New Open Content Partnership Will Save Schools Money, Boost Personalization

Open educational resources (OER) can save schools money and power personalized learning pathways. Last month El Paso Schools announced that it is doing away with paper textbooks and replacing with digital textbooks called FlexBooks developed in
partnership with CK12 Foundation.

The shift to digital is increasing access and accelerating the use of OER. The savings from ditching expensive textbooks in favor of open content is helping districts to pay for their digital conversion. Every year school districts across the country spend over $8 billion on instructional materials. Textbooks will quickly fall into disrepair and their content will lapse out of date. New improvements in technology and online content create the very real potential to offer students dynamic digital content that is organized, searchable, tagged, aligned with learning standards and engaging.

Last month we noted 30 sources of free and open content, but despite growing availability, it can be challenging to find comprehensive and vetted resources. A new non-profit, K-12 OER Collaborative, led by a group of eleven states, is attacking this problem. This week the states, and a group of nonprofit partners organized by The Learning Accelerator (TLA), announced their intent to sponsor development of comprehensive, high-quality, standards-aligned with K-12 mathematics and English language arts content.

“These resources will offer additional choice to local education agencies, significantly reduce expenditures for instructional materials, and provide much greater flexibility with quality educational content,” according to Scott Ellis, TLA. “States can adapt these materials to meet their particular needs using their own channels of review and development.”

The Collaborative issued a request for proposal. Letters of Intent are due January 9, 2015. The new resources will be open but will require attribution (Creative Commons Attribution license, CC BY, version 4.0)

Materials will be evaluated through specifications formed by extensive educator input. The materials developed as part of this project may build on existing OER or be newly created. The goal is that the resulting OER will offer the full range of instructional supports and CCSS alignments that best meet the needs of educators. These materials will be openly licensed, aligned to assessments, and available for free in both digital and print format. The goal is to get support from 15 states and coordinate fundraising to create and update the initial content, and then extend to additional subjects in the future.

The Collaborative is looking for successful contractors who will create OER that do the following:

  • Provide a comprehensive set of instructional materials
  • Align to the Common Core State Standards
  • Follow the Publishers’ Criteria to ensure the development of aligned content
  • Include strategies, activities and resources that allow teachers to differentiate instruction
  • Include an assessment suite, including performance tasks with student work examples, formative assessment guidance, unit-level summative assessments, and rubrics to help teachers understand and interpret student performance.

Representatives from Utah, Washington, and Idaho made up the initial steering committee members. Other states supporting the project include Arizona, California, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Other partners include the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Creative CommonsLumen LearningThe Learning Accelerator (TLA), Achieve, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the State Instructional Materials Review Association (SIMRA), the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM).

The Collaborative will be funded by a public-private partnership to preserve local control of flexible, high-quality educational materials.

For more information please contact Jennifer Wolfe from The Learning Accelerator at [email protected]. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @K12OER.

The Learning Accelerator is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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