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Section 4: Using and adapting OER to support teaching and learning


For many years teachers and teacher educators have had limited access to resources to support their work. With the availability of Open Education Resources (OER) since 2002 this has changed. There are now many free, helpful teaching resources available on the internet which will help teachers and teacher educators learn how to develop active approaches to teaching and learning.

In this section you will learn about OER, how to find them, how to select what you want and how to think about adapting them. Before continuing it is useful to review the key points about OER. You will do this by completing a quiz on OER. This quiz is not part of the assessment of the course.

Activity 4.1: Quiz on OER

What do you know about OER? Try this quiz  to check your learning.

Exploring the concept of OER

During this course you have briefly explored ‘OER Africa’ and ‘African Storybook Project’.

There are now a very large number of OER repositories from institutions and organisations all over the world, all in different languages and covering a vast number of subjects. The materials in these repositories reflect the views of learners and learning held by those developing and sharing the OER.

By looking at OER in different repositories, you will begin to work out where you will be able to find materials that you feel comfortable with and can use.

Look at the OER presentation, which provides a definition of OER; explains the history of the OER movement; and highlights the things you need to consider in order to be able to use OER in your institution.

A significant challenge for some teachers and teacher educators is that governments often insist that teachers only use ‘approved’ resources. Think about who in your institution you need to be able to persuade that OER are potentially helpful.

You can download the PDF, or the original PowerPoint file (which was adapted from TESS-India), and use it as you wish.

Identifying useful OER

Finding OER that are useful to you can be difficult. It is helpful to have some criteria to help you decide whether an OER is likely to help you.

You will need to consider the view of learning that informs the OER and whether this is in line with the shifts in the teaching and learning processes that you want to support.

The TESSA OER have been through a process of critical review and quality assurance, but this is not necessarily the case for others.

In the Open University course Creating open educational resources, a useful OER is described as being:

  • findable – it can be in multiple locations, making it easy to locate
  • clearly described, so that you can quickly assess whether it will be useful for you and/or your teacher learners
  • clearly licensed (usually through Creative Commons), which tells you if you can adapt the OER and other conditions of use
  • from a source you trust
  • used/recommended by people like you
  • easy to modify for your students
  • free-standing, so it does not assume knowledge of other resources and is easier to integrate into a course or learning episode
  • imperfect – it just needs to work for you and/or your teacher learners.

Activity 4.2: Exploring OER

Timing: (Allow approximately 45 minutes)

Visit one or two of the websites below and look for OER that you could use with your teacher learners, or that you might encourage them to use.

Identify a repository that you particularly like and, referring to the criteria above, make notes in your study notebook about why you like it.

Critically reviewing OER repositories

The case study in Section 2 described how a teacher educator tackled the topic of ‘the sociology of education’ using groups. First, she ensured each group became expert in one area and then she re-organised the groups so that they could share information.

You could use this approach with a group of teacher learners by giving them the opportunity to review an OER website in depth, and then share their review with others. They would all become ‘experts’ on one website, but would learn about others from their colleagues.

Activity 4.3: Reviewing OER repositories

Timing: (Allow approximately 30 minutes)

Imagine you have divided your class into groups in order to analyse five OER repositories. Each group thoroughly investigates their allocated website. They could do this by connecting their mobile phone to the college Wi-Fi. In the next session, you would re-organise the groups so that each group had one expert on each website. They could then have ten minutes to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

In your study notebook use the criteria set out above to write down four questions that they should consider as they analyse the website you have suggested.

By structuring your teachers’ research through questions, you will ensure that they all have something useful to share.

The OER cycle

A team of people working at The Open University have devised a useful model for describing the process of selecting, adapting and using an OER for a learning episode. Each stage is described in more detail below.

  1. Identify learning need: This is the motivation for searching, linked to goals and development needs. The starting point is always a defined learning need. In your work, this is a teacher’s learning need – that is, what they need to be able to understand, know and do after the learning episode.
  2. Search for OER: Finding suitable OER to support development needs.
  3. Select OER: Judging whether the OER are suitable for use and whether they can be adapted for the intended teaching and learning context.
  4. Adapt/refine: Modifying the OER to use in context; refining it after evaluating its use to support learning.
  5. Use in practice: Using the adapted resource in a teaching context.
  6. Evaluate after use: Judging how well the OER has met the learning needs.
  7. Share: Sharing the OER with your local community and wider. The local community might be teacher educators you work with, head teachers in your district, or colleagues in your university or college. When you share the adapted OER, include notes on how the OER was used and its successes or otherwise in meeting the learning needs of the teachers.

Steps 5 and 6 are important: it is using OER such as the TESSA OER that will lead to new practices, not simply finding them! The rest of this section focuses on planning for the use of OER.

The OER cycle (which was originally designed for the TESS-India course Enhancing teacher education through OER) is also available as a downloadable resource.

Activity 4.4: Selecting and adapting OER

Timing: (Allow approximately 45 minutes)

There are many OER on the internet. It is very likely that you will need to adapt OER for your own use. In this activity you will focus on finding and adapting a TESSA resource. You will need to use the template for selecting and adapting OER, which is available as a Word file and PDF. Find an OER from TESSA that would be useful in your work with teacher learners.

  1. Now record in your study notebook:
    • The title of the OER.
    • Why you want to use it – what is the learning need?
    • How you will use it and whether you need to adapt it. Could you include ICT?
  2. Try out ideas from the OER and take photographs of your teacher learners interacting during the activity.
  3. Write an evaluation of what you tried in your study notebook. Was it successful? Did the students enjoy the activity?
  4. Complete the template and save the file on to your computer. If possible, share your idea with a colleague.

Integrating OER

ICT and OER – particularly the TESSA OER – can be used to support the vision for teacher education that you articulated at the start of this course.

Many institutions are currently reviewing their curricula in the light of policy demands for a different approach to teaching. As an individual, you can initiate change by using OER and ICT in your own practice. This is the first step towards more permanent and sustainable change. These changes need to be integrated into programmes by embedding the principles behind active teaching and learning.

You will need to work with colleagues to overcome any perceived barriers to change. In the next activity you will analyse your context and identify opportunities to integrate the TESSA OER and the ideas they contain into teacher education programmes.

Activity 4.5: Integrating OER into teacher education programmes

Timing: (Allow approximately 45 minutes)

Read the case studies below, written by teacher educators about how they have integrated TESSA OER and ICT into their programmes. They are designed to help you think about the different ways in which you might integrate OER into your teaching.

Case Study 1: Developing students’ subject knowledge

Joacim works with Primary school teachers as a Zonal In-Service Co-ordinator in Zambia. In his zone there is concern about some of the teachers’ subject knowledge of Maths. He has been asked to run a session on fractions. He is confident about his own subject knowledge but it is a long time since he has taught it in school. He consulted the Zambian school curriculum and found a reference to a TESSA unit about fractions. He decided to use the ideas in the unit to teach the teachers. They did all the activities in the unit, with him pretending to be the teacher. At the end he checked their understanding of fractions, but realised that by doing it in this way, he had also taught them how to teach fractions. There was an animated discussion at the end about resources that you could use instead of some of those suggested.

Case Study 2: Using ICT to support teaching practice

Charity is a lecturer at a College of Education in Ghana. She had recently bought a SMART phone and was thrilled with all the things it could do and the quality of the pictures she could take. She had been introduced to TESSA materials in a workshop but had not accessed them very much; her friend pointed out that she could get them on her new phone. Her student teachers were out on teaching practice so she downloaded the Teacher Practice Supervisor’s Toolkit. It helped her to think about the sorts of things she should be looking for when observing her student teachers’ teaching. In one lesson, Peter, a science student was doing a demonstration. Many of the pupils could not see the demonstration properly and became quite restless. Charity took some photos of the view that the students at the back of the room had, and in the discussion after the lesson, she showed them to Peter. He was quite shocked and they had a really helpful discussion about how to set up a demonstration and the different strategies he could have used. Next time he did a demonstration, he showed half the class, while the other half worked in pairs on a different task. This time they could all see. Charity started using her phone to support other students; she took small video clips and photos in order to help her students appreciate the learner’s perspective.

Case Study 3: Teaching theoretical content

Tomaida attended a workshop in her college about the TESSA materials. They sounded really interesting and she was able to download them on to her laptop. However, as she browsed the resources she realised that they were mostly based on the school curriculum; that term she was teaching Child Development and Psychology. But she had been struck by what was said in the workshop about making her own teaching more learner-centred. She looked at some of the Key Resources. In the next session she organised her student teachers into groups to work together on various aspects of Child development. In the first task she asked them to think back to their own childhood and identify any milestones they remember about themselves or their siblings. She briefly introduced some theory and then set another task in which they had to think about how these ideas might manifest themselves in the classroom; what sorts of things teachers should be looking for and what sorts of things they could do to support children at different stages in their development.

Case Study 4: Assessing student teachers

On the diploma course in a College of Education student teachers in Kenya were assessed on an exam and on whether they passed their teaching practice. Lecturers decided to introduce an element of course work so that they could assess their student teachers on a greater range of skills. The task involved planning three lessons in a sequence, based on TESSA activities or case studies and then evaluating how the lessons went. They had to submit three lesson plans; a short piece of writing about why they had made their planning decisions; the lesson resources and an evaluation of the lesson which focused on whether the pupils had met the learning outcomes and how they knew. Some lecturers were concerned that because it was not an exam, the students would cheat. However, since they had to write about their own planning and teaching, it was very difficult for them to cheat. If they were concerned that a student could cheat, they could always look in their teaching file and check which topics they had taught. The assignment proved popular with the students and some of the teachers in their schools helped the students by giving feedback on the lessons. The feedback was more helpful than the normal comments about their appearance, punctuality and the quality of their plan.

Now consider the following questions. Write down your thoughts in your study notebook.

  1. Think about the teacher education that you are involved in. Make a list of the activities that you undertake as a teacher educator. These are likely to include giving lectures, micro-teaching, seminars, tutorials, supervising teaching practice, coaching and mentoring.
  2. For each activity, list the skills that you want the teacher learners to acquire or develop.
  3. Choose three of the activities and make notes about:
    • Which TESSA OER you might use (Don’t forget the toolkits, audio and Key resources as well as the subject resources.)
    • How you might integrate ICT into your practice
    • How teacher learners will access the resources
    • Whether you will assess teacher learners’ engagement with the TESSA OER and their developing practice. If so, how?
    • The challenges you and your colleagues might face in making these changes.
    • How you could support each other in overcoming these challenges.

Integrating OER and ICT into existing programmes requires the commitment and co-operation of people at all levels of the organisation.

You may have been working with colleagues, in which case you can compare your answers to the activities and work together to bring about changes. However, many teacher educators will not have heard of OER or TESSA. How can you create an opportunity to share what you have learned?

Activity 4.6: Involving colleagues

Timing: (Allow approximately 45 minutes)

Plan a presentation to give to your colleagues. It should be no more than 40 minutes long and should be as interactive as possible. You need to model the approaches that you are trying to promote. Think about how you could use questions, pair work, small group discussion, sorting activities, photographs or video.

Some of the resources you have used in this course might be helpful. You should try and include the following elements:

  • The principles behind OER.
  • Learner-centred education and what it looks like in practice.
  • The TESSA OER.
  • Ideas about how to incorporate ICT in teaching to support learning, and some of the challenges.
  • How you and your colleagues might use TESSA materials in your teaching, paying attention to how to model active teaching and learning.
  • Some consideration of the skills that you collectively need to develop.

Make arrangements to share your presentation with your colleagues.

Reviewing and reflecting on your learning

Through this course you have articulated your vision for education in your country and examined the vision set out by your government. Your vision has been informed by exploring what is meant by active learning and how it can be put into practice in the classroom. You have learned about Open Educational Resources and how the TESSA OER can be used to support teachers’ in using active learning approaches and ICT in their teaching. An important point that has been made is that teacher educators need to model these approaches in their own work with teachers so that they experience this way of learning. In the final section you have begun to plan how to use active learning in your own work and encourage your colleagues to engage in this important professional development.

Activity 4.7: Check your understanding

Timing: (Allow approximately 30 minutes)

Now that you’ve completed the course, it’s time to review your learning in the final quiz.

Before you leave …

Congratulations on reaching the end of your course – we hope you enjoyed it. We hope that this course is the start of your learning journey and that you will continue to develop your practice and embrace the opportunities afforded to you through ICT.

What’s your feedback? We would love to know what you thought of the course and how it helped you in your professional development. Please share your feedback about this course in the optional post-course survey. Your views help The Open University to improve its courses.

This course has been sponsored by TESSA using a grant from the Alan and Nesta Ferguson Foundation. Provided that you have visited each page of the course and completed the assessment activities, you will be eligible for the certificate and the digital badge. You can use these to demonstrate your learning.

If you have enjoyed this course, then why not explore OpenLearn? You will find lots of free courses covering many aspects of education. We have listed a few that might be of interest below. They are all free and could be studied by individuals or by groups of professionals working together in an educational setting.

We hope to see you again soon.

You may be interested in the following courses and resources:

To complete this course, we would like you to post a comment about your learning in a digital space.

It might be a tweet on Twitter, a photo and comment on Instagram, or a blog post. There are several websites where you can blog, such as WordPress or Blogger, and you can post a link to any blogs you’ve written on Twitter or Facebook.

If you use Facebook, write a brief post to tell your friends what you have been doing. You could have a look at TESSA’s Facebook page and link your comment to it.

Wherever you post online, tag your comments with the hashtag #TessAfrica so that other people can find your contributions.


Section 1
Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education (MESVTEE) (2013) The Zambia Education Curriculum Framework 2013, Lusaka: Curriculum Development Centre. Available at: curricula/ zambia/ za_alfw_2013_eng.pdf (accessed 31 October 2018).
UNESCO (2018) UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (Version 3), Paris, France: UNESCO.
Section 2
Schweisfurth, M. (2013) Learner-centred Education in International Perspective: Whose Pedagogy for Whose Development?, Abingdon: Routledge.
Shulman, L. (1986) ‘Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching’, Educational Researcher, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 4–14. Available at: URDF/ masterDidSciUD/ materiali/ pdf/ Shulman_1986.pdf (accessed 31 October 2018).
Westbrook, J., Durrani, N., Brown, R., Orr, D., Pryor, J., Boddy, J. and Salvi, F. (2013) Pedagogy, Curriculum, Teaching Practices and Teacher Education in Developing Countries, Final Report, Education Rigorous Literature Review, London: Department for International Development. Available at: cms/ Portals/ 0/ PDF%20reviews%20and%20summaries/ Pedagogy%202013%20Westbrook%20report.pdf?ver=2014-04-24-121331-867 (accessed 31 October 2018).


All of the course material (unless otherwise stated as third-party material in the acknowledgements) is © The Open University and licensed as an OER under a Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA ( licenses/ by-sa/ 4.0/).

This means that you can adapt and re-use it freely (apart from the third-party content), providing you share your adaptation under the same licence and acknowledge where you have got it from. You can do that by adding this sentence on the bottom of your presentation of the course or work: ‘Originally created by/adapted from The Open University’s TESSA project ( Shared under Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA.’

Specific content from the TESSA OER, including images from the TESSA video resources, are made available under this licence unless otherwise stated.

The TESSA project is led by The Open University, UK and is currently funded by a grant from the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Foundation, and OU alumni.

Parts of this course have been adapted from a course originally authored for the TESS-India programme. The TESS-India MOOC Enhancing teacher education through OER was led by Professor Freda Wolfenden of The Open University.

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated the content is all © TESSA/The Open University, shared and reshared here under a Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA ( licenses/ by-sa/ 4.0/)

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources:

Course homepage

TESSA banner image, TESSA/OU.

Section 1

A vision for teacher education: children doing cup activity, TESSA/OU.

National policy: map of Africa, TESSA/OU.

Tools for the 21st century: ICT (left to right, top to bottom): children using tablets, © Book Aid International, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivatives License ( licenses/ by-nc-nd/ 2.0/); computer lab, © Nedra, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike License ( licenses/ by-nc-sa/ 2.0/); wireless router, © Tim Walker, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/ by/ 2.0/); camera, boy wakanmuri, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/ by/ 2.0/); Raspberry Pi, TESSA/OU; teacher using laptop in a field, © Roel Burgler, with kind permission; teachers using laptops in Egerton Primary School library, TESSA/OU; charging tablet trolley, Hannah Dillon – trolley design by Roger DeWet for Breteau Foundation; projector, Science LLC; man using radio, TESSA/OU.

Open Educational Resources: OER graphic, © Ron Mader/Open Educational Resources, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/ by/ 2.0/); three teachers seated looking at papers, TESSA/OU.

An introduction to TESSA: TESSA website screenshot, TESSA/OU; Dr Henry Busulwa audio and photograph, with kind permission from Dr Henry Busulwa; selection of TESSA OER materials, TESSA/OU.

Section 2

Reflecting on learner-centred education: children at desk, TESSA/OU; UNESCO report, UNESCO-IICBA.

TESSA Key Resources: booklet, TESSA/OU.

Section 3

Using ICT in the classroom: hand-drawn poster of desktop screen, TESSA/OU.

Using ICT effectively: teachers using laptops in Egerton Primary School library, TESSA/OU.

A vision for the future?: Protea Glen School video, ©

Section 4

The OER cycle: OER cycle flow chart, OU (originally designed for the TESS-India course Enhancing teacher education through OER).

Integrating OER: four teachers working in pairs, TESSA/OU.

Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. If any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.