Thursday, February 18, 2016

Finding OERs

by Abby Johnson
The world is shrinking. Not literally, but our ability to connect with people around the globe is never more than just a few clicks away. Let’s embrace our roles as educational pioneers in this frontier. With recent developments of Open Educational Resources (OERs), teachers are warmly invited to bring the world into their classrooms. Educators can instantly collaborate to meet the same goal: provide a powerful learning experience. After all, why not connect with Mrs. Jones, who is already doing this across the globe, and together weave a web of resources designed to catch students’ attention and guide them through the learning process?
OERs exploded in the twenty-first century. Suddenly, a student in Detroit could see a lesson built by a teacher in London. Education became a world restricted only by the imagination. Now, more than ever, high-quality OERs become available every day.
The trick is finding the right resources and getting them in front of your students. Luckily, it’s never been easier.

Here are four awesome resources to get you started.


Free forever, Gooru takes a unique approach on OERs by having users gather and share Gooru collections, which are playlists of resources that can be turned into standalone lessons or used as supplemental material. Collections created by Gooru users consist of Web pages, online activities, and videos, among other resources, all aligned to national standards. Additionally, collections can host interactive questions and assessment elements to check for student comprehension along the way. This way, teachers can create material for students to work through at their own pace. The site does require teachers to sign up in order to create collections, but teachers and students can view any existing collections without accounts. If teachers do create courses and have students log in, they receive analytical data about student progress; they can use this data to support and respond to individual or group needs. Gooru is a great way to organize independent projects, lessons, and supplemental class materials.

Pros: Linking multiple resources; many collections

Con: Limited tools to provide direct instruction


An adaptive online learning platform, Fishtree provides an innovative and comprehensive opportunity in the world of OER implementation. The platform does require a subscription, but it allows teachers to both find relevant OERs and immediately get them in front of students. Teachers can create lessons tailored to their students’ needs. Fishtree stores OERs from more than 20 trusted publishers (including Khan Academy, Youtube Education, and Wikipedia) and aligns these resources to lesson material and content standards. The resources are organized by keyword, grade level, and "Learning DNA" tags to provide the most relevant, appropriate content for each student. Fishtree’s platform is easy to use, and its automatic resource generation dramatically cuts down teacher search time. The platform can be used to create standalone lessons or to find supplemental materials. Additionally, Fishtree offers real-time data about students as they work through the lessons, questions, and resources, and the system tracks the effectiveness of each resource as it is shared with students. As a result, teachers are able to remediate and challenge as needed without waiting for data to become available.

Pros: Automatic generation; customizable; student data

Con: Requires paid subscription


Zaption specializes in engaging video lessons that can be modified by teachers after creating a free account. Zaption pulls videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and Zaption users and allows interactive questions to be embedded throughout videos. With a free account, Zaption provides teachers with the tools to make OER media personalized around their own content, making clear connections to reach students while using the teachers’ individual voices. Teachers can link video clips, create interactive questions and aspects, and build an engaging lesson around OERs, and then share a link or push the content to a group of students. Additionally, the videos can be imported into many Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as BlackBoard, Moodle, and Schoology. Pro accounts feature additional access to analytical information and more account controls. With videos being uploaded all the time, Zaption has new content every day that teachers can use as standalone lessons or supplemental material to reinforce key concepts.

Pros: Many resources; interactive and customizable

Con: Search tools in Gallery could be improved

Learning Registry

Created by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Defense, the Learning Registry features more than 380,000 OERs gathered into one easy-to-use database. This free platform invites publishers, developers, and educators to share a space where content is gathered and distributed. The Learning Registry allows quick searches by topic, subject area, and standards. It includes articles, interactive elements, and more. Once a teacher finds a great resource, he or she can incorporate it into a classroom lesson.

Pros: Easy search; resource variety

Con: Broken links; no delivery system

OERs can act as standalone lessons or supplemental material, depending on the resource. Just remember: the OER should reinforce and promote student learning. These are just a few sources to get you started. Need help finding some more? Have questions? Let us know!

Until then, happy hunting!


Abby Johnson is a Subject Matter Expert at Spider Learning, Inc.

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