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Groups expand access to open educational resources


Efforts to help connect students and teachers to organized open education resources are increasing.

As educators push for more and better access to open educational resources (OER), or content that is available free of charge online, new efforts are helping classroom teachers find and use these resources as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Open Education Week, taking place March 5-10 online and locally around the world, aims to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning.

Participants will find speeches, webinars, and descriptions about projects such as university efforts to expand OER offerings.

While free and open resources can be found all over the internet, often it can be hard to assess the quality of a resource or whether it aligns to certain standards.

Announced in November, the OER Evaluation Tool, from the nonprofit education reform group Achieve Inc. and the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), lets users rate the quality of OER materials for teaching and learning, aligns the resources to the Common Core State Standards, and helps users determine how each individual resource aligns with specific state standards.

The tool is available in the OER Commons, a searchable library and database of open educational resources that ISKME launched in February 2007. Users refer to rubrics to help them evaluate the quality of instructional resources they might want to use.

The tool boosts the value of open educational resources because of its alignment with the Common Core standards, said Lisa Petrides, president of ISKME. “Now, educators can use curated lesson plans, courses, and learning modules with readily available information about how these materials meet the highest standards for learning,” she added.

Groups offering resources not found within OER Commons will be able to offer the tool to their users as well.

Organizing and finding the right OER can take time—time that many busy educators don’t have. But Gooru, a free search engine for learning, has organized OER into easy-to-locate categories and collections to help teachers and students make the most of what’s offered online.

Users can search for resources, collections, or quizzes; study individual resources or entire collections; practice with an adaptive assessment system; interact with peers or teachers; and save and customize their favorite learning materials.

Gooru is accessible anywhere users have a computer and internet capability. The site organizes open educational resources and “curates, auto-tags, and contextualizes collections of web resources” to give students and teachers personalized learning experiences.

More than 5,000 invited students and teachers currently use the resource, and all schools, students, and teachers will have access to it beginning in June.

The site organizes OER into easy-to-find categories, and has more than 50,000 multimedia education resources. Educators have created more than 2,600 collections and aligned them to standards, and Gooru developers have built a 30,000-item question bank for an adaptive skills system.

It initially focused on science, technology, engineering, and math topics in grades 5-12, but developers and educators are working to expand the site’s offerings to all subjects.

The tool’s mission is “to honor the human right to education,” said Prasad Ram, Gooru’s founder and CEO. Ram was working at Google when he was inspired to find a way to help students find age- and topic-appropriate resources online.

Gooru does a terrific job of “offering teachers options for content development,” said Greg Green, principal of Michigan’s Clintondale High School. Green recently appeared on CNN because his school is experimenting with a school-wide “flipped” classroom model.

“There are so many outside resources available to teachers, but do they really have time to organize them and have them at their disposal?” Green said. “It helps organize the teacher in the classroom immediately, because they have all of their resources.”

Teachers are able to collaborate and share their favorite resources and best class plans with other teachers. Gooru also helps them easily personalize their lessons, so that while they teach the required topics, they can use resources found on Gooru to elaborate on certain aspects or highlight other portions of a lesson.

“The concept that we’re using is that the best resources are in front of our kids at all times,” Green said. “This is what teachers are begging for.”

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Laura Ascione

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