Major Advantages and Challenges of the OER Movement

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Digital content has never been so accessible. The burgeoning Open Educational Resources (OER) movement reflects wider trends in the K-12 space–rapid shifts to blended learning and personalized instruction.

As we approach another school year, some teachers will navigate the world of OER for the first time while others who have some experience, will begin seriously integrating it as an integral part of their daily instruction.. And for good reason: The benefits of OER are almost as endless as the number of resources themselves. Yet, implementing OER isn’t without challenges. For the uninitiated, we thought it would be beneficial to offer a refresher on the key advantages and challenges of OER.

  Advantages:

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  • Access – In many ways, OER functions as an equalizer in the classroom, effectively removing barriers to access instructional material. Regardless of subject or grade level, teachers with limited budgets now have unprecedented access to current, engaging resources. And in the end, all teachers benefit from an influx of high-quality instructional resources they can access and share with others.
  • Cost – Textbooks are expensive. With OER, schools can now access instructional resources without the cost of print books. Through Creative Commons and other forms of alternative licensing, OER are meant to be freely shared, mixed, and rated – akin to the traditional modes of teacher-to-teacher collaboration that ultimately strengthen instruction.
  • Timeliness – Textbooks have figurative expiration dates. With frequently changing needs and accuracy of information, those expiration dates can come without warning and at any time. Since OER are delivered digitally, instructional materials can be easily updated and altered to remain accurate and relevant.
  • Engagement – With so many resources at their disposal, it’s never been easier for teachers to personalize instruction. In addition, OER can meet all modalities of student learning by offering content in different formats.
  • Flexibility – OER are as diverse as they are engaging, which means they can be leveraged to compile an entire unit or simply fill in curricular gaps along the way. Educators can use them to start from scratch or supplement existing classroom materials. With the right resources and creative inclinations, OER present truly endless possibilities.

Challenges:

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  • Availability – There is a wealth of resources already developed and ready to use, but OER currently skew heavily toward middle and high school classrooms. As OER expand, it’s important that resources are available to teachers at all grade levels.
  • Quality – As with anything on the internet, it’s essential to assess the validity of different OER. Not all materials are responsibly vetted and aligned to standards. Access to resources is important, but access to the right resources is far more important.
  • Time – Without a vetted, curated library of OER, it can take hours to research and locate high-quality materials for just a single lesson plan. Add a little extra time to align each resource to standards… Access to an organized, tagged collection of OER can save a lot of time – and even more headaches.
  • Organization – To save teachers time and ensure effective instruction, it’s imperative that resources are able to be organized in a way that clearly denotes which skills, subjects and standards they cover. It’s equally important to have the resources organized in a way that matches each district’s curriculum maps and pacing guides.
  • Maintenance – Standards are always changing, which means teaching materials have no choice but to keep up. Even if you identify and use OER one year, they may not be alive, current or reliable the next. It takes time and dedication to keep all OER relevant and up to date.

Acknowledging the challenges that are inherent to OER is the first step to leveraging a wealth of resources that can truly make a difference in teaching and learning!

If you’re interested in learning how our solutions can help address the challenges above, visit here. And if you have any challenges or successes to add to the OER conversation, let us know in the comments below!