Teach With INFOhio

Finding and Integrating Open Educational Resources (OER)

Author // Matt Yauk Monday, 17 May 2021

What are Open Educational Resources? 

Have you ever found something from the internet that could be a perfect resource (image, video, quiz, etc.) for your class, and you spent hours trying to figure out the copyright issues with that resource? You couldn’t find any Terms of Use, and there was no author information, so you didn’t know who to contact to get permission to use it? Wouldn’t it have been nice if that resource somehow said, “I’m free to use, no strings attached, you don’t need to ask for my permission because it is already granted”?

Have you ever felt restricted by how rigid a provided curriculum was, or felt overwhelmed with the lack of an established curriculum for a course? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to find and use a large selection of teacher-created resources that you and your grade level team could use and build to supplement your curriculum?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are an answer to these and many more issues that educators around the world are facing. The Hewlett Foundation states that, “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” Take a look at what OER means to educators and students:


Myths vs. Reality

To better understand what OER is, let’s talk about what OER isn’t. Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) lists the following seven myths and facts about open educational resources:

  1. Myth: Open simply means free. Fact: Open means permission to freely download, edit, and share materials to better serve all students.
  2. Myth: All OER are digital. Fact: OER takes many formats, including print, digital, audio, and more.
  3. Myth: "You get what you pay for.” Fact: OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks (or other instructional materials).
  4. Myth: Copyright for OER is complicated. Fact: Open licensing makes OER easy to freely and legally use.
  5. Myth: OER are not sustainable. Fact: Models are evolving to support the sustainability and continuous improvement of OER.
  6. Myth: Open textbooks lack ancillaries. Fact: Open textbooks often come with ancillary activities, and when they do not, existing OER can provide additional support.
  7. Myth: My institution is not ready for OER. Fact: Any institution can start with small steps toward OER that make an impact for students.
Open Licenses

When you create anything in a tangible form like a drawing, blog post, article, poem, sheet music, or lyrics, that work is automatically covered by copyright laws. As such, there are limitations on what other people can do with your work and must ask permission to use it in any form. What if you are a musician who wants to share their work and see how others can make use of it? What if you are an educator wanting to share a great lesson you made so that other students can benefit? This is where open licenses and Creative Commons comes in.

5 R’s of OER

Introduction to Open Educational Resources states that, "The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)"

To learn more about license designs, rationale, and structure of Creative Commons licenses, check out this Creative Commons Kiwi video describing license types, read About the licenses by Creative Commons, or read the next post in this series, Creating and Sharing OER. For more information on licensing and copyright for educators, see this Permission Guides for Educators.

Why OER? 

Why would educators choose to use OER over other curriculum options? In some classrooms, we are asking teachers to reinvent the wheel everyday and find and remake every piece of content they need to deliver it on their own. On the other end of the spectrum, some teachers are expected to use a specific, prescribed curriculum and not stray from it an inch. Both of those paths could lead to teaching and learning barriers, stress, and frustration. One thing that OER can do is provide a way to overcome those barriers and give educators a growing number of resources that were created and vetted by teachers and education providers. Giving educators and curriculum teams the flexibility to build, adapt, and supplement a curriculum can, in turn, strengthen what teachers do best — work with students.

In the book A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER), the authors offer three possibilities enabled by OER:

  1. Increased availability of high quality, relevant learning materials can contribute to more productive students and educators. Because OER removes restrictions around copying resources, it can reduce the cost of purchasing educational materials and time investment of finding and vetting new resources.
  2. Open, flexible licenses encourage adaptation and can enable active student involvement in their learning and the construction of more effective learning environments. 
  3. OER has potential to build capacity by providing institutions and educators more access to materials and the means to produce and share new works. Instead of duplicating efforts to create a curriculum, OER can build on the intellectual capital and work of other educators.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Dr. Tim Clark of BYOT Network offers the following Top 10 Reasons for Content Curation, which OER effectively enables for educators:

10 reasons for content curation from Dr. Tim Clark: Preserving instructional time, Utilizing resources more effectively, Providing greater access to content, Promoting equity among users, Protecting digital rights, Supporting online safety, Encouraging innovation, Saving money and resources, Ensuring quality in content, Nurturing a sense of community.


Where Can I Find OER Materials? 

Open Space, powered by INFOhio, is Ohio’s hub for Open Educational Resources. You can find textbooks, lesson plans, activities, interactive labs, modules, or even full courses on the Open Space platform. This OER repository also includes advanced filter options, such as searching by grade level, subject area, material type, and Ohio’s Learning Standards. Take a look at the walkthrough below to see how to start searching in Open Space.


To jump-start your search, check out our curated collections on Open Space, which include remote-friendly materials, subject-specific content, and materials from select content providers.

screenshot of various collections in Open Space

To learn more about Open Space and what you can find, take INFOhio's self-paced, online, no-cost professional development class, Open Space Basics, or check out the full Building Your Digital Curriculum learning pathway.

Integrating OER into a Class

The Using INFOhio Tools to Design Learning Experiences post on the Teach With INFOhio blog summarized the steps to design a learning experience from scratch using pre-existing materials. Follow these steps:

  1. Start with the learning objectives and/or standards for the topic.
  2. Analyze your current curriculum’s achievement of the learning objectives. Identify any gaps in information, extraneous information, and areas for improvement. 
  3. Search reliable sources using keywords, subject areas, grade levels, and material type to find the most relevant content.
  4. Identify which materials and activities should be done face-to-face and which can be completed online.
  5. Plan the instructional timeline and add the materials and activities to a module within your learning management system.
  6. Reflect on the lesson and revise.  

As you look for content, remember to consider quality and usability. Items appearing in Open Space have achieved the standards in our Open Space Submission Rubric. Other frameworks to consider for reference include EdReports and the Achieve OER rubrics. 

Ensure your materials and activities are accessible by all learners so nobody is left out. Consider these resources on accessibility and inclusive design: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines and Making Learning Accessible for All: An Educator's Guide.

Interested in hearing other educators’ perspective on OER in the classroom? Listen to these podcast episodes:

Join Open Space and start your curriculum building journey. Take a deeper dive into how to find and purposefully integrate OER and other resources into your curriculum by checking out the blog Using INFOhio Tools to Design Learning Experiences. Expand your understanding of building a digital curriculum with the 5 P's for Successful Curriculum Transformation: Ohio's PreK-12 Digital Content Adoption Playbook.

Ready to take the next step and create and share OER with other educators? Read and learn how in the final blog in this series, Creating and Sharing Open Educational Resources.


About the Author

Posted by: Matt Yauk

Matt Yauk is a Senior Instructional Specialist with INFOhio. He is a certified educator who has worked as a Business and Technology teacher in the middle and high school settings and as an educational technologist, instructional designer, and academic technology director for The Ohio State University (OSU). He has a B.S. in Education: Technical Education and Training from OSU, a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Instructional Design and Technology from University of Cincinnati, founded the Learner Engagement Division within the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), and co-authored a chapter in the Handbook of Distance Education (4th edition) called "Trends and Directions in Continuing Professional Development." The positive impact on student learning and educator development has always been his primary focus.

Matt Yauk
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