Frugality and Flexibility Help Spur the OER Market

OER is being discussed in many education circles as an effective solution for schools with limited budgets, but there is more to the movement than funding. In a podcast from Getting Smart, CEO and Partner Tom Vander Ark discusses what he believes schools are looking to get out of OER and what he sees as the key questions to ask when schools choose to buy new educational materials.


  • The shift to digital brought greater availability of two classes of resources: free and open license. Platforms that offer free resources often have licensing restrictions, so teachers have to use the materials as is. With the open license resources, teachers can repurpose the content and adapt to fit their students’ needs.
  • When moving to OER, schools need to use a learning platform that can make the materials accessible to teachers across their school and district. This also allows teachers to see how their colleagues have used the material.
  • Having a platform also helps teachers collect and curate quality OER.
  • Open resources are getting better at providing grade level playlists that don’t require as much modification by teachers.
  • The explosion of cheaper digital tools like Chromebooks has also made it easier to adopt OER because schools don’t have to pay as much for the initial setup.
  • Surveys have shown that for some areas like literature, though, students still prefer print materials. In dynamic fields like science it’s better to have a digital resource that can be frequently updated.
  • If educators do buy instructional materials, they should consider several factors including quality, alignment to standards, and whether or not it includes embedded assessments. Most important, the paid resource should fill an unmet need not available through OER.

Vander Ark concludes by talking about assessments and the need for all learning materials, paid and OER, to be able to share data across a single platform. Teachers need to be able to combine the assessment data to manage student learning progressions.

Listen to “The Role of OER in 21st Century Classrooms,” Getting Smart Podcast (March 23, 2016) 

At the 2016 Content in Context conference the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group will be examining the role of OER in the PreK-12 market.

Open Educational Resources