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Creating Your Own Collections: OER Commons

blendedlearning's picture

To start creating collections on OER Commons, you first need to register an account. Commons has the quickest registration process I’ve encountered – it doesn’t require any institutional affiliation or specialty information. Just fill in name, email, and password and wait for your activation email. Once logged in, go straight to the “My OER” link, which is part of the sticky box at the top of the page.

The page which opens tells you, essentially, that you have no saved resources of any kind. The category names, currently all showing as zero are links which take you to the same categories as the sidebar: saved items, submitted items, evaluated items, authored items, and remixed items. You will also see the option to “Add Resource” on the same page.

For now, skip past these options to and scroll down to the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. The very last item on the list says “My Collections” and below it you will see the option to “create collection.” Select this option and the entry field will immediately change to ask you for a Collection title. For our trial purposes, we’ll create a collection called “U.S. History.”

When satisfied with your collection title, just hit done. The collection will appear with a red X next to it in case you want to delete the collection you just created. If you’re content, as I am, with your title, simply hit “Save Changes.” Technically, we have now created a collection. All we have to do now is populate it with resources.

When we click on the collection, it takes us to the collection page which at the moment – surprise! – is essentially blank. You may notice that the option to “create set” has appeared under the Collection title in the sidebar. We can use these sets to group resources and provide some structure later, but for the moment we shouldn’t worry about it.

Instead, let’s click on the “Add Resource” option we had previously noticed. This brings up a search bar, which says “Search OER Commons to add resources.”  We’ll search for “American history.”

This turns up some interesting looking options, including a series of lesson plans related to American history and the “Reel American History Project.” We’ll select both of these resources by checking the box next to their descriptions. Returning to the top of the page, we then click on the folder just below the search bar. This is the “Add to:” tab, and it will bring us up a list of our collections. From this drop down list, which is currently just one item, we’ll select “U.S. History.”

Let’s go back to our collection and look at the newly updated page. We can now see the resources we’ve added.

Among the different OER aggregators, OER Commons’ process for creating collections is probably the fastest and most user friendly, so long as you can find the content that you’re looking for. You can also use the advanced search tools to narrow by subject area, content source, educational use, grade level, material type, media format, etc.

Now that we've established a basic collection, let's trying using some of the more advanced features - creating sets and the advanced search refinements - to add another resource. Creating a set follows essentially the same procedure as creating our original collection.  Return to the “My OER” page and find the collection, U.S. History, which we’ve already created. Below the collection, click the option “create set” and name the set. I’ll create a set called “Primary Sources,” where I would put some primary documents which accompanied the course’s instructional material. Once we click Done and Save Changes, we’re ready to start looking for the resource we need.

This time, we’ll return to the top of the page and click “Use Advanced Search” just below the search bar. While we’re still searching the terms “American history,” we’ll add some additional criteria. Primarily, we’ll restrict our results to only materials tagged for use in Post-secondary education. The first result the search returns is “Words and Deeds in American History,” a collection of historical documents with accompanied descriptions. This sounds like exactly what we were looking for, so we’ll select “Save this item” from the “Actions” tab.

Let’s return to the My OER tab, where I now see the resource we just added appearing among My Items. This time, we will select the item and add it not just to the U.S. History collection, but the set we designated for Primary Sources.