Saturday, March 21, 2020

OER in a Time of Corona

My previous post was about the advantages of using the Moodle learning management system and open educational resources, OER, in a digital or distance learning environment. Because so many schools and teachers are suddenly being required to make big changes, it is important to remember to Keep it Simple and Do First Things First. Keeping it simple with regard to a learning management system means by all means use the one you have, or in the immortal sound of Stephen Stills, Rita Coolidge, et al., Love the One Your With .  If you have Schoology, or Canvas, or D2L, or Google Classroom use them. An emergency transition to distance learning is not the time to change to a new LMS. If you're not already using an LMS, or if your district doesn't already have an LMS that can accommodate all grade levels and disciplines then a Moodle site might be the best option.

When it comes to the content to use in a digital learning environment, openly licensed content or OER will always be the best first choice. The exception to that would be if you or your district already has a subscription to a complete course in a digital format that is easily accessible by students remotely. If you have the subscription but haven't been using it, consider using OER content instead. It's also important that districts or departments of teachers and classes reach a consensus on which content to use. This is not a time when every teacher does that with which they personally feel most comfortable. This is a time for teaming and collaboration.

As I said in my previous post, OER will allow teachers, or teams of teachers, the freedom to revise the content to meet the particular needs of their students. The availability of OER material for K-12 has grown dramatically in recent years such that there’s no longer any reason for teachers or schools to pay for access to content. The Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum (MPCC) is a good example of OER content for K-12. The content is available for free to anyone who wants to use it.

One of the big advantages that the MPCC offers is that it is a comprehensive collection of digital course work for each of the four core subject areas – Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies – for grades 3-12. All of the courses are aligned to Minnesota standards but they could easily be adapted to standards in other states or countries. That’s the beauty of OER; it’s adaptable to the particular needs of students. The comprehensiveness combined with the adaptability of the MPCC courses provides teachers the assurance that the content they're using fulfills the state's requirements, but they're able to add or substitute any content in any area they need for their students. The structure of the courses, which includes assessments and teaching, will be valuable to teachers who are trying to provide structure for students who may be experiencing some of the most chaotic times in their lives. 

It might be somewhat comforting to note that most teams only need to choose to use enough content to get them and their students to the end of this academic year. It will be easier to think about longer range choices for next year when we get a summer break. The advantage of OER content now is that it can be adapted to fit whatever is chosen for next year. Content and tools to use for digital distance learning will be evolving quickly in the days and weeks to come - pick another lively tune to keep your spirits up.

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