Open Education Resources

For both personal interest, and my day job, I’ve been looking into Open Education Resources for quite a while now and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity of material out there.

Open Education Resource (OER) is freely accessible material that can be used for learning and teaching. There are many kind and knowledgeable souls out there who make all this great content available for free – thank you!  Khan Academy and Coursera are probably the most well-known ones, at least among my social circle, but there are many sources with other types of content such as text books and exercises and practice tests. I’m particularly fond of CK-12 Foundation as it contains a large collection of well written text in chapter form that can be mashed up for new content. In fact, there is so much material there, my main problem now is navigating and finding the content I want, much like the early days of the web. And this is just one of the sites.  I used to keep a list of these sites but stopped doing so after 10 when I realized that they’re pretty common so have dropped off doing so.

I think there are a few missing services that can really add value to all the OER out there, aside from the basic indexing and search that is there today. Foremost for me is a service that maps various educational content to specific teaching standards like Common Core. One benefit I get when I buy a textbook, aside from the content, is curation. An author or a group of editors, presumably experts in the field, have selected the course material to provide coherent coverage for a specific subject or standard.  But with OER, since I am getting material and course material on my own, I need to perform my own curation, but I don’t really have the expertise (or else I wouldn’t need to be learning it). And even if I was the teacher and had the expertise, the distributed nature and heterogeneous quality of these content do not make it easy to collect an appropriate set of content. It’s not too different than the problem that web clipping services like EverNote are trying to solve. Having some standard or evaluation of the material would really help – maybe something like an Amazon of OER?

Another gap area is in learning assessment. There are tons of free learning resources, but what about the tools to assess what someone has learned? Since assessments involve interaction and not just content to be passively consumed, assessments are not like web pages or PDF that can be downloaded into a collection. And because assessment involves feedback from learner, they can also be more complex to create than passively content.  Integrating assessment from different sources is also more than just concatenating files together. Again, the standards issues come in play here too. When giving an assessment, it is essential to know what is being tested, and what is not.  There is much room for improvement in this space.

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