Thing 29: Open Educational Resources

Because I already teach in an online environment, I was interested in looking at OER as a way to supplement our current courses, perhaps replace them with better content, or add to our course offerings.

Prior to this “Thing” I had heard of Ck12, and open licensing, but I wasn’t aware that there was a whole movement with it, and the reasoning behind it.  I found it interesting, but confusing in some aspects.

Some of the points that I found confusing/worth discussion are:

  • Paid vs. free sharing of resources.  I can understand if resources are made by a public institution, with publicly paid employees that the resources become ‘open’ or public.  This makes sense. It could also be a teacher, or organizations individual right to choose to share their resources openly, or to make resources available for collaboration. This is done in many of the other venues that we already shared (discussion groups, professional networks) and this provides another way to do so.  They are somewhat in competition with paid sources of resources (textbook publishers, Teacherspayteachers, TES, etc, and I wonder how that works. Are they similar quality?  How can free compete with paid?  Does this undermine the importance and quality of the work, bring more attention to the work that is being done if it is shared freely?
  • I am unclear on OpenEd and whether it applies to digital resources or paper (printable) resources that are shared. It seems to apply to both, and I was not aware of that.
  • I read the Creative Commons copyright information, and that makes sense.  Since we are educators, I’m wondering how that fits with The Teach Act and Educational Fair Use which I have heard of but don’t thoroughly know. I skimmed through this document and the other two links that I gave.

Anyway, after I read through and learned about OpenEd, I decided that I really wanted to look for resources that we could use to supplement our online courses.  Whether that is online courses, or units, or additional texts/videos etc.  The courses that we have are alright, but not terribly well aligned with New York State curriculum.

What I found is that, while there are a lot of resources, they are pieces are parts of things. They are far from comprehensive and would still take a lot of work to piece together units or cohesive instruction.  In many cases they are an activity, but don’t have the instructional pieces, etc.

I decided to focus on biology, as our biology resources are lacking.  Some of the resources that I found are:

  • Biology Corner – good, but a mix of classroom/paper, and digital resources. Again, not very well-aligned to New York State, but not bad.
  • Curriki – A very limited selection, often paper activities that are shared. Missing core instructional pieces.
  • Science Netlinks I would like to spend some more time looking at. Its not complete as it stands, but has some units/mini-units that are pretty complete, maybe to supplement or substitute for other units or use like a PBL.
  • This is a great directory of resources, https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/education-oer/education-oer-resources/

I guess this answers my question about commercial products v. free. They are much more comprehensive, and cohesive.  You are paying for someone, in many cases, to put those public domain pieces together and fill in some of the gaps. I think this is the case for the courses that we have purchased currently.

Textbooks and Instruction (not activities)

  • There are some great videos, especially Bozeman Science and Crash Course. These I already knew of, but they came up in some of the searches, so I guess they can be used.  There are also some open textbooks, that could be used in pieces that apply to our curriculum.
  • Ck12 falls into this category. We actually starting doing some work last year using some pieces from Ck12, but it is very work intensive to develop a whole class, and we ran into problems with some of the links.
  • There are several biology open texts listed here
  • A few other good textbook sources were available at this link (CNX), boundless, and here.

I think there is a lot of potential here, but it raises a lot of questions about how to integrate it into a LMS, or how to best use those pieces as we transition to other types of learning.

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3 thoughts on “Thing 29: Open Educational Resources

  1. You’ve raised some great questions here. It will be interesting to see how this movement continues to develop. The content for our cool tools course is licensed for ‘reuse with attribution’, so it falls into the OER world. As someone who is self-employed, it may seem like a strange choice. But while the content is essentially free, the added value comes from taking the course and getting the PD credit, and the fee for that is what pays me to develop the content. Kind of like music these days, easy to get cheap or free, and then the bands make money from live performances and other products.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying about how this course works? The content being free, but the value comes from PD credit? so districts pay a fee to use it for PD credit? and your work grading, etc?

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      1. Yes, the content itself is on a public website (https://cooltoolsforschool.wordpress.com/) Anyone can read the lessons. And if they want, they can even ‘borrow’ lessons and reuse them for their own workshops or other purposes. As long as they aren’t making money from it and give me credit. You’ll see the Creative Commons licensing on the right side of the that web site. And as you said, the added value that people get from officially taking the workshop is that I read all the posts, comment, troubleshoot, keep the content up to date, etc. The school districts pay me a fee per participant for doing that. And that way you get PD credit from the district, I get food on the table. 🙂

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