May 28, 2012

OER Defined

Understanding Open Educational Resources and what they mean for you, your children

Jargon and shorthand are often barriers to participation rather than bridges to understanding. To keep parents and caregivers active in education, the nomenclature needs an occasional sussing out. Doing so might help all of us stay invested, engaged, and excited by what’s happening in today’s learning environment. For starters, let’s take a look at OER, or, Open Educational Resources.

At this point, few explain OER better than the folks at ISKME, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.

As ISKME helps explain, Open Educational Resources include the range of teaching and learning materials that can be used and reused in educational environments, without charge. With OER, educators and students need not worry about restrictive licensing rights when adapting online content for lesson plans or when using media as part of a classroom assignment. In other instances, OER content can be downloaded, shared, edited, even re-posted as remixed work for others to later shape and use. OER also includes individual courses and course materials, digital media, and the software that helps users create, edit, and share.

Thanks to a number of specific initiatives, including MIT’s 2002 launch of its OpenCourseWare project and ISKME’s 2007 launch of the OER Commons, these types of resources are featuring more and more prominently in online or virtual learning environments. The OER Commons, for instance, has catalogued tens of thousands of educational resources, many of them standards-aligned, which are available to teachers, students, and learners everywhere. These diverse materials are provided by a host of content partners, from public media producers to universities and museums. Resources are also culled from the web’s growing body of sites dedicated to supporting education and lifelong learning.

Open Educational Resources are valuable for a number of reasons, not least of which is that OER materials offer a free alternative to those grappling with the rising costs of education. For instance, some are tapping into OER as a source for digital textbooks, curriculum, and more. Other benefits of OER point directly to how digital media is being used in online communication and for informal and formal teaching and learning.

Stay tuned. In the coming weeks we’ll explore some of the more compelling offerings in the OER community. In the meantime, keep a look out for OER in the classroom or when homework starts to include media use and media creation.

Latest Reads

About Learning Starts

LEARNING STARTS is a quick digital guide to education and learning now. Written with today's parents in mind, our guide is optimistic because we’re excited about all that’s happening to engage young people in classrooms and community organizations around the world.

read more

K-5 Kids

We’ve talked about the importance of reading with your kids and serving as models for lifelong learning. Research continues to highlight the value of the shared practice for developing their literacy skills, preparing them for elementary school and the world beyond.

Middle School

We’ve been hearing about game-based learning for quite some time, along with the promise that any day now software engineers and game designers will figure out a way to harness the near-addictive enthusiasm kids bring to video games to help them learn. That day might indeed be close, given the big names now throwing energy and resources at the challenge, including Bill Gates himself.

High School

Contributing to Five Things I’ve Learned, Dr. Russell J. Quaglia, the president and founder of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations (QISA), reminds us that asking questions is easy. Engaging students and helping them move forward with their ambitions is what makes real change—and brilliant futures—possible.