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7 Things to Consider When Using OER in the Classroom

By: Andrea Winters

Traditionally, curriculum has been organized in a linear path that promotes a one size fits all approach to success. Yet, it is increasingly hard to ignore that there is no standardized approach that will meet the needs of all learners. Open educational resources (OER) are developed and licensed in such a way that educators can share, reuse, and adapt them to more equitably meet the needs of their students. 

Establishing a high-quality foundation to build upon is critical to creating more personal and authentic learning experiences. Based on the context, the resources, and the desired learning goals, teachers can leverage OER solutions to meet the needs of the learners in a variety of ways:

  • Replicate—Use externally designed curriculum and resource in their existing sequence and format as designed
  • Adapt—Use externally designed curriculum the includes both print and online resources and modify the existing sequences and format based on the learning goals
  • Integrate—Curate resources print and online resources from a variety of sources to meet the needs of the learners and learning goals
  • Innovate—Create new and better learning experiences based on the context, learning goals, and needs of the learners.

Today there is an abundance of Open Educational Resources. As such, the Texas Learning Exchange has curated an OER library to help educators find and use high quality and free resources to support meaningful learning anywhere, anytime. While this library provides a great place to start and the search features allow educators to find resources aligned to their content and context, here are 5 tips for using OER and 2 more if it’s a website. 

Here are 5 strategies to help you choose OER for your classroom, plus 2 more if the OER is a website. 

  1. Determine what matters most and prioritize desired outcomes: Consider what you want students to learn. i.e content knowledge, skills, habits.
    Evaluate the OER to ensure it aligns with the content you are teaching. Most OERs are written for a National audience. You need to ensure the OER is TEKS-aligned and supports the content. If you are using the TxLx OER library, the search features are TEKS-aligned to support this need.
  2. Make sure the OER is relevant and appropriate for desired learning targets. 
    The New Teacher Project (TNTP) found that many students are not getting opportunities to access high quality, grade-appropriate instruction and assignments. It is important to ensure standards alignment and rigor so that you still meet your learning targets and objectives. 
  3. Use strategies to meet the needs of your instructional model.
    Implementation of the OER will vary based on your teaching model. If the OER provides instructions for a hands-on lesson or manipulative, it would need to be designed to fit an online classroom. Ensure that the resources align with your purpose which either increase access with multiple ways to engage with the content , introduce new concepts, extend thinking, or allow students to express their knowledge of the concept. Be clear about how the OER should support the students’ various needs within the learning cycle.
  4. Consider accessibility.
    When you think about accessibility don’t just think of it from a lesson design perspective, but also from a technological stance as well. All students need to be able to access the resource. Some students may be using Windows laptops while others are accessing resources via iOS devices, chromebooks, or other mobile devices or tables. Regardless of the device, the resource should be device agnostic. Also, make sure the resource supports your students’ learning styles. Likewise, will your students need special materials, equipment, or permission to use the resource?
  5. Collect data and evaluate the OER:
    This may be the most important and difficult consideration. Make sure you have a way to collect student engagement data, and not only achievement data. There’s a strategic advantage to having data that show increased engagement or excitement about the lesson content. After collecting the data, analyze it! Did the OER achieve what you wanted and is it worth keeping? Even though it may be an Open Educational (free) Resource, if it does not enhance the lesson or increase achievement then it’s time to move on! On the other side of the coin. If it does work, how are you going to share it with others?

    If the OER you are using is a website here are 2 more things to take in consideration.
  6. Make sure you understand your district's acceptable use policy.
    Some districts have strict guidelines and web filters when it comes to allowing students to access websites. Your district probably has acceptable use guidelines that explain what students can and can’t access. Additionally, ask a student to test access the website prior to the lesson to make sure it is not blocked by the district’s web filters.
  7. Get to know the Children's Online Privacy Protect Act. 
    Websites that collect identifiable student information such as name, school, or location need parent permission for students under the age of 13. If the website requires a login to access the resource, then you need to take a deeper look at what information they are collecting.

If we start with the end in mind, OER can be used to personalize learning for students to create more equitable learning experiences for all students. The best teachers do not use a single approach or follow one curriculum; they create the context and experiences for diverse students to learn and grow. High quality resources that teachers can replicate and adapt provide the foundation for educators to build upon. 

The Texas Learning Exchange (TxLx) facilitates the sharing of resources, solutions and best-practice models with districts to ensure students succeed despite these unprecedented times ahead. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions (email: We look forward to staying connected.


Andrea Winters is a Senior Partner Success Lead at Learner-Centered Collaborative. Find her on Twitter at @amw_97.

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