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OER Dilemma: Keep Searching or Make My Own?

Several times during the LINCS Open Math – Open Resources course the conversation shifted to the issue about the time it takes to find the right OER for a lesson plan. How many of us have been in the situation where we are looking for just the right OER to integrate into our plan but can’t seem to find anything that does the job as we would like? And if we do find something that comes close to what we need, we find that it isn’t licensed for any of the 5Rs.

This ultimately leads us to the crossroads of continuing to spend time searching or creating something from scratch. I’m curious if folks have a system for knowing which path to choose and when. I’m also interested in hearing what people do with the things they end up creating, i.e. do those treasurers end up as OER for others to find and use later? If so, which OER platforms do you most prefer?


Amber Fornaciari's picture

Often, I spend just as much time searching for something to use as I would have just creating it myself. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. One resource that I can recommend is Skillblox. Have you heard of it?

Jeff Goumas runs a non-for-profit organization called Crowded Learning that is trying to create a database of sorts for OERs. The idea is that you could visit Skillblox as a teacher or student, search for OER's by standard, type, level, etc. and come out with an individualized plan. I'm not sure on the status of the full release of the program but there is a lot of information on this up and coming resource here.

Heidi Schuler's picture

Thanks for the heads-up, Amber, about SkillBlox. I hadn't heard of it before; though, I am familiar with Jeff's CrowdEd project. I can see it being a great time-saver to have many of the OER sites accessible from one location, especially if these all end up being searchable from one hub. Thanks for sharing this resource, Amber!

Jeff Goumas's picture

Amber and Heidi....thanks for the shout out! 

Really great timing for this conversation! In the coming weeks, I'll have some announcements re: SkillBlox that I'm very excited to's been a long time coming! In the meantime, a number of the resources for which we've already done alignments to the CCRS and TABE 11/12 are CC (Creative Commons) licensed, so these are great resources to check out that are openly licensed for you to use, reuse, remix, revise, and share. If you go to our SkillBlox page on the CL website, you will see a "View Alignments" button within each of the subjects for those resources that alignments currently are available. 

As people begin using SkillBlox, we are particularly interested in seeing how educators take resources from various sources and pull them together to create rich lessons and activities, and we hope that SkillBlox can support this type of work. That said, the automation that SkillBlox will bring is both great and a challenge; for example, take a look at this compilation I pulled together for the "Expressions and Equations" domain at Math Level D. Using just cK-12, Khan Academy, PhET (all of which are openly licensed) and Common Core Sheets (copyrighted, but very limited restrictions), there are a lot of learning objects to pull from (140, to be exact!). Two major questions we are looking to answer in year 1 will be "How do teachers want to pull these resources together and make them available to students?" and "How do we want to allow responsible sharing of resource compilations within and beyond SkillBlox?"

For example, I as a teacher may decide that I want to take a set of resources and pull them together for a sequenced lesson/unit on Unit Rates (Math, CCRS Level D)

  • Warm-Up/Explore: PhET Simulation with questions for students to investigate and discuss. (Licensed CC-BY)
  • Read: Real-World Example from this cK12-content set to understand the concept of Unit Rates in relation to Discount Clubs. (Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA)
  • Video Instruction: Math Antics video on Rates + Ratios (Copyrighted)
  • Interactive Practice: Khan Academy Practice Set (Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA)

....and maybe I've decided to add my own Kahoot or home-grown hands-on activity to the mix. Then, I decide to share all of this on a Padlet or Wakelet or Hyperdoc that I make available to anyone who wants to access it and use it. While this type of sharing is AWESOME (and something we will be exploring within SkillBlox)'s important to know that just because something you've used within a lesson is free (i.e., Math Antics), does not mean it is open, so we all have to be careful (including CrowdED Learning!) about what we allow others to do/not do with this content.

This all said, a couple of things I encourage folks to check out....

  • Webinar: Free or Open? Understanding the Can- and Cannot-Do Uses of Freely Available Resources—This webinar recording (from CrowdED Learning) provides an overview if you'd like to learn more about CC licensing. (Many thanks to Ashly Winkle for helping me put this together). This helps get at the basics of understanding the difference between "free" an "open," and how to determine what type of licensing a resource you might want to use has. 
  • The OER Starter Kit: This is an AMAZING resource about finding, teaching with, and creating openly licensed content. I've only glanced at it as it is literally hot off the press; but it appears to be a pretty seminal work that's been greatly needed about OER creation and use.

To Heidi's earlier point, if folks are creating resources (AND I'M 100% IN FAVOR OF THIS!!!!!), it's sooooooo very helpful to everyone else if you consider using CC open licensing so other folks know what they can or can't do with it. Equally critical is knowing the do's and don'ts when you are creating and sharing resources that build off of others' work. This is something CrowdED Learning will be providing a lot of guidance around over the next few months. In the meantime, happy exploring, and I hope we can continue a healthy discussion around this topic!

Heidi Schuler's picture

Thanks for sharing more details and adding some new questions/ideas to this discussion, Jeff! I look forward to digging into the resources you provided and appreciate the AMEN! to all of us being mindful about licensing our own creations and reusing other people's work. It would be wonderful to have the adult ed content (lesson plans, resources, etc) grow from this grassroots effort of instructors around the country.

S Jones's picture
One hundred

Just this second

I am going to a webinar about using H5P to create learning stuff :)   

S Jones's picture
One hundred

I'm pretty much a compulsive creator.    I've shared some on under adult ed.... and when I make them I post to twitter and blog about it.   Right now I'm getting back to Geogebra and will be trying to make some interactive things... (I could prob'ly do requests :)) I also have a mess of little things on Youtube ...