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Open Education Resources:digital teaching and learning materials


Open Education Resources (OER) are digital teaching and learning materials of a variety of types.  Many OERs for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) instruction are appropriate for adult learners as they work on educational and career goals. 

Have you used such resources in your teaching?   How have you done so? (These include online videos, text, games, and websites which act as portals to digital materials).  I’d really like to hear from you about your adaptation and use of such resources!  Please offer us suggestions of materials that you have found really useful!




warrena's picture

Kahn Academy has been of great use to us with regard to mathematics.  It is easy to use and students can work at their own pace and work outside of class.

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

I'd be very interested in knowing if you find this resource useful to you and to learners in your programs!  Has anyone looked at it yet? features a variety of science-related websites selected from thirteen federal agencies.  The result is a rich selection of resources.  The index is easy to use.  You will find science gems for use by individual students and well as instructor-led classes.  Here is just one example:

Everyday Mysteries--Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress:

Did you ever wonder what causes the sound of thunder, or why a camel has a hump?  Can we tell the temperature of air by listening to the sound of a cricket?  Why does chopping an onion make us cry?  Can it rain frogs, fishes, and other objects?

All of these questions were asked by researchers and answered by librarians from the Library of Congress Science Reference Services.

As the introduction to this website states, “These questions deal with everyday phenomena that we often take for granted, but each can be explained scientifically.  This resource will help you get the answers to these and many other interesting questions through scientific inquiry.  In addition we will introduce you to the Library of Congress’ rich collections in science and technology.”

Sandy Goodman's picture

My colleague, Alex Risley Schroeder, and I recently completed work with 20 adult educators from eight Massachusetts programs on a project called ABE Clean Energy Ambassadors.  

The project focused on providing background information, key concept identification and real-time industry exposure to participating program staff. This information allowed them to expose students to the industries, provide guidance in career and education planning and familiarize them with the local landscape of clean energy training providers and companies.

The clean energy sector represents a potential opportunity for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students to enter training and career pathways in a variety of occupations – engineering/technical, administrative, customer service, manufacturing, skilled trades, installation and maintenance - that can address the growing workforce needs of the sector. Equally important is to help students become informed consumers, citizens, and advocates for products, services, and policies that develop strategies for increasing efficiency and reducing energy costs as well as helping to grow and sustain the clean energy economy.

For more information about the project and for a copy of the ABE Clean Energy Ambassadors Curriculum Resources Guide, visit

We will be presenting a pre-conference and workshop session on the project at the NCTN Effective Transitions conference and presenting a webinar later in the fall (stay tuned through NCTN newsletter and website for the date and time).

We’re also beginning to investigate where there is activity and interest around the country in projects to connect adult learners to local clean energy sectors.

My questions for you are:

  • Have any of you been teaching about clean/renewable energy or energy efficiency (through science or any other content areas)?
  • Are there any workforce, environmental, industry organizations and training providers in your state or region who have taken an interest or made an investment in outreach to adult learners?
  • Have you participated in any collaborations or initiatives to promote adult learners’ access to clean energy information, training, career pathways?

I look forward to hearing about your experiences and observations of your own programs and regions.


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

This website is an old favorite for use in adult basic education.  Through satellite images, one can learn about Earth science/space science, geography, technology, the uses of mathematics, and current events (meteor fragments over the Urals, for example).  Here is a brief sample of the riches of this resource:

Image of the Day:

You can sign up to receive a daily satellite image, complete with connections to science and its practical applications. 

Earth at Night 2012:

Sample question:  What are the major population centers of the world?

City Lights of the United States 2012:

Sample question:  Can you identify the major cities on this map of the United States, based upon the night-time lighted areas of the country?

Interactive experiments:

It would be very interesting to hear from instructors who have integrated this resource into their teaching.  Have you used writing prompts, math exploration, map-reading exercises, research on science topics, experiments, springboards for discussion?  Please let us know!

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Instructors have found that one pathway into the study of science is to use a topic in the news.  What have been your experiences in using news-related digital resources for science education?

Please join the conversation and let us know what your have tried!


For a comprehensive resource, check out The Why Files: the Science behind the News  This is a product of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, under the auspices of the National Institute for Science Education.  In addition to a weekly story, the website includes images, interactives, and charts showing how topics aligned with the National Science Education Standards:

Weather events, such as the devastating typhoon/tropical cyclone in the western Pacific, can be compelling examples of pathways to science education.  Here are some current resources:

NASA Earth Observatory NASA:

National Institute of Informatics-Japan:

Interactive animation of typhoon tracking chart:


NOAA Hurricane Research Division:  Frequently asked questions about typhoons/tropical cyclones.


Susan Cowles

Deb Pace's picture

I have been collecting materials on global warming for some time now.  I would like to do a project/debate on the issue of global warming and sustainable energy.  This week I found an article in the paper regarding Obama's urge to grow corn as a source of ethanol energy.  The article was pointing out the bad effects the corn crops were having on the land.  This article, along with others I have collected, will help me present this project to the class and introduce the book called A Skeptical Environmentalist.  I am hoping the approach to the project will help students develop their critical thinking skills, writing skills geared toward the new GED assessment, and others as they learn more about science.  This could be tied right into the weather changes and drastic weather patterns we are seeing.  I hope to find an OER concerning this topic.   I want them to examine both sides of the debate, is global warming real or not?  Are some of the solutions, ie sustainable energy, helping or hurting?

SueP.'s picture

I have not yet used many OERs in my teaching.  However, that should be changing soon.  I have just begun working in a OER STEM Science User's group, where we will be researching Science OERs and evaluating them as adult education tools.  I will be working with the group for the next 6 months.  We will be communicating in a private LINCS discussion group, but I'm sure there will be opportunities to share in this more public group.  To start with, the website, is a clearing house for OERs.  If you haven't yet seen it, check it out.  Hopefully, there will be a growing category of OERs geared toward adult ed.


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Dear Sue,

Thanks for posting this information!  We look forward to hearing from you as you participate in the STEM Science Users Group.  Your input will be so helpful to us all (and this is a call out to others in this STEM Science Users group for your contributions to this discussion list!)  We will be interested to hear from you about steps in this transition to using more OERs in your teaching. 

This OER Commons website is produced by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME).  The website has a good search feature.  One of its listings is for the National Science Digital Library   which has been an old stand-by as a compendium of digitl resources. 

Have any of the rest of you used the OER Commons website and/or the National Science Digital Library?  Have you made a transition to using more OERs in your teaching?

Cheers, Susan

Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Here is an online resource I suggest  almost a year ago, but it is worth repeating:

What’s It Like Where You Live?
This resource is a product of the Missouri Botanical Garden, designed for use by learners of all levels.   It provides a comprehensive investigation of the six “Biomes of the World”  (rainforest, tundra, taiga, desert, temperate, and grasslands), “Freshwater Ecosystems” (rivers/streams, ponds/lakes, wetlands), “Marine Ecosystems” (shorelines, temperate oceans, and tropical oceans), and “Plants of the World. The activities are aligned with the National Geography Standards and National Science Education Standards. Each section contains a comprehensive look at flora, fauna, and physical processes with supporting graphs, charts, photographs, maps, animations, and illustrations. 

Amanda123's picture
One hundred

It’s great to see this discussion happening here on LINCS!  I’m currently facilitating the User Group for the OVAE-funded project Open Education Resources to Support Adult STEM Teaching and Learning.  The User Group members are adult educators who are integrating open educational resources (OERs) into their science and math instruction in classrooms with great success.  Check out the project page for testimonials from User Group members and a list of some of the OERs they have evaluated:

OERs are an excellent tool to support both student learning and teacher development.  They are freely available, reusable, and shareable, and because of the open licenses associated with them they can be revised without restriction.  One of the trickiest parts about using OERs is determining their copyright license though.  Each website/lesson plan/interactive game, etc. usually has a “Terms of Use” page which will indicate if the resource is actually open.  Members on the project have found that if the Terms of Use page is not clear or absent, emailing the creator to ask if the resource is open is a valuable use of time.  Creators of material will respond and be thankful that you asked.

Also, several threads have mentioned OER Commons.  This is the site our project uses to evaluate and store OERs for Science and Math instruction and tag as useful in adult education.  Now you can search for adult education-specific OERs and see how teachers have evaluated them.  OER Commons includes resources that do not meet the full definition of OERs, but you can easily check each object for license restrictions  

I’m looking forward to reading more about how you use OERs in instruction.  Great thread!


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Dear Amanda,

Thanks so much for the detailed information about the OVAE-funded project Open Education Resources to Support Adult STEM Teaching and Learning. It is great to have this direct link you provoide for the OER STEM project!'ve heard about the project from various sources and participants, but not in this level of detail.  OER Commons has been a great resource for information, and I think that the other resources you give us are quite useful.  I also look forward to hearing from instructors who are using OERs in teaching and learning!


kimberlyhlitz's picture

I have found some wonderful OERs for Physical, Life, and Earth and Space Science through PBSLearningMedia.  There are many clips from NOVA Science Now and other programs and websites that have discussion questions and student handouts included.  If you want to save the media links, you can register on the website and then save different videos and interactive resources on the site as your favorites.  You can create folders to group and organize the resources. You can also create links to OERs that are not on the PBS website in your favorites for quick access.  We have a lot of concepts to cover in adult education and the PBSLearningMedia clips provide fun and relevant introductions to them in a very professional and engaging format.  My students really enjoy them and become very engaged in the discussions.

I also recently found Science of the Olympic Winter Games, a website by NBC Learn in partnership with the National Science Foundation.  They are videos explaining the science involved in Olympic competitions.  They are highly relevent and the students are very interested in them.  We are studying motion and forces right now and I found a great video, Science Friction: Curling, which covered all of the content that I needed to introduce.  Students are very surprised in all of the science involved in being a competitive athelete.


Susan K. Cowles's picture
One hundred

Dear Kimberly,

Thanks for your recommendations about science resources from PBSLearningMedia.  Could you share with us a specific example of how you have used the video clips and discussion questions with a specific science topic? 

It is also great to read your description of the "Science of the Olympic Winter Games", especially the science of curling!!!  It is wonderful to use something relevent to the news and sports!  Has anyone else used this NSF/NBC website?


Cheers, Susan