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Learning about OER – Open Educational Resources

by Kelly Walsh on December 12, 2010


OER is a transformational idea that can play an important role in changing the nature, and availability, of educational materials, content, and tools.

I’m pretty sure that the first time I heard the formal phrase “Open Educational Resources” was during Josh Baron’s Disruptive Change keynote presentation at the Campus Technology 2010 conference last July. When I saw Baron’s picture in the article, “The Future of Content is an Open Book” in November’s Campus Technology magazine, it caught my attention again. The article provided a great discussion of open content for education, and reminded me to learn more about OER. I knew I had to follow up and better understand this exciting concept.

OER logoAccording to Wikipedia’s page on OER, the following definition of OER has been proposed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

– Readers, Click Here to View the Video Blog Entry for this post –

There are a number of great organizations that have wonderful web sites in support of OER. Two of these are the OER Commons and the OER Consortium. I visited their sites to build on my knowledge and awareness of the current state of Open Educational Resources, and the growing body of OER related resources.

The OER Commons 
The Open Educational Resources Commons website contains a wide variety of “free-to-use teaching and learning content from around the world”. These resources are organized and accessible by Subject Areas or Grade Levels and the home page contains sections of featured K-12 resources, and featured Higher Ed resources.

Following are some of the resources available from the OER Commons site:

  • Open Textbooks: There are currently 217 listings here, and users are encouraged to add their reviews of these free and open textbooks. Creative Commons licensing for these are clearly indicated, and many of them allow for sharing and remixing.
  • Classroom Management: Learn more about setting the tone and rules for your classroom, and connecting classroom life to student learning, social skills and behaviors.
  • Professional Development: Sections for Career and Technical Education and Leadership in Education provide vocational resources to plan your career, develop marketable skills, and advance the practice of being a leader, decision-maker, and collaborator.
  • Learning as Inquiry: Resources about “Science as Inquiry” and “Art as Inquiry” can help you teach and learn through active exploration, problem posing, visualization, creative thinking, and more.

OER Consortium
This consortium, formally titled the “Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER)”, is a great example of a grassroots effort to take the concept of OER and run with it. Their web site is jammed with information and resources, including  sidebar listings of dozens of Featured Sites and what appears to be about a hundred ‘Resources’.

The OER Consortium is a California based organization, but it looks like any higher education institution can request to join (click here for membership info).

Spreading the word about OER
One thing that strikes me about OER is that while there is a lot of activity surrounding this concept, if those efforts and participants could be consolidated into a combined effort, progress might be made much more quickly. I am also a bit surprised that the idea of OER isn’t more widely known and discussed.

Hopefully this post expands awareness a little bit and pushes us all closer to achieving an educational environment in which Open Educational Resources are leveraged to their fullest potential. Please pass this article on to a colleague or two to help raise awareness of this wonderful effort, and make these free resources more widely known.

As always, feedback and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged. Please comment if you have any insights or questions you would like to share about OER, open content, open source, or a related topic. Thanks!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Flatworld Knowledge – a chance to escape the high price of school text books
Campus Technology 2010: Time and Money Well Spent
A Dozen Great Free Online Video Lecture Sites


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded As an education and instructional technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, regularly running Flipped Class Workshops online. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Kelly also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa McLaughlin December 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for the mention of OER Commons and your efforts to spread the word about OER! Many of the OER Content Providers are connected and collaborating to synthesize efforts / share best practices. Let me know if you would like to get more involved in the oer ecosystem: -Lisa McLaughlin, OER Commons Manager

Liza Loop December 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Thanks for recommending CCCOER. Yes, we are growing and welcoming all institutions and individuals who want to support free and low-cost educational materials focused on the first two years after high school. FYI, here are the “purposes” we have included in our new by-laws:
– Facilitate communication and exchange of best practices among such institutions
– Increase access to and sharing of high quality, pedagogically sound, and cost-effective open and low cost instructional materials
– Provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff interested in OERs
– Identify and disseminate information about high quality OER content for textbooks and courses, model OER courses, and OER library and learning resources
– Propose high quality standards for OERs targeted to the first two years of post-secondary education
– Mobilize resources for development and support of the open educational resources movement
– Coordinate activities among organizations, standards committees, and other efforts that add value to the OER materials
– Publicize OER and inform governmental, educational, nonprofit and commercial entities outside the OER community about the benefits of OER

Please join us at

Liza Loop, CCCOER Executive Director

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