We’ve been reviewing workforce and career focused educational resources and tools for the AMRoC website, and recently took a look at Skills Commons , a free and open online library of learning and program support materials for job-driven workforce development, created by the US Department of Labor and drawing from the Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons.  That of course, led us down the rabbit hole of exploring OER Commons.  We’ve come up for air and are happy to highly recommend this great resource, which has applications far beyond workforce education.

The site speaks well for itself. Supported in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME)  created OER Commons as part of the Foundation’s global OER initiative.

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. This shift in educational practice is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning.”

All you need to do to use the site is register, a quick and efficient process that immediately make the whole suite of OER resource and tools readily available.

Here’s the basics:

  • Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that can be freely used and reused at no cost, without the need to seek permission.
  • There are over 50,000 Open Educational Resources on the site, which is continuously growing
  • Usage rights vary somewhat, ranging from the ability to download a resource and share it with colleagues and students, to also having the ability to edit or adapt content in some and then reshare the new version.

Collections include:

  • Full university courses
  • Interactive mini-lessons and simulations
  • Adaptations of existing open work
  • Open Textbooks
  • K-12 Lesson Plans, worksheets, and activities

Subject areas are many and varied:

  • Applied Science
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Business and Communication
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Education
  • English Language Arts
  • History
  • Law
  • Life Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Science
  • Social Science

You can browse by subject or Curated Commons Collections .Click on your choice, and a whole other array of options becomes available. You can select by reviews or other qualities.  Some lessons are text based,  and others are video, like this one.

Others are open textbooks.  Using Open Educational Resources puts the onus on the user, of course, to determine if selected content is optimum for needs, with quality content and reliable, expected outcomes – an evaluation aided by the user scoring system and plenty of feedback opportunities.  But hopefully educators are always evaluating teaching resources, free or cost based, with an eye to quality and accuracy.  In our experience, a measure of sturdy common sense in evaluating training and educational materials goes a long way, wherever the materials are sourced.  That caveat aside, we find OER Commons a terrific and well developed resource, if only for the menu of options available across all fields of use.

Among the tools available at OER is Open Author  a publishing tool that  helps educators build Open Educational Resources, lesson plans, and courses on your own or collaboratively with others, and then share them back to OER and with other educators and learners. The Resource Builder platform, for developing Open Author materials, is especially attractive,  designed to make it easy to combine text, images, video and audio files and more,  and to save them as openly licensed educational resources, which can then be printed or downloaded, with all related content.  Users can create K-12 lessons or higher education modules, as needed.

A recent post at the TCEA TechNotes blog – OER Implementation in Six Steps – provides a good entry level primer for educators whose school districts are implementing the use of Open Educational Resources district-wide.  Adapted from an OER Planning Framework developed by Achieve.org , the article distills the process of using and adapting OER materials to some essential basics to understand vision, goals and measures of success.

“OER is more than just a way to reduce the cost of your instructional materials,” writes TCEA blogger, Jennifer Bergland . “The process of creating them has proven to be an excellent professional development experience for the teachers involved. The creation or modification of OER also enables you to design your instructional materials to meet the educational needs and struggles of your particular students.”

You can simply jump in and start exploring and utilizing OER Commons resources to your heart and mind’s delight, or you can take a more studied approach to implementation, depending on needs, interests or institutional requirements.   Additional resources for using and understanding OER Commons and similar resources:

We’ve added OER Commons to our Resources page.