER materials into your curriculum is a great way to liberate yourself from the constraints of a textbook. You are able to add, edit, and change materials to meet student needs, interests, and abilities. This can be especially helpful in mixed-level and mixed-content classrooms.
Every student and classroom is different, and a teacher is the best person to judge what the class needs and what might work for them. Using OER materials enables teachers to regain their academic freedom and create truly tailored and interesting learning experiences with others.
With so many printed books and handouts, it is nice to have educational resources that do not necessarily require printed material. This can help increase accessibility while also decreasing printed materials that impact the planet.
But, What Is the Downside?
There is no perfect educational resource. Every resource has pluses and minuses, and OER materials are no different. As a new user of OER materials, you might feel like there are just too many resources to use. There can be so many possible options that it is hard to know where to start. However, the best thing to do is to start by slowly integrating these materials into your current curriculum. This can help to make the process more manageable and exciting.
OER Databases to Explore
The following OER resources are curated and organized by different databases for educators to pull from and use. There is not one location to find all OER materials; however, here are six great OER databases to review:
- OER Commons: You can find open classroom resources divided by grade level and content area. You can also find open resource textbooks to integrate into your classroom. This resource is especially great for K–12 classrooms; however, there are materials there that are helpful for all.
- Lumen Learning: In Lumen Learning, you can search for content by course. This is especially helpful for content-based classroom, workforce development, English for academic purposes, and higher education classrooms.
- Open Textbook Library: This is a great OER resource for free textbooks! This is especially helpful if you want to integrate a new book or parts of a new book into your course without having to purchase it.
- Merlot: This is a resource that provides different resources and lessons that can be used in your classroom. You can also find courses and syllabi here.
- Teaching Commons: This is an OER resource specifically for colleges and universities. This can be used to find textbooks and other resources that are helpful in higher education.
- HippoCampus: This is a resource that provides study and practice resources. These resources can be used in the classroom or as part of homework support for students.
Three Ways to Integrate OER Materials in the English Language Classroom
There are many ways to integrate OER materials in to the English language classroom. Here are a few ways that you could integrate OER materials in your classroom today.
1. Search for Videos and Resources to Enhance Grammar Topics
An easy way to integrate OER materials is to embed it into your current lesson or curriculum. Consider a topic that you are teaching and try to enhance it or provide additional practice using OER materials.
For example: Imagine that you are teaching indefinite pronouns. This is new to your students, and you want to provide additional resources to help them better understand and use indefinite pronouns. However, when you search for resources online, you find videos that are not correct or contain a higher level of vocabulary. You could search HippoCampus and find a video about indefinite pronouns to share with students.
2. Explore and Incorporate Online Textbooks
Whether you are a teacher trainer or teacher looking for a classroom textbook, there are countless textbooks that you can access for free online. This allows you to draw from more than one book without having your students or school invest in a set of books.
For example: Imagine that you are giving a workshop to other educators about best practices in the field. You want to have participants complete a reading before coming to the workshop to help frame discussion. However, you do not want people to have to purchase something. You might go to the Open Textbook Library and find a book or two with chapters that pertain to your training.
3. Using Content Material With ESL Students
It is great to integrate different content and projects into the classroom. OER materials can be helpful if you want to pull readings, interactive maps, or even lesson plans into your classroom.
For example: Imagine that you are creating a U.S. history unit to integrate into your curriculum. You want to pull from middle school textbooks and online resources. You do not have a stack of extra social studies textbooks. In this situation, you could pull from online OER U.S. history readings and interactive materials from OER Commons. Then, you could create a lesson, activities, and materials that enable your specific class to access the content in a meaningful and interactive way.
Whether you teach the same curriculum every year or you are constantly teaching something new, there are OER waiting for you. As educators, we do not need to reinvent the wheel; however, we should not be held to old, boring lessons. Consider integrating OER materials into your classroom and see your lesson come to life.
If you already use OER, feel free to share in the comments any other great OER sites, or interesting ways you’ve used OER in your classroom.