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How Districts Can Incorporate Open Educational Resources

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By Guest Blogger Sasha Jones

As students and teachers gain increased access to digital tools and interactive resources in the classroom, more schools have started using open educational resources.

In 2015, 48 percent of district leaders said they planned to acquire OER, according to a survey from EdWeek Market Brief. This percentage likely increased as a result of the Obama Administration's #GoOpen campaign, which launched in October 2015 and language in the Every Student Succeeds Act that allows block grant money to be spent on OER.

Unlike proprietary resources, OER have broad copyright permissions granted through publicly licensed resources, which allow users to freely download and reference materials.

Through an analysis of 14 states working to leverage OER, in combination with interviews with education leaders from those states, the Council of Chief State School Officers found that while few states require districts to adopt specific curricula, state and district leaders are encouraging the integration of OER.

The 14 states focused on in the report, conducted in collaboration with New America, are California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

For states hoping to incorporate OER into their schools, the CCSSO offers the following key takeaways:

1. Integrate OER Initiatives Within State Curriculum Work
The most successful efforts of integrating OER initiatives have been seen when leaders across offices of instruction, assessment, and technology work collaboratively.

2. Adapt, Improve, and Share
Although every state and district is different, the CCSSO advises that states looking to implement OER turn to states who have already done so. This provides state leaders with best practices, openly licensed curricula, instructional materials, and professional development supports, which can then be adapted into new contexts.

3. Identify Sustainable Funding
OER curriculum and instructional materials require ongoing investment to maintain access. States that have integrated their efforts into existing funding streams have been the most successful in maintaining their OER work.

4. Use State-Level Policies to Support Efforts
As education leaders embrace OER, some state leaders have adopted and updated policies to ensure that resources created by the state are openly licensed.

5. Invest in Curriculum Research
CCSSO suggests that the transparency and adaptability of open curricula offers new opportunities for efficacy research that previously would have been difficult to conduct as a majority of materials previously used in classrooms were proprietary.

For more on how new curriculum choices, including OER, Common Core, and digital innovation are changing the landscape, read Education Week's "Special Report: Navigating New Curriculum Choices."

Photo by Getty

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