OER: Providing Options to All Kids

Elementary aged students in a computer class

By Erika Aparaka

In the education policy world, we talk a lot about meeting the needs of individual students, no matter where they live or go to school. To do this, we recognize schools need options they can provide to all students - options that best meet those students' needs - to ensure every child receives an equitable education. Giving kids options isn't always about attending a different school, or classroom. In fact, providing options can happen within a learning space, too--no matter where the location. OER provides avenues to make the best learning occur wherever a student happens to be.

OER provides a means for all schools to offer students access to freely available, high-quality materials catered to their needs. This is especially critical when students are limited by geography, or personal circumstances, to stay where they are. When students can experience personalized learning, their choices are greatly expanded and OER does that in the following ways:

OER is Not Limited by Geography or Income
High quality learning materials at no cost benefits students who otherwise may have limited access to new, price textbooks. Income is not a barrier to free, intellectually robust, openly licensed materials. Permissions around the use of OER mean that they're customizable and can be catered to the individual learning styles of each student. As long as teachers have access to the internet, they can plan and teach OER lessons that address the unique needs of their students. OER policies are being developed around the world, making open resources accessible on nearly every continent.

OER Gives Teachers Freedom
Teachers can reuse, remix, and share materials they create and find freely. They have a choice to select content that supports the needs of their students and aren't constrained by static learning materials. Teachers can infuse their creativity into their selected learning materials and develop a learning and teaching experience that is meaningful.  OER gives teachers the flexibility to adjust their lessons to the needs of their students and seek out the most up to date and relevant resources.

OER Can Engage Parents
When I attended the Delaware #GoOpen Summit in March, the teachers there emphasized parent engagement and their hopes that OER could support their efforts. With the appropriate platform, OER can provide avenues for parents to be more involved in their student's learning and feel empowered to support their student's education. OER can be distributed in print, online, or even mobile devices, so parents do not need complicated or expensive technology to access the materials their children need to complete school assignments at home. 

OER Can Empower Students
When students have access to high quality learning materials, they can acquire knowledge and skills that will serve them throughout their educational experience. We often think in terms of teachers revising learning materials, but students can create content as well. OER opens possibilities for student and teacher collaboration for the creation and dissemination of learning materials that make students feel more invested and excited by their learning. When OER options are presented to states, districts and schools, they open up more opportunities for the teachers in the classroom and for how a student's learning can go beyond physical boundaries. 

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