3. Open Educational Resources and the Case for Prioritizing, Using, Finding, and Sharing OER Content | Readings

Anita R. Walz

In this section, we introduce and describe characteristics of open educational resources (OER), describe ways of using OER, methods of locating existing OER, and review pros and cons of OER for PreK-12 teachers.

Learning Objectives

Learners should be able to:

  • Define and differentiate open educational resources (OER) versus free resources.
  • Describe the general level of awareness regarding OER in PreK-12 contexts.
  • Articulate the work required to adopt OER.
  • Try on a posture of “planning to share”.
  • Reflect on one’s own current practice of sharing (or not sharing) under open licenses.


  • Adapt or create a 10-15 minute interactive presentation and transcript you can use to introduce teachers to open educational resources. If you use materials that you did not create yourself, make sure that you have some sort of permission to use them, and be sure to attribute them (if required).
  • Choose an open license for your presentation and write one paragraph regarding why you selected that particular license.

Introducing Open Educational Resources

Imagine finding a resource that fits your course. It fits how you or your collaborator tend to teach. It has nearly all of the features you need and want. It aligns with course objectives or learning standards. It would help students to understand key concepts and relationships and extend their knowledge to other situations or tasks. The reading level is appropriate for your students. You believe it will help students to collaborate with each other when critically evaluating and assessing information, and that students will perceive the subject material as relevant. It is already free online too. It is as close to perfect as it gets! You want to incorporate it into your course materials and share your version with your colleagues.

Beyond these characteristics, what sort of upfront permission do you find most useful? Your answer might be something like this: “I want to be able to copy and share it” or “I want to be able to edit it to fit my students’ needs and make copies for my students” or “I want my students to adapt or build on this as part of their learning.”

Using open educational resources may help educators get there.

Definition: Open educational resources (OER) are freely and publicly available teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license [such as a Creative Commons license] that permits their free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with others. They include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. (Adapted from the Hewlett Foundation[1])

The three main things to know about OER are:

  1. OER are freely and publicly available,
  2. OER have some form of upfront permission that allows free use, adaptation, and sharing, and
  3. OER can be exhibited in a variety of formats.

Something Greater Than “Free” is Here: OER versus Free Resources

Educators especially value the ability to adapt and share. Freely-shared educational materials, especially ones that are thoughtfully designed, reviewed, described, and released in a way that maximizes the potential for others to find, evaluate, and use them can greatly expand a teacher’s toolbox. However, low awareness exists among teachers regarding how OER are different from other “free” resources.

Free online works or items for which we own a print copy are still subject to copyright. Whereas, an open license on an OER, often a Creative Commons license, allows the ability to reuse, modify, and share content with others.

Teachers don’t often know or understand this. In a 2020 study (n=2,137) of K-12 academics, 31% percent of respondents indicated that they they are “Very Aware” or “Aware” of OER, but when these numbers are controlled for awareness of Creative Commons, the rates drop to 24% (Seaman and Seaman, 2020).[2]

Introduction to OER and OER creation engagement during in-service and pre-service teacher trainings have been found effective practices for teachers to realize the large number of resources available for diverse educational settings, and overcoming a lack of awareness and understanding that keeps teachers from using OER.[3]


A few examples of open educational resources relevant to the PreK-12 contexts include:

The Work of OER

As mentioned in the section How to Use This Toolkit, there are several things OER adopters, adapters, curators, and authors will need to do to leverage OER for instruction. These include locating and reviewing OER. If you are adapting or authoring, it is necessary to apply copyright, open licensing, and fair use knowledge. It is also necessary to track the licenses and required attributions of added content. All instructors will need to review and some may need to obtain assistance ensuring the accessibility of the selected course materials for students with disabilities. Finally, as teachers are experts with regard to student needs, the resources will need to be adjusted to fit desired pedagogical practices and technical environments. So, first: Finding OER. (Note that a list of links for items included in “The Work of OER” are available at the end of this section.)

Finding Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources are created by individuals and entities and are shared within social networks via the web. Some networks are geographical with a digital presence, such as the Washington OER Hub, the #GoOpenVA website, CUNY Teacher Education OER Hub, or OERColorado. Others are contributed and curated into collections such as the K-12 Teaching and Learning hub in OERCommons or MERLOT. There are sites from particular non-profit, association, or university-affiliated entities such as PhET Interactive Simulations, Khan Academy, CommonLit, ShareMyLesson, OpenUpResources or those affiliated with government and/or foundation-funded projects such as BetterLesson (CC BY or CC BY-NC) or NASA (Public Domain). CanvasCommons hosts a large number of OER directly importable into Canvas. Among sources popular in the North American context but less relevant to PreK-12 environments are the Open Textbook Library and the Pressbooks Directory. There are many others.

Several university libraries have developed tools to search for OER. These include OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search) from SUNY Genesseo’s Milne Library and the Mason OER Metafinder (MOM) from Mason Publishing at the University Libraries at George Mason University. Both search across multiple OER sources. Only MOM offers real-time searching. Finally, Google Advanced Search can be helpful for locating openly licensed content. To use, scroll down to “usage rights” and set to “free to use, share, or modify.”

Reviewing Open Educational Resources

Multiple rubrics exist for evaluation of course materials at PreK-12 levels. Achieve offers its EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products) designed to identify materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In addition, Achieve offers downloadable PDF rubrics for evaluation of open educational resources.

Projects may have their own rubrics for specific criteria they would like to have met. This could be applied during the search process or after an adaptation or authoring process. One example is the Curator Checklist for CENI projects, designed by the authors.

In the U.S. public school arena, overall curriculum policy and selection decisions are made by states and/or school districts ideally in consultation with teachers and administrators. School districts have various practices for evaluating curriculum. Nearly 40% of school districts did not use any external review sites. Of those that chose an OER-based curriculum, 17% consulted EdReports which offers evaluation of full-course OER, and 14% consulted AchieveTheCore, EdSurge, LearningList (fee-based subscription) or NCEE (Seaman and Seaman, 2020). School districts which have decided to #GoOpen were not listed as an information source for curriculum reviews, but may be a helpful source of information in sharing their strategies.[10]

Applying Copyright, Open Licensing, and Fair Use Knowledge

A Creative Commons license can be applied to any of your original work. Use the Creative Commons License Chooser to select a license. CC license icons can also be obtained here.[11]

We will cover this topic in more depth in the next two modules.

Tracking the Licenses and Required Attributions of Added Content

Tracking the license, source, title, and author information for all added content will save a tremendous amount of time later. Think of this as a citation manager. Here is a spreadsheet for collecting this type of data [XLS][12], or copy the headers from the table to make your own. Note that all visual elements will require alternative text, so that is also included in the table.


We will cover this topic in in the section titled “Make Resources Accessible for Students with Disabilities.”

Adjusting Resources to Pedagogical Practices and Technology or Vice Versa

This is one place where teacher expertise is especially important. While teachers can certainly expand their knowledge regarding the affordances of open educational resources (video—start at 23:34)[13] and options related to learners are creators with agency—also known as open pedagogy, teachers are experts regarding pedagogy in their contexts.

Supporting Teachers

The purpose of this toolkit is to support the reader as they support PreK-12 teachers or those in direct collaboration with PreK-12 teachers. The work of OER is not without effort. It is possible but requires knowledge and training, without which, teachers are less likely to engage (Misra, 2014). Misra cites a number of projects that prioritize teacher training regarding open educational resources. You are welcome to use, build on, and create your own version of the presentation “OER: A Quick Overview for Teachers” (PPT | slides)[14] and the accompanying two-page Teacher OER introduction handout (docx | gDocs)[15]. There are various other self-study resources to share and/or build on in the OER Starter Kit.

Resources and Additional Reading

Bishop, M.J. (2019). Improving Access, Affordability, and Achievement with OER [Video]. Virginia Tech Open Education Symposium 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/10919/88479

Creative Commons. (2020) Creative Commons for Educators and Librarians. Chicago: ALA Editions. CC-BY 4.0. https://certificates.creativecommons.org/about/certificate-resources-cc-by

Cummings-Clay, D. (2020). Impact of OER in Teacher Education. Open Praxis12(4), 541–554. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.12.4.1112

Kelly, H. (2014). A path analysis of educator perceptions of open educational resources using the technology acceptance model. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v15i2.1715

Kwak, S. (2017). How Korean language arts teachers adopt and adapt open educational resources: A study of teachers’ and students’ perspectives. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 18(4), 193-211. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.2977

Misra, P. K. (2014). Online training of teachers using OER: Promises and potential strategies. Open Praxis6(4), 375–385. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.6.4.155

Morin, Heather M (2019). Professional Development Series for Teachers on Locating, Accessing, Editing, Storing, and Aligning Open Educational Resources to the Middle Grades Science Curriculum. https://scholarworks.moreheadstate.edu/msu_theses_dissertations/343

(n.d.). Open Pedagogy Notebook: Sharing Practices, Building Community https://openpedagogy.org

Thomson, Liz, Lantz, Jessica, and Sullivan, Brian. (2019) Pre-service Teacher Awareness of Open Educational Resources. International Journal of Open Educational Resources. https://www.ijoer.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/IJOER-Spring-2019-Pre-service-Teacher-Awareness-final.pdf

Tur, G., Urbina, S., & Moreno, J. (2016). From OER to open ed perceptions of student teachers. BRAIN: Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience, 7(2), 34-40. Retrieved from http://www.edusoft.ro/brain/index.php/brain/article/view/594.

Van Allen, J., & Katz, S. (2019). Developing open practices in teacher education: An example of integrating OER and developing renewable assignments. Open Praxis11(3), 311–319. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.11.3.972

Website references for the Work of OER

Finding OER

Washington OER Hub https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/learning-standards-instructional-materials/open-educational-resources
CUNY Teacher Education OER Hub https://cunytedoer.commons.gc.cuny.edu
OERColorado https://cunytedoer.commons.gc.cuny.edu
K-12 Teaching and Learning hub in OERCommons https://www.oercommons.org/hubs/k12
MERLOT https://www.merlot.org/merlot/searchMaterials.htm
Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org
PhET Interactive Simulations https://phet.colorado.edu
CommonLit https://www.commonlit.org
ShareMyLesson https://sharemylesson.com
OpenUpResources https://access.openupresources.org
BetterLesson https://teaching.betterlesson.com/browse/master_teachers/projects
NASA https://www.nasa.gov/stem/foreducators/k-12/index.html
CanvasCommons https://lor.instructure.com/search
Open Textbook Library https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks
Pressbooks Directory https://pressbooks.directory
OASIS https://oasis.geneseo.edu/index.php
Mason OER Metafinder https://mom.gmu.edu
Google Advanced Search https://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en

Reviewing OER

EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products) https://www.achieve.org/our-initiatives/equip/equip

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) http://www.nextgenscience.org

Achieve Rubrics for evaluation of OER https://www.achieve.org/publications/achieve-oer-rubrics

Curator Checklist http://hdl.handle.net/10919/105384

EdReports https://www.edreports.org

AchieveTheCore https://achievethecore.org

EdSurge https://www.edsurge.com

LearningList https://www.learninglist.com

NCEE https://ncee.org

#GoOpen https://web.archive.org/web/20230331131437/https://tech.ed.gov/open/districts/launch/welcome/https://tech.ed.gov/open/districts/launch/welcome

Applying Copyright, Open Licensing, and Fair Use Knowledge

Creative Commons License Chooser https://creativecommons.org/choose

CC license icons https://creativecommons.org/about/downloads

License-tracking and attributions

Tracking spreadsheet [XLS] http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264

Leveraging affordances of OER

Affordances of OER (video) [start at 23:34] http://hdl.handle.net/10919/88479

open pedagogy https://openpedagogy.org

Supporting Teachers

OER: A Quick Overview for Teachers (PPT: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264 | g-slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/13Ohu99ZMWbTMoBtdmgBuD9dbm4cjQ6Lz59GOykG9n88/edit?usp=sharing) two-page handout

Two page teacher OER introduction handout (docx: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264 | g-doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zr0te7n8ltoAdLV9hA3Hm2L5CCa8iYb5/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=105092997159653427889&rtpof=true&sd=true)

OER Starter Kit https://iastate.pressbooks.pub/oerstarterkit

  1. Hewlett Foundation [n.d.] Open educational resources defined. http://www.hewlett.org/programs/education/open-educational-resources
  2. Seaman, Julia and Seaman, Jeff. (2020) What We Teach: K-12 Educators' Perceptions of Curriculum Quality. Bay View Analytics
  3. Thomson, Liz, Lantz, Jessica, and Sullivan, Brian (2019) Pre-service Teacher Awareness of Open Educational Resources. International Journal of Open Educational Resources.
  4. ISMKE. (2019). School librarians as OER creators: A framework to guide practice. https://iskme.libguides.com/SL-OER-Curation
  5. Berardi, A. A., & Morton, B. M. (2019). Trauma-informed school practices: Building expertise to transform schools. Pennington ePress. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/pennington_epress/4
  6. The Virginia Inquiry Collaborative. (2021). goopenva.org. https://goopenva.org/curated-collections/51
  7. CUNY. (2023). The CUNY teacher education OER hub. CUNY Academic Commons. https://cunytedoer.commons.gc.cuny.edu
  8. SEDTA. (2019). OER. Guide to Quality Instructional Materials. https://www.oercommons.org/hubs/k12
  9. OERCommons. (2023). K-12 teaching and learning. https://oercommons.org/hubs/k12
  10. Note that the U.S. Department of Education opted to sunset the national coordinating role of the #GoOpen initiative in January 2022 https://www.iskme.org/index.php?q=a-collaborative-future-for-the-go-open-network)
  11. Creative Commons Icon Downloads. https://creativecommons.org/about/downloads
  12. Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12: A Collaboration Toolkit for Higher Education. "Ch3 Staying Organized." http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264
  13. Open Education Symposium 2019 Keynote: Improving Access, Affordability, and Achievement with OER. http://hdl.handle.net/10919/88479
  14. Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12: A Collaboration Toolkit for Higher Education. "OER: A Quick Overview for Teachers." http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264
  15. Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12: A Collaboration Toolkit for Higher Education. "Ch3 Teacher OER Introduction Handout." http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264


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Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12 Copyright © 2023 by Anita R. Walz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.