OER – What’s it Look Like in Practice?

If you missed our last post, Name That Initialism, we introduced OER or Open Educational Resource(s). If the concept of OER is new to you, you might want to start by scanning that post and watching the video clip Why Open Education Matters.

In practice, a course using OERs doesn’t necessarily look any different than a course in which the curriculum is driven by a traditional textbook corporation. The key distinction is cost. OER curriculum resources are free to retain, resuse, revise, remix, and redistribute — in other words, OER resources can be shared and adapted. 

Though a course designed around Open Educational Resources can still be taught traditionally (reading – worksheet – test – repeat), OER courses lend themselves to the incorporation of student-centered project work, hands-on activities and connected learning. Case in point: HSE High School’s astronomy class.

Megan Ewing, astronomy teacher at HSEHS, has been a part of the Indiana Department of Education’s OER Curation Team for several years; Megan teaches her astronomy classes completely through OERs. Course materials include text from Open Stax & CK-12, interwoven with projects, labs, Webquests, and multimedia: In The Martian unit, students chose various aspects of the Red Planet to virtually research and explore and share — one semester’s students even chatted virtually with Andy Weir about his popular novel! As part the Light and Sound unit, students participated in an Amplification Lab, in which they compared various amplification devices using their own mobile phones – class data was gathered and descriptive statistics were generated in order to draw conclusions (see slide show below).


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Though Ms. Ewing designs her entire course with Open Ed Resources, nearly all HSE Schools teachers use some open educational resources as curriculum supplements – examples are myriad, but here are two of the most popular OER portals right now! Visit Khan Academy and Code.org to learn more.