OER Momentum and Debut of Open Up Resources
by Jennifer Wolfe on Sep 22, 2016
The Learning Accelerator and OER
Almost three years ago, The Learning Accelerator (TLA) began its journey into open education resources (OER). As our understanding of OER deepened, we saw exciting opportunities for a new model of instructional materials: high quality, standards-aligned and low cost. These new OER materials had the potential to improve student learning, provide educators with more ownership over curricular materials, and allow districts to reallocate funds away from traditionally costly textbooks towards other high-need areas such as professional development and devices.
We were interested in playing a role in the evolution of OER, in particular helping to create this new low-cost, high-quality option for districts. We jumped in and led in the creation of the K-12 OER Collaborative. The Collaborative came together as a project where states and education organizations such as Creative Commons, Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve, Student Achievement Partners and others could work together to create full-course OER aligned to the new state college and career readiness standards. The member states included California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
Freely Accessible, Low-Cost in Practice
For those who might be unfamiliar with OER, these are resources that you may freely use and reuse. There is no charge for access and use is often guided by a license that states specifically how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared. However, while OER is defined by the ability to access it for free (the OER content offered by the Collaborative will be free for educators to access online), it can be helpful for leaders to think of the the materials as “low cost” rather than “free” in terms of implementation. In order for a district to get the results they are looking for, they will likely need to invest in teacher professional development. And, professional development isn’t going to be free. If the district needs printed materials, there is going to be a cost, even if they print it on their own. We feel it sets clearer expectations if we refer to materials as affordable or low cost as opposed to free while still maintaining the integrity of free access.
Open Movement Momentum
As the Collaborative engaged deeply in its work, we also saw tremendous progress in other areas of the Open movement. In the policy arena, state and federal government entities released a number of open policies, requiring grantees to license all content created with government funds with Creative Common licenses. Most recently, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced its new Copyright and Open Licensing Policy under which all original materials created by OSPI staff, contractors, or grantees will require CC BY licensing. The U.S. Department of Education launched #GoOpen, a campaign to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials and to adopt open policies. Over the past three years, we’ve seen an increase in supply and demand for OER from educators and districts..
Collaborative Re-Launches as Open Up Resources
In tandem with this progress, the K-12 OER Collaborative worked hard and fast to reach its goal: offering school districts the opportunity to adopt rigorous, standards-aligned curricula at affordable prices.
After an extensive RFP process in 2014-15, we identified our top choices for partners in curriculum development and decided to start with middle school mathematics and Illustrative Mathematics, leading math experts, as our content developer. Earlier this year, the Collaborative morphed into its own non-profit organization, under the leadership of Larry Singer and Karl Nelson, with TLA continuing to act as a partner and advisor.
Just this week, we were thrilled to see the Collaborative announce its new brand, Open Up Resources. As part of its announcement, Open Up shared that it is currently piloting its middle school math in a number of districts and these comprehensive curricula will be available for adoption by districts in the 2017-18 school year. These math materials were created in unique ways and really do offer districts with a new model, as we envisioned more than two and a half years ago. They are developed by expert authors, significantly less costly for districts, developed with advanced supports for English Language Learners and provided under the most flexible CC BY license.
What started as a kernel of an idea has evolved into a thriving organization, standing ready to offer students, educators, parents, and school leaders an engaging new model for instructional materials. At TLA, we are proud of our work to found and incubate Open Up Resources. Our vision of schools having a high-quality and low-cost option for instructional materials, allowing for the repurposing of funds for other aspects of the blended learning ecosystem, is closer to reality.
We look forward to staying engaged with the work of Open Up Resources and to digging into questions of how to help educators use OER effectively, particularly in blended and personalized learning environments.