Why Cash-Strapped School Districts Use Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources are educational content that is available online without any copyright restriction. These are influential learning tools for every learner, but perhaps most especially for those learners in cash-strapped school districts. Here’s why:

First, the expense of traditional printed textbooks means that underfunded school districts cannot replace them frequently. It is difficult for educators to teach their learners when the last two or three presidential administrations are not included in the learner’s textbook. The rapid advance of tech makes this problem even worse, and learners have a hard time taking content seriously if it shows people talking on phones with cords or using computers with monitors the size of minifridges. The great benefit of open educational resources is that it makes it possible for content to be updated and for schools to use the updated versions instantly for free.

Second, there is a level of personalization possible with open educational resources that is not imaginable with traditional resources. One of the main purveyors of open educational resources is CK12. Their modular materials make it possible for learners to be given precisely the materials that they need. Educators can select reading materials that cover the same topic at a higher or lower complexity, depending on the learner’s needs. 

They can select reteaching and remediation materials based precisely on the learning deficits of each learner. They can also permit learners to select topics of their choice to study from a wide array of options. And, the variety of materials—from written narratives to videos to interactives to practice questions—ensure that learners can select materials that are the best match for their specific learning needs. This is not possible with a traditional textbook.

Third, open educational resources make it possible for learners to be exposed to a wider variety of viewpoints. A traditional textbook speaks with one authoritative voice. But open educational resources enable educators to, for example, find primary sources who present multiple sides of an issue or controversy and enable learners to analyze and assess these themselves. This type of thinking is important for today’s learners, and open educational resources make it possible. 

Recent research on open educational resources shows evidence of improved learning outcomes: learners have higher retention rates and higher grades when provided with open educational resources materials than learners who did not have access to open educational resources. Open educational resources can supplement, enhance, or even replace traditional instructional materials and benefit learners in various ways.

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