Since OER came onto the map in the early 2000s, the pool of available resources has grown into a vast ocean. With a wide array of OER materials at our fingertips, the trick now is not so much in finding OER, but on identifying high quality OER that can be used and transformed for our classroom needs. So how can we recognize the pearls, and avoid the sharks?

1. Navigate a Curated Collection 

if_compass_1075475With a typical search engine, it’s easy to find a long list of resources for any topic we can think of. However, it’s not easy to sort through these resources and determine their license, credibility, and effectiveness in the classroom.

Content curation sites like Khan Academy, Wisewire, and YouTube EDU have done the work for us. These credible sites offer a wealth of vetted, high quality OER resources, categorized and sorted for easy navigation. From K-12 to higher education, content ranges in depth and is available for everyone.

Bite-sized resources like videos, assessments, and worksheets, can enhance an existing lesson plan, provide flexibility, and help engage students. Full-plate resources that cover entire subjects and curricula are also available through efforts such as OpenStax from Rice University, MIT OpenCourseWare, and the Open Learning Initiative from Carnegie Mellon.

(Check out this handy list of pre-vetted OER collections.)

2. Anchor the License

if_anchor_1075452Using what we think is OER content without verifying its license can put us in dangerous waters. While in general utilizing internet content for personal use doesn’t raise any issues, reposting, revising, and sharing content can run the risk of copyright infringement. Before we adapt any resources, we need to determine their license.

Creative Commons helps content users and creators everywhere to identify and properly use OER resources. A “search the Commons” feature is also a great resource for locating usably licensed content that can be adapted, remixed, or reproduced according to clearly defined guidelines.

For OER software, the GNU General Public License indicates openly available resources. Educators can utilize this content in the classroom to ensure all students have equal access. The Free Software Foundation, the principal supporter of GNU, offers a guide to free software resources.

A license check not only helps us determine how an OER resource can be used, but also serves as a good way to evaluate quality. OER content with a clearly defined license shows that the creator has done their homework.

(Visit the OER Commons to find openly licensed resources.)

3. Take a Museum Cruise

if_helm_1075481Just because we can’t set a course for every museum we’d like to see doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the resources they offer. Museums across the world provide high quality content from passionate educators and experts.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History runs Science How, a free webcast that meets national science standards. An online art collection is offered by the Museum of Modern Art, along with a variety of resources. Explore beyond our horizons with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or teach history with 100 objects from the British Museum, and choose one (or a hundred!) objects to explore a culture or historical period.

(Learn more about utilizing museum resources.)

4. Shore-up with Rankings

if_baech_1075453As we find and use OER resources, we can help direct each other to quality content by ranking it. The EQuIP initiative, a partnership between achieve.org and educators from New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, identifies high quality materials that are aligned to NGSS and CCSS.

Social learning networks like Edmodo and educational marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers allow educators to connect and rate the resources they use. Wisewire offers a five star ranking system for all content, and also allows users to provide feedback. In a sea of options, ranking a great resource allows us all to find high quality content more easily.

(View EQuIP ranked exemplar materials.)

5. Use Search Radar

if_binoculars_1075464Many sites offer search settings filtered by content license. Google offers Advanced Image Search, allowing users to filter by license type, as does Flickr. On Wikimedia Commons, all educational media content is either public domain or freely-licensed, and can be used per the license guidelines.

Use CC Search to explore a comprehensive list of resources. This is not a search engine, but utilizes the services of other organizations to compile results from multiple sources, such as Pixabay and Youtube. CC Search does not confirm that all content is under a Creative Commons or public domain license (always double check) but is a convenient and effective tool.

(Get the scoop on how to use OER images in teaching resources.)

6. Keep the Boat Afloat

if_boat_1075462We’re all in this together, so what better way to support high quality OER than to create our own and share it? Become a Wisewire author, and take advantage of a platform that includes a variety of templates for assessments and lessons. It’s easy to make a personalized dashboard, create tech-enhanced items, and assign content directly to students.

(Watch a webinar on how to write strong assessments.)

OER resources have shaped the landscape of education, and the waters are ever changing. We can keep afloat and identify high quality OER content by utilizing websites that curate collections, remaining aware of licenses and rankings, and sharing our knowledge and resources with others.

(Learn more on how to evaluate ed-tech.)

Have more suggestions for how to identify high quality OER? Leave a comment and let us know what we should add to the list.

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