When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there will be no limit to the human potential.”
Jacque Fresco

What are OER?

Open-educational resources, or OER for short, are openly licensed text, media, and other resources that can be used for teaching, learning, assessment, and research. First created by UNESCO in 2002, these resources reside in the public domain, so anyone can use them, share, or re-mix them. And the best part: they’re free or very low-cost, which helps make education more accessible.

Why is OER important?

At Knowsome, we believe education to be a universal right, but unfortunately many people still don’t have access to a quality education. There are many factors at play contributing the this gap, but a major player is money: there is currently a $39 billion dollar gap to provide a quality education to all children by 2030. That’s a lot of money! And while open educational resources certainly are not the only thing necessarily to remedy educational inequality, they do widen access to high quality education by making educational resources freely accessible to all.

Lower cost educational resources allow school administrators to spend more money on students, supporting teachers, and improving facilities. Consider the following scenario. Ms. Wallace, an eighth grade literacy teacher working at an underfunded public school, can’t provide books for her students to take home because the school can’t afford a new set of books. Her students share books in class, but reading in class takes time away from discussion and analysis of the text and Ms. Wallace knows her students aren’t really getting the material. One day a coworker tells Ms. Wallace about open-educational resources. Later that night Ms. Wallace spends some time reading about OER online, and decides to try using some of the texts and activities for her class. She finds a book that her students can access from home online so that she can spend more of class time actually teaching. She also find activities and assessments that go with the text, so she can spend less of her time planning for and more time actually facilitating classes. OER helps teachers like Ms. Wallace plan lessons on a budget and spend more time on improving her teaching and less on searching for materials.

Another benefit of OER is that they encourage innovation in pedagogical practice by taking the burden of finding information off of teachers. Many public school teachers are overscheduled into classes with little planning time built into their schedules and their salaries. With open resources available, they can spend less time planning and more time customizing lessons to meet the needs of their students.

Open educational resources aren’t only useful for K-12 teachers and students, adult education programs (like Knowsome!) also benefit from open-educational resources. More and more universities, colleges, and adult education programs use OER to provide high-quality, low cost educational resources to students and teachers. Individuals can also access OER to further their own education. A rising number of open-access courses available through OER have given thousands of adults the opportunity to learn in their spare time, become lifelong learners.

How does Knowsome use OER?

At Knowsome we are big fans of lifelong learning and accessible education in general, so of course we love OER. We use OER to create our courses and provide you with the best possible educational content from areas ranging from art history, gastronomy, geology, to film, and more. Our units pull from different resources available through OER, which allows us to make the best possible courses from a diverse range of topics that can capture anyone’s interests.