In my last blog post around this topic, I was working on constructing an understanding of what OER is and how it applies to me. Within this, I did shed light on some concerns I had such as how to actually make this more of a norm around the world and ensure that OERs actually do lead to equitable education opportunities globally. I definitely see the value in open education resources along with the potential. I see a lack of digital access as a huge barrier to OER, but this does not make it less valuable. It just means we have some serious work to do world wide to ensure that the digital divide does not continue to be a factor in why so many are not receiving education. This is a huge oversimplification, as we know this is much more to do with power, but it is a factor.
Quality or Junk?
I want to focus in on one component of open education resources today. That is the varied quality of the resources that are available. Yes, the OER movement is rooted in the human right to access ‘high-quality’ education. The truth is that this is all very subjective though. We could be getting textbooks for thousands of dollars (which many of us are) that are complete junk (which some are). Having a cost associated with the resources simply does not make them better. Furthermore, the principal of openly licensed materials and resources means that we can use them, change them and improve upon them. This is something we technically cannot do with the copyrighted textbooks (though we do find our ways).
Yes, there are going to be materials out there that are absolute junk. Whether we are paying for resources on Teachers Pay Teachers or using division purchased textbooks, this is going to be an issue. I have utilized Khan academy many times for their instructional math videos. Some of these are better than others. Will they always hit the target the exact way you need them to at your grade level, with your kids? No! Will they sometimes though? Absolutely! I have also utilized some of the Crash Course videos that both Jenny and Katherine mention. Katherine points out that these are actually an Open Education Resource available through Complexly on YouTube. I had no idea how many videos they had out there covering such a wide range of topics until Katherine mentioned this in her post. As Jenny points out, many of these have American content, however, there are many great videos that apply to content we cover here as well.
Our school division attempted to develop a resource bank to cover every grade and subject during June of 2020. This was meant to be a collaborative project carried out over two weeks that would leave us with all the resources we needed to teach if we were to go online in the 2020/2021 school year. The truth is, there was a ton of junk in this bank. Some literally put no effort into it and make it obvious they don’t have a creative bone in their body. However, there is also some very useful content that I see as being an excellent resource for new teachers or teachers looking to change up a unit. The better quality tools met the criteria of the 5Rs of Using OER that Leigh shared on Twitter. I am actually not sure if this is an open resource or only open to our school division so my apologies if the link does not work for you.
Black Gold School Division in Alberta had a similar resource bank which I was able to access last year, but can now not find any evidence of on their website. I would have given that resource bank the same rating based on the fact that more than half of it was not great. The stuff that was well done, definitely met the 5Rs. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be available anymore so it no longer meets any of the criteria. I believe that the poor quality of some of these resources might have had a lot to do with the fact, particularly in our school division, that this was mandated but not promoted nearly enough for the potential value it could hold.
Exploring Further Resources
I thought OER offered a wide variety of resources. The concept of ‘Groups’ is useful in searching for content on specific subject matter including lessons, faculty resources and textbooks. There are hundreds of topics within this section! When scrolling through the ‘Collection’, I thought it would be very helpful if every resource specified what grades(s) it would be appropriate for. Searching requires more work if you have to click on every resource and read thoroughly to know if it’s even geared to you, let alone a quality resource. It does however provide you with the opportunity to narrow your search by subject and level. This is not specific enough though as I found that what came up was not necessarily what I specified.
OpenLearn is clear that they are geared to the university level right in their title. They also indicate the amount of hours each course is. While the search engine allows you to narrow things down a bit, many loosely related concepts are available within a search. While OER specifies subjects within the blurb that gives you a hint as to whether or not it might be meant for a higher grade level, OpenLearn does not provide anything more than the title and a line of text. I attempted to search the topic ‘Media Literacy’ on both OER and OpenLearn. I found that a great deal of what came up on OpenLearn was articles. There were many unrelated pieces on OER as well as a ton of American history content within that search. A few, didn’t look too bad, but the amount of American content within most of the resources I checked out was quite high. A quick search for content specific to place value turned up many results with lessons I would be more likely to use.
Wrapping it up!
While I think there is lots of value to the resources available through any of the OER sites, navigating the sites in order to find what you are looking for can be a bit of a challenge. Unlike TPT which gives you a quick preview with enough specifics to help you decide if in fact the resource might work for you, most of the resources I checked out this week required more digging to determine their value. Sites like TedED, Khan and even Crash Course, make it easier for you to decide if the resource might be of value to you. Of course, you should watch it completely to be sure and they certainly will not give you everything you need to teach a unit.
I think all of these resources are a starting point in Open Ed. Rarely will we find a resource that has everything we need all in one place. We need to be able to pick and choose and the options are great! If something is not very easily navigated, then we just move on! The big thing is, we really need some more Canadian topic. Of even greater importance though, is the fact that we still need to get the idea of Open Education Resources out there for all to use! Only then will we have enough people using them, providing feedback and sharing to really see the quantity and quality of educational resources we need available worldwide.
Before you go, OpenLearning got me wondering about whether there are OER courses available at the College or University level that can be used for credit? The concept of using OERs in post secondary is great, but what if the only way for someone to access a course is through free sources such as OpenLearning? Are these resources recognized? I’d love to hear if you have any insight on this!