Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that exist in the public domain or have been released under an open license. This means that those resources can be used free of charge, distributed widely and are often more up-to-date than textbooks. In most cases, OER can be updated and modified without asking the content creator for permission. OER may be used by any teacher, parent or any student as entire courses, full units, lesson-plan components or supplemental material. Depending on the course, teachers also might be able to download and print a textbook, display video and audio lectures, build and share lesson plans, access free books in the public domain, experience interactive simulations and/or gather and assemble resources like photos, sounds and diagrams. Many open resources may be downloaded in pdf formats and printed on a personal printer or in the case of OER textbooks, sent to a Print on Demand Service such as Lulu or CreateSpace.
In April 2012, the Washington State Legislature passed bill HB2337, directing the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a collection of openly licensed course ware aligned to the common-core standards and an associated awareness campaign to inform school districts about these resources. By developing this library of openly licensed course ware and making it available to school districts free of charge, the state and school districts will be able to provide students with curricula and texts while substantially reducing the expenses that districts would otherwise incur in purchasing these materials.
In addition, this library of openly licensed courses provide districts and students with a broader selection of materials, and materials that are more up-to-date.”
OSPI’s OER Project will develop a review process that acts as a model for districts considering the adoption of full-course OER. The results of the review will be a resource for schools and classrooms.
If we cooperate and share, we can build a free online educational program where everyone wins. Teachers have more choices when building their own courses. Teachers and students can work together to solve problems. Students and school districts can reduce the cost by reducing the number of expensive and heavy text books. But most important, students learn that access to digital knowledge is a human right and a social justice issue. We are building a freer and more knowledgeable world.
From the OER website, anyone can download complete textbooks and full course materials. There is even a search box where you can enter search terms for presentations, ebooks, videos, lesson plans, text books and full courses. Many other States also have similar free online course resources.
Here is a summary of other free online educational programs and resources taken from the Washington State OSPI website.
|OPSI Suggested Sites and Free Open Source Online Learning Resources
|California-CLRN: California Learning Resource Network provides educators with a "one-stop" resource for critical information needed for the selection of electronic learning resources aligned to the State Board of Education academic content standards. In addition to publisher material and online courses, free web info links (WIL) are also reviewed.
|Connexions: Connexions describes itself as a “digital educational ecosystem.” It houses more than 17,000 learning products, and 1,000 + collections of textbooks, journal articles and more. Contributors make a learning module from scratch or re-work an existing Connexions product into a new course.
|Curriki: Curriki is a nonprofit K-12 global community for teachers, students, and parents to create, share, and find free learning resources. They currently have 7.7 million users and over 45,000 free resources. Collection may be searched by different criteria including subject, grade level and common core alignment.
|Georgia Virtual Learning: Georgia Virtual Learning is the headquarters for online education from the Georgia Department of Education. The content available on the Shared Resources Website is available for anyone to view.
|Hippocampus: Free educational resources are provided for middle school, high school and college students and teachers, including video presentations, worked examples interactive simulations, and test prep.
|Kansas OER: This webpage prepared by the Kansas Department of Education contains open access resources and digital textbooks that are available within the public domain. They are not copyrighted and may be customized, modified, or combined with other materials.
|Maine OER: The Maine Department of Education awarded grants for the identification of on-line educational resources and professional development to assist teachers to develop the skills and knowledge to more fully utilize Maine’s rich technological resources to enhance teaching and learning. Check out the specific area landing pages for ELA, social studies, and science.
|OER Commons: The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) created OER Commons to provide support for and build a knowledge base around the use and reuse of open educational resources (OER). As a network for teaching and learning materials, the web site offers engagement with resources in the form of social bookmarking, tagging, rating, and reviewing.
|Teachers' Domain: Teachers' Domain is a free digital media service for educational use from public broadcasting and its partners. Here are thousands of media resources, support materials, and tools for classroom lessons, individualized learning programs, and teacher professional learning communities. Non-commercial, educational use only content on the site is made available to users under four levels of permitted uses: online view only, download, download and share, download, share and remix. See specific resource for licensing rules.
|OPSI Suggested Sites for Full Online Curriculum Resources
|FlexMath: FlexMath is a web-based interactive Algebra I curriculum that provides daily lessons and real-time feedback to help raise student achievement.
|Open Course Library: This library of higher education courses is hosted by the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.
|Open High School of Utah: Course materials produced by the Open High School of Utah are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Open educational resources produced by other individuals or organizations that are embedded in Open High School of Utah course materials may be licensed under a different open license.
Additional Open Source Learning Tools which are not yet listed on the Washington State OSPI website
There is an explosion of free open source online educational programs being developed by teachers all over the world. Below are just a few of the more well established examples.
#1: Digital Public Library https://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses
A group of top American libraries and academic institutions launched a new centralized research resource, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), making millions of resources (books, images, audiovisual resources, etc.) available in digital format.
#2: Edubuntu https://www.edubuntu.org/
Started in 2005, the community-driven Edubuntu project aims to put free and open source software into the hands of children. In doing so, Edubuntu provides children with a flexible and powerful technological environment for learning and experimenting. The Edubuntu project aims to provide the best of everything in Ubuntu—properly tailored for use in schools and as easy to use as possible. Ubuntu is a free operating system that can be installed on any computer and works especially well on inexpensive Google Chromebook computers.
#3: Ubermix https://ubermix.org/
This is another Ubuntu distribution, based on the free Linux Ubuntu operating system which uses a slightly different mix of free open source educational tools. It uses an icon based user interface similar to Apple computers.
#4: Wikibooks https://www.wikibooks.org/
This group is devoted to posting online textbooks. This is important because while some children can learn from videos, others learn better from an online text book or book which can be printed out.
#5: CK12 https://www.ck12.org/student/
This group has all kinds of books, courses and educational programs appropriate for high school students. CK-12 is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to high quality educational materials for K-12 students all over the world. They offer free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the STEM subjects. By providing these free resources, CK-12 is working toward educational equity for all.
CK-12 makes it easy for teachers to assemble their own textbooks.You can start from scratch or build from anything the FlexBooks library. Below is a sample text book on High School Earth Science:
The book is available online and also as a PDF and has been approved by the State of California and the US Department of Education. The program also includes teacher’s editions and resource guides for parents and teachers. They use a multi-modal approach – meaning that this program is suited for a broader group of students than programs which merely use online videos.
#6: Coursera https://www.coursera.org/
This program offers 370 courses and has 3.5 million students. A problem with this website is their claim that online learning is “at least as effective as face to face learning.” This is simply not true. While online learning is useful for some students in some situations it is not the best choice for most students in most situations. Nevertheless, this website does offer courses on a much broader range of topics than Kahn Academy. For example, they have 21 courses on music. Also, their courses tend to be a higher quality as they are often taught by experienced teachers who are experts in their field. Several university professors have contributed courses to this project.
#7: Udacity https://www.udacity.com/
These are pretty advanced college level courses with economical college credit through San Jose State University.
#8: Open Course Ware Consortium... This is MIT’s open source courses program. https://www.ocwconsortium.org/en/courses/catalog
There are a lot of courses here. But most appear to be college level courses.
#9: Academic Earth https://www.academicearth.org/
Academic Earth aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to earn a world-class education by offering free online classes and online learning tools. Whether you’re looking to advance your career or take classes that interest you, Academic Earth can connect you to the world’s top universities and scholars. This group has a well-organized menu of free courses and videos from all kinds of places on all kinds of topics.
#10: Open Learning Initiative https://oli.cmu.edu/
The Open Learning Initiative offers online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. Our aim is to combine open, high-quality courses, continuous feedback, and research to improve learning and transform higher education. Basic college level courses in several topics including practice exercises and assessments that provided targeted feedback to students and teachers.
#11 TU Delft Open Course Ware TU Delft
TU Delft offers courses at both the bachelor and master level, arranged by degree program. You will have access to lecture notes, exams, and assignments in a broad range of topics and subjects. It is easy to navigate, free, and requires no sign-in! For a list of 150 free textbooks, click here.
#12 Wake County Public Schools
They have a series of online video lessons called the "Success Series," which provides a review of most of the core subjects and foreign language.
There are obviously more online resources coming online every day. In my opinion, these will never replace a real teacher building a relationship with a real group of students. However, they can offer specific learners specific resources and also supplement normal classroom learning. But it essential that online students and their parents have access to a highly experienced teacher to help them design an appropriate educational program and to monitor this program to make sure the student is able to achieve success.
All of these free State and National online educational programs are better than K12 INC!
The bottom line is that with all of these free online educational programs available, we really do not need K12 INC. We can therefore avoid all of the drawbacks, marketing and lies associated with a private for profit business. Instead of sending our precious tax payer dollars to a private for-profit corporation like K12 INC, there are many free public educational online programs we can offer our students. We can then use the millions of dollars we are spending every year on K12 INC to hire more experienced teachers - and even have local teachers whose only job would be to assist parents and students who want to pursue an online education. Parents and online students would benefit because they would have a local teacher who they could meet with whenever they needed. Our locally elected school boards would be assured that the teacher would not be over-burdened with more than 40 students and we could make sure these students have a teacher with 10 years of experience rather than just one year of experience. These online teachers would be accountable to our publicly elected school board directors – who are in turn accountable to the public. Not one penny would go to Wall Street. If we had more real teachers and less over-crowded schools, we would have fewer unhappy parents and students and less interest in online education.
We wrote this chapter because we want parents to be fully aware of the many serious drawbacks of K12 INC. We want to make it clear that we are not opposed to online educational programs. In fact, we have spent years teaching online courses and building free educational online websites. We are currently building an online educational program for college students and small business owners called collegeintheclouds.org. So we are not opposed to innovation. We are only opposed to online educational programs that harm students, mislead parents, exploit teachers and rip off tax payers. We think that online education can work well for some children in some circumstances. It is essential that the student have a parent who is fully available for an online program to work. Our concern is that most parents are not fully available and/or may lack the academic training to actually help their children. This is a problem because the student is unlikely to receive the help they need from poorly trained, inexperienced and over-burdened K12 INC teachers. The only way to truly help struggling children is with local teachers who know the students and can build a relationship with them. This is not possible when the teacher is living far from the student and is responsible for 300 students. Again, while some children may succeed in a Home School environment using the K12 online educational tools, the vast majority of students who are subjected to this program fail terribly. You should consider these facts carefully before enrolling your child in a K12 INC program. There is nearly always a better option available for your child.
What is Next?
Speaking of teachers, in the next chapter, we will explain the benefits of using a real teacher instead of a fake “Teach for America” teacher.