A new online content resource center, formally launched March 9 by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), will make more than 8,000 classroom materials available to teachers and learners worldwide, at no cost.

In the weeks before its public launch, more than 10,000 people reportedly visited the newly created OER (Open Educational Resources) Commons to find a range of educational resources, from primary-source documents to complete course guides on a variety of topics.

OER Commons is a comprehensive network for open education resources, combining content with extensive social networking. Educators and learners add tags, ratings, reviews, and comments to help others in schools and on campuses quickly find what they are looking for and to encourage others to share their ratings and reviews.

OERs are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for use by everyone, including instructors, students, or self-learners. The site’s mission is to provide a single point of access through which educators, students, and all other types of learners can search for, browse, evaluate, and discuss these resources.

“OER Commons brings the open-content movement into the classroom. It offers new ways for instructors and students to engage with teaching and learning materials and share what they know,” says Lisa Petrides, president of ISKME. “When people share their knowledge on OER Commons, they pass along their best thinking to others around the globe.”

Users can browse OER Commons’ course-related materials for teaching and learning. Components of those materials include syllabi, lectures, lesson plans, lab activities, and homework assignments. In addition, the site also features a libraries-and-collections section, giving users access to resources from digital media collections and digitized primary sources.

The content on the site has been developed by faculty at colleges and universities, including Rice, Harvard, MIT, and the University of California-Berkeley. On the site, users can gather information on topics such as art, mathematics and statistics, and science and technology, targeted to grade levels ranging from primary school to post-secondary studies.

New tools and materials are added to the site daily and soon will be enhanced and adapted for classroom use with comments, ratings, and reviews by instructors and learners, organizers say.

The site does not host the teaching and learning resources itself, but rather points users to resources hosted by other organizations.

Petrides said she expects the number of resources to double every few months as more educators hear about the site.

“ISKME is keenly interested in how this impacts teaching and learning, and what happens when you have collaboration around content,” Petrides said.

“OER Commons is a great place to locate teaching and learning resources and make them your own,” says Richard Baraniuk of Connexions at Rice University, which is a content partner with OER Commons. “By providing an easy link to resources such as those found in Connexions, OER Commons offers unique and innovative opportunities for educators to learn and helps open the door to collaboration.”

Created by and for educators, students, and self-learners, the site’s teaching and learning materials can be browsed, searched, and most importantly, enhanced using web 2.0 social networking features, such as tagging, ratings, comments, and reviews.