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Wk 3-Finding + Evaluating OERs

Thinking about Context

Context is everything. What might work great for one classroom would be terrible for another. As we begin to evaluate various instructional materials, whether they are open or not, we need to think about more than just whether they meet the standards. We must also think about whether they truly meet our learners' needs.

What is the "context" of learning for your students?

What are their learning needs? What are their learning styles and preferences? What environment will they be learning in? What other context issues are important for your learners?

How does all of this context affect choosing learning materials that will best meet your learners' needs?

Finding OERs

There are many steps in finding OERs that meet your learners' needs. First, we'll deal with actually finding resources that are open-licensed and that deal with whatever content area you are covering.

There are many repositories and directories for OERs. Some of what I consider the best are included in this Livebinder. There is also a list at the bottom of this page.

As you search these various sites, make sure to verify that the resource you are interested in actually has an open license that meets your needs. (Unfortunately, nearly all of these repositories contain some content that is all rights reserved.)

When searching OER sites, it is useful to know a little about the sites themselves -- what grade levels they are strong in, what subject areas they cover, what types of media they are strong in, etc. -- so that you know which ones might be most most appropriate.

If you have a very general need, you might start with the larger, broader OER repositories, such as:

  • Curriki (grade K-12; all subjects; all media types)
  • OER Commons (grade K-20, stronger in higher ed; all subjects; all media types)

After exhausting OER sites, another option is to do a Google Advanced search and filter by usage rights.

Quality and Evaluating OERs

After you start finding OERs that meet your basic criteria of being open licensed and meet your basic content requirements, it's time to think about context and quality.

There are many ways to think about quality. Here are some that Achieve has come up with as a part of their rubrics to evaluate the quality of OERs:

  • Degree of Alignment to Standards
  • Quality of Explanation of Content
  • Utility of Materials as Tools to Teach Others
  • Quality of Assessment
  • Degree of Interactivity
  • Quality of Practice Exercises
  • Opportunities for Deeper Learning
  • Assurance of Accessibility

The Achieve rubrics have recently been incorporated into OER Commons, along with a tool for correlating OERs to the Common Core standards. Here is a short quick start guide to using them. This is the most sophisticated quality assessment tool available for OER. As more and more educators use this tool to rate various OERs, there will be a large store of data available that will help all of us as we search for high quality resources.

Choose a unit of study you will be doing in your classroom, for which you'd like to find some OERs.

Think about the context of your students and their learning. What kinds of resources might be most useful?

Now go search for OERs for this unit.

Write about your experience (did you find a lot? a little? how much did you have to look? what issues arose?) and include links to the best resources you found.

Finally, do a quality assessment of at least one of the resources you found and liked (preferably using the Achieve rubrics on OER Commons, if the resource is there -- The more we all use these rubrics, the better the data will be!).

Did the rubrics work well for you? Have you gone through this process with other instructional materials? What are the pros and cons?

More Places to Find OER


Teacher's Domain (grade K-12; all subjects; collection of PBS-produced video. Filter search under "Permitted Use" for open-licensed content.)

Khan Academy - non-YouTube versions available here and here (moslty secondary, some elementary; math)

Elementary - Reading

(Gr. K-3 ; research-based, high-quality reading intervention program)

Literacy 360 (elementary; videos and online books from PBS)

K12 Handhelds Literacy videos (Gr. K-3 ; collection of videos for sight words and other topics)

Elementary - Math

Helping with (Gr. K-8; math videos, problem sets, games)

Elementary - Social Studies

Library of Congress (Gr. K-12)

Secondary - General

NROC and Hippocampus (high school; high quality interactive online courses in math, government, history, biology, environmental science, and psychology)

CK12 (high school; open textbooks that can be flexibly configured)

FHSST (high school; open textbooks in math and Physical Science. Science PowerPoints also available here.)

Connexions (mostly high school and higher ed; open textbooks and online courses)

Open CourseWare (online courses designed for college use;v ariety of media types including video lectures from MIT.)

Secondary - Math

Karl Fisch's Algebra videos - nonYouTube downloadable versions here

K12 Handhelds Math - ebooks and videos (embeddable versions of most here) (middle school)

Secondary - Science

pHET (middle and high school iInteractive math and science simulations)

FHSST (high school; open textbooks in math and Physical Science. Science PowerPoints also available here.)

Light and Matter (high school; physics)

Chem I virtual textbook


Tree of Life and Encyclopedia of Life (biology, zoology, biodiversity)

Blossoms (short STEM videos)

Secondary - Social Studies

Library of Congress

Secondary - Literature

ManyBooks (ebooks)

Project Gutenburg (ebooks)

Librivox (audiobooks)

Task Discussion