OER Project

Expansive world history courses powered by great open-source materials

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 6 reviews

Privacy rating

Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

9–12

Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, English Language Arts, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Well-structured lessons and fascinating activities make the sprawl of world history more approachable. Key questions invite students to consider their own place in history.

Cons: Adopting the entire program from scratch may be time-consuming; adapting materials to suit all learners' needs might be an ongoing challenge.

Bottom Line: A stellar program for exploring foundational concepts in history, humanities, critical thinking, and science with tons of support for teachers.

Register on the OER Project website and dive into the FAQ section, and you'll find a ton of information about which course is right for which grade level and which purpose. Then, check out some of the teacher materials in the Planning Resources Hub. The multiday materials for adopting the program are stellar. If you need to push for using these tools in your classroom, use the Planning Resources Hub to learn more about how schools in your state have adopted the program and aligned it to relevant state and national standards.

While OER Project materials are best suited to classrooms with regular computer access, the course could be taught with more limited device access -- though that might mean a ton of printing and copying. Also, take some time to dive into the readings -- and follow the veteran teachers' suggestions on the community posts about how to structure your lessons. A lot of the topics and readings are high level, and even with the videos and activities and leveled readings, teachers may have to do some scaffolding. 

Even if you don't adopt the full World History Project or Big History Project program, this site can be a great launching point for further inquiry. There are lots of project-based learning opportunities embedded in each curriculum. Any unit could spin off into a variety of inquiry-based research projects. See if the Project X data unit might be a good fit for your social studies or math or science class, and try experimenting with the Project Score automatic grading rubric to see if it helps streamline your grading.

As with any history curriculum, teachers may find it necessary to acknowledge where there might be some bias, and flesh out the material with additional context or resources.

The OER Project is a collection of free, open-source educational resources for teaching history and social studies. The site's sprawling content includes two year-long courses -- the Big History Project (BHP) and the World History Project (WHP) -- plus three smaller stand-alone "extension" courses: Project X (focused on data), Project Score (which helps track students' writing progress), and a three-week course on climate. Part science, part history, and even part meaning-of-life, these course materials are intended to help middle school and high school students deeply understand the past, its connection to the present, and its implications for the future. 

Big History Project offers key skills and concepts for middle and high school students, while World History Project is meant for high school students. There are three versions of WHP: Origins to Present, 1200 to Present, and 1750 to Present, while BHP is structured around eight "threshold" moments when the universe changed.

Project X is a four-week course in data literacy and critical thinking skills for high school students, and Project Score is a writing proficiency tool with automated essay-scoring tools that can work for both middle school and high school -- and it's also fully integrated into the Big History Project curriculum. Every unit has interactive activities, videos, lessons, discussions, writing prompts, and assessments; there are even some ready-made project-based learning (PBL) activities, among other resources. Both BHP and WHP include leveled reading content to better fit students' needs, and videos have captions and audio options. 

There's a free series of training videos for teachers to get to know the curriculum and adapt it for themselves, and there's extensive documentation about alignment with state and national standards. Most importantly, there's also a lively community of teachers who collaborate, answer questions, and mentor one another, and there are lots of tools and resources to help teachers adapt the materials to meet schools' and students' needs.

Full Disclosure: Big History Project and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

 

OER Project represents the best of the best for what open educational resources can be: high quality and structured yet flexible. The curriculum and support resources are thoughtfully designed, and the content itself offers a thoughtful perspective on how to approach teaching and learning history. It's great to find a social studies program that requires reflection, critical thinking, and imagination from students at all levels, and it's inspiring to think that teachers could use these materials to help their students develop habits of mind that transform the way they learn.

In general, the biggest obstacle to adoption may be the scale of the program. There's a lot here, and adopting this program for your classroom will require a time investment -- probably the semester or summer before you teach it -- which may not be feasible for some teachers. Also, some teachers may not be in a position to choose to use these materials as their main curriculum for the year; while you can adapt some of the materials piecemeal into your classroom, they're truly meant to be a yearlong journey. 

Overall, Big History's cross-curricular approach to covering the standards is refreshing. These course materials aim to teach standards-based ideas through meaningful, substantive activities that celebrate lifelong learning. Plenty of social studies materials aspire to that spirit; OER Project finds lots of ways to get it right.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Customizable content and thoughtfully designed lessons appeal to teachers' needs and keep students' interest.

Pedagogy

Rigorous content explores history from the Big Bang to the present, offering opportunities to build critical thinking skills and consider big questions along the way.

Support

Videos, tutorials, and a lively online community offer a wealth of support to teachers. Course materials include leveled readings, captioned videos, and tips for adapting content to serve a variety of student needs.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Great History Site for Middle School Students

Overall the tool is great. I do like how the lay out history from the "big history" perspective. The one thing that I would change if I could would be the way that handouts and work is provided. Right now I have to download it to Google doc and resave it for my students to write in the assignments. I wish it could be more digital and interactive where they can complete the work within the site instantly without all the workarounds. Other than that, I believe it's an excellent tool.

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Privacy Rating

Data Safety How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Users cannot interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Profile information must be shared for social interactions.

Data Rights What rights do I have to the data?

  • Unclear whether users can create or upload content.
  • Unclear whether users retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.

Ads & Tracking Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is not shared for third-party marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are not displayed.
  • Personalised advertising is not displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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