With the massive time it takes to teach any topic, let alone coding, the demand for classroom resources is quite high. Paired with limited budgets, teachers are often on the lookout for affordable options they can utilize to aid in the learning process. However, finding these resources is quite difficult.
This is where we come to OER Commons. OER Commons is a public teaching resources library that offers a massive selection of resources to teachers, students, and schools. However, how good are their services? And are there other services like Zenva Schools that can offer more for teachers struggling in the classroom?
Continue reading to discover more about OER Commons, such as what they offer, what they can improve on, who their audience is, and more.
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What Is OER Commons?
As it suggests, Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons is a collection of educational resources open to anyone (both teachers and students). They offer thousands of teaching resources in their library and provide opportunities for teachers to upload documents, videos, or other content to the site.
With a steady flow of content, they aim to gradually change and improve the quality of public sector teaching content (written or video content).
Who Is The OER Commons Target Audience?
Because OER Commons is a public library, anyone interested in the resources is the target audience. However, the intended audience is teachers and schools, with students also encouraged to access the library and its resources. Teachers can access many subjects on the site, with thousands of resources available for each one – including plenty of material on coding.
Additionally, it attracts content providers and encourages them to improve and make content that will become popular on their site. Content creators are a vast target audience because a public content library like OER Commons can get them more views and exposure.
However, it is worth noting that a large compilation of resources isn’t everything. For those teaching technology subjects, for example, sites like Zenva Schools are often a better option. Not only does Zenva Schools offer content specifically geared towards STEM topics and those teachers, but the content is made in-house. This means teachers can be more assured of the quality, and also rest assured it is mapped to various curriculums as well (if only because the target audience is clearer and more focused).
Who Owns OER Commons?
ISKME owns OER Commons. ISKME is a non-profit organization that assists schools in sharing information and making knowledge and resources available and easily accessible for students.
OER Commons is one of ISKME’s concepts to make teaching resources and information readily available for teachers and students. The people who work on OER Commons strive to find new and exciting content to add to their growing library.
What Are OER Commons’ Main Goals?
OER Commons has two main goals for its site. These two goals are:
- Making knowledge and teaching resources accessible: One of the central beliefs of OER Commons is that all educational information and knowledge should be readily available for teachers and students. Therefore, their goal is to keep expanding their content library so teachers, students, and schools have access to as much information as possible.
- Helping content creators to improve their educational content: As well as being a service for teachers and students, OER Commons also encourages content creators to improve their content by making content that people will enjoy on their site. They can successfully entice content creators because they will get more views, exposure, and success if teachers use their resources (video or text resources).
While OER Commons definitely sticks to its goals, it is worth noting that the material on OER Commons ranges in quality. As such, many STEM teachers may find it better as a supplement for sites like Zenva Schools. Paired together, a platform more curriculum-focused is a great match for a platform that is ideal in gaining supplementary materials to further promote learning in the classroom.
What Can OER Commons Offer Students, Teachers, And Schools?
Due to it being a massive public online library, there is a lot that OER Commons can offer students, teachers, and schools. The content on the site comes in many forms, including some you may not expect.
We compiled the main content offerings on OER Commons and will show you precisely what they contain.
A Huge Resource Library
The leading service that OER Commons can offer teachers and students is its extensive library of teaching resources. It provides a variety of subjects and resource types in the library. The subjects on OER Commons include:
- Applied science
- Physical science
- Social science
- Arts and humanities
- Business and communication
- Technical education and career
- Life science
- English language arts
As mentioned, each subject also comes with a variety of resources. These include:
- Case Studies
- Data Sets
- Full Courses
- Interactive activities
- Lecture notes
- Teaching strategies
- Learning strategies
- Lesson plans
- Primary sources of information
- Student guides
- Units of study
While the library is huge to choose from, it is equally and arguably unfocused. Teachers will need to be willing to put in the legwork in order to gather the materials and compose their lessons with what is provided. Teachers will also spend a lot of time vetting the material – as the material is not guaranteed to be made by experts.
In comparison, Zenva Schools has a targeted STEM focus with topics on things like Python, digital systems, Scratch, Photoshop, Blender, Unity, and web development. Though a smaller library, Zenva Schools is able to provide much more guided material that comes with video lessons, text summaries, source code project files, quizzes, interactive lessons, and more.
On top of this, Zenva Schools’ content is all made by industry veterans and mapped to Australian and American curriculum standards. Thus, teachers can often save more time with Zenva Schools and other platforms like it.
As well as having an extensive public library of resources, OER Commons has a section for collections of resources that have a similar theme. Usually, the theme focuses on an educational facility such as STEAM Education, TeachEngineering, Open Textbook Library, and more.
A Provider Search Function
OER Commons has multiple options for finding the content you want. Instead of looking at the resource collections, you can search for a specific teaching resource provider. They present all the providers (the ones with multiple resources) in an A-Z list on the ‘providers’ section.
Training Sessions For Teachers Who Embrace OER
If you are a teacher who embraces the idea of OER, OER Commons has multiple customisable training sessions to help you understand how it works and what its benefits are (more accessible content, etc.). Additionally, the courses have teachers in mind. Teachers make them for teachers.
That being said, for teachers who are on a budget for time rather than money, taking an extra training session to use a platform may not be in the cards. A platform like Zenva Schools may be better in those instances. Zenva Schools is designed more with simplicity in mind, so tech teachers can be ready to use the platform in a matter of minutes without having to spend a ton of time learning the platform.
Additionally, it’s worth noting Zenva Schools does one better here – it opens up its courses for teachers to use for their own professional development as well. This is on top of extra resources for teachers like pre-mapped lesson plans. As such, teachers get a lot of support in the areas that involve actual teaching versus using the platform.
How Do You Use OER Commons?
For a first-time user, the layout of OER Common can be daunting. It’s a by-product of having a large amount of educational content from different providers on a single site.
There are many ways to access the content on the site, though, including the resource library, resource collections, and provider list (all mentioned previously). When you find the resource you want, you can open it (or download it if it is a file) and use it as you see fit. You can also save any resource on the site if you want to access it at a later time.
The site also offers an easy-to-use search function with various search criteria like curriculum standards or year level.
However, there is no denying that the UI is complicated and confusing. There are almost too many options for finding what you want – and good luck if you don’t remember to save your resource.
By comparison, other platforms are more straightforward. Zenva Schools, as one example, focused on simplicity first. Thus, menus are very condensed, and it’s extremely easy to find the information. This includes course overviews, classroom management systems, and so forth.
What Are The Worst OER Commons Features?
Previously mentioned above, the most concerning element of OER Commons is the layout and structure of the site. Even if you have infinite time to dedicate to getting resources, finding anything is going to be a challenge (even with the numerous methods they provide). There is just no easy way to get the resources you need – even if there is a large library to choose from.
Also mentioned before, the other issue with OER Commons is that, while the number of educational resources is noteworthy, the quality control is tricky because there are so many different providers. Additionally, if you need multiple resources for a lesson, they can often be different in tone and not work together.
Meanwhile, other platforms like Zenva Schools are a lot friendlier for many of these aspects. Not only is Zenva Schools’ UI cleaner, but all the material is heavily reviewed by industry experts, teachers, and more. Each course clearly labels its lesson plan resources, its downloadable teaching assets, and so forth.
The content is also designed for a specific purpose of being used as-is in the classroom. Though teachers are free to tweak and teach as they want, teachers don’t have to construct a whole different curriculum by patchworking various resources together.
What Is The OER Commons Pricing Situation?
One of the most noteworthy features of OER Commons is that they are entirely free. As a result, you don’t have to pay any additional costs for educational resources on the site.
Remember, though, this is a double-edged sword. Because all the resources are free, you can expect them to be lower quality than paid services like Zenva Schools. Zenva Schools does charge a reasonable price per student per year – but open up the entire library of content to schools with that price.
Additionally, for your money, Zenva Schools can provide a lot more services. In otherwords, Zenva Schools doesn’t just offer content. Instead, teachers also get:
- Pre-mapped lesson plans
- Classroom management tools
- School management tools
- Analytics to track student progress
- … and more!
So while OER Commons clearly has the best price, just remember you get what you pay for.
What Is OER Commons, And What Can It Provide For Schools, Teachers, And Students?
In conclusion, OER Commons is a growing service with many free educational resources for teachers, students, and schools. It has many subjects and types of resources and several ways to access them (resource library, collections, and provider list). This includes the important technology resources available for teaching coding.
Despite all this, the quality control on OER Commons is still not at the level of a paid service like Zenva Schools, and the layout is cluttered and confusing (unfortunately). So although OER Commons can offer some good ideas, you will ultimately get more value from the courses and features of Zenva Schools and other similar platforms.
That being said, OER Commons is a fantastic option as a supplement – as it allows you to add other interactive lessons to the normal activities of the curriculum.
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