Helping Educators Determine the Quality of Open Education Resources

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Open Educational Resources (OER), or digital materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research and more, are made available for free to be used with few or no restrictions. They include full lesson plans, learning modules, complete courses, and many other tools, materials, and techniques used to support access to knowledge — and there are literally millions of open education resources currently available on the Internet. But what differentiates them from one another? How can educators determine whether the resources are high quality? As educators look for ways to help students learn and improve achievement, they need to know which tools may fit their specific needs.

In November, Achieve and the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) launched a new tool for users to rate the quality of open education resources. The tool allows educators to rate the quality of these teaching and student learning resources, align these resources to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and evaluate the extent to which the individual resources align to specific standards. The tool allows users to apply seven rubrics — available online at www.achieve.org/oer-rubrics — to evaluate different dimensions of quality.

One of the online repositories for open education resources is OER Commons (www.oercommons.org ). Publicly launched in February 2007 by ISKME, OER Commons provides a library and knowledge base for the search and discovery of open educational resources. Created with and for educators, students, and self-learners, OER Commons provides useful classroom materials that help students engage with rigorous subject matter. As a network for teaching and learning materials, OER Commons offers engagement with resources in the form of social bookmarking, tagging, rating, reviewing, and online professional development to use the OERs.

OER Commons houses more than 32,000 free and openly-licensed resources and is now hosting this new tool and its resulting evaluation data. ISKME is also making the Achieve OER Evaluation tool available and providing technical support to other organizations who would like to use the rubrics for resources found outside of OER Commons, ensuring a rich dataset of CCSS aligned content across the Web.

Lisa Petrides, president of ISKME, noted, "This tool dramatically increases the value of open resources by enabling educators to align content to the Common Core Standards directly within OER Commons. 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."

The release of this tool comes after the U.S. Department of Education's announcement of the Learning Registry on Monday, November 7 at the State Education Technology Directors Association Leadership Summit at the National Harbor in Maryland. The Learning Registry is a joint effort between the federal government, nonprofit agencies, and private companies to create a permanent network of digital learning resource providers, and will provide a means of sharing rating data across different websites.

Educators and school administrators from across the country at the state and district level have been trained to use the Achieve OER Evaluation Tool, and have provided ratings on hundreds of resources. This information will be shared through the Learning Registry with other interested repositories.