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Questions to the Field: Integrating OER and Free Resources in Adult Education

Pennsylvania uses Canvas LMS to organize learning resources from their "anchor resource" as well as free and open resources

Last month at a meeting with distance learning adult educators from around the country, I had the opportunity to present on OER integration and share CrowdED Learning’s SkillBlox initiative. My copresenter from Pennsylvania walked through the evolution they have gone through with their GED distance learning program, and how that led to a model strategy for integrating free and open education resources into their curriculum.

In 2014, Pennsylvania’s GED distance learning program began using an online publisher resource to transition to the new test. At the time, that resource essentially was their curriculum. Over time, as they completed Standards in Action training and began looking at College & Career Readiness Standards coverage, they began to realize that in order to have true depth of coverage of the key shifts in reading and mathematics as prescribed by the standards, it would be necessary to augment their core publisher resource with additional resources. Essentially, while they really liked the publisher resource they were (and still are) using, they also realized there was no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum and wanted to provide additional depth of coverage and options for learners. 

Using the publisher resource as their core or “anchor” resource, they identified gaps in standards coverage and sought out and/or developed free and open resources to augment the anchor resource, compiling spreadsheets to map out their curriculum. To ensure all teachers had access to the curriculum, as well as to deliver it cleanly to students, they then created courses using Canvas LMS. With the courses delivered via Canvas, students are now walked through on a week-by-week basis what lesson(s) they should complete in the anchor resource. They then also are led through a series of activities, practice sets, videos, and quizzes, all of which work to provide a greater variety of content delivery and practice, addressing multiple learning modalities, and ensuring true standards coverage.

Here is a link to a screen shot that shows what the student sees on Canvas (this same image is attached to this post, I believe :)

As I learned about the process Pennsylvania went through to get to where their distance learning courses are today, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many other states or individual instructors have done or are doing something similar?” This seems like a really sound, scalable approach to inspire more use of some of the great free and open resources that are available. So, I’d like to pose the following questions to the community:

  • What have instructors, schools, or states been doing to find/identify resources (publisher or free/open) and map them to CCRS or even other such frameworks? (ISTE standards, Employability Skills Framework, etc.)
  • How are instructors balancing the use of core or anchor resources (such as publisher materials) with free and open resources? Are free resources made optional to students, or are they intentionally integrated as part of a curricular sequence?
  • What other strategies are being used to organize free and open resources so they are easy to implement/integrate for instructors?
  • What strategies are being used for delivering free and open education resources to students to ensure they are readily accessible to all?


Kathy_Tracey's picture

Hi Jeff and friends, 

I love this conversation, but I wonder if the issue isn't the amount of time it takes for teachers to find OERs and integrate these resources with lessons in multi-level classes. What you are proposing is integrating multiple OERs through a search tool where the OERs are identified by standards. 

Unfortunately, I don't know of programs that have clear policies on OERs, so you are really doing some ground breaking work. While your questions are extremely relevant, I want to take it back a step and ask teachers if they are comfortable with OERs to begin with. 


S Jones's picture

Open Up Resources  has mapped their Illustrative Math curriculum to the standards, and it's a whole curriculum for middle school, which includes most of the skills our students need to learn.   The curriculum is CC-BY but you do have to ask them for access (or you could ask anybody who has it already :-)).   

Aligning to standards is quite the challenge :)   There are some lessons in that are so aligned -- some of us took a course in OER and made some lessons. They're in "adult ed" category.   is an example of a Google Doc that seems to be a bit like this -- a "play list."    It looks like a fair amount of work but ... worth it!