Open Educational Resources: Transforming the Classroom Experience

Revolutionary. That's how Erin English, Director of Blended and Online Learning and principal of Vista Visions Academy in the Vista Unified School District of California, describes her district's use of Open Educational Resources (OER).

Vista is a #GoOpen district, meaning it participates in the sharing of OER, and English has been charged with making sure the district follows the #GoOpen Future Ready district guidelines: to replace one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within one year.

OER are teaching, learning and research resources that are freely accessible and openly licensed. These resources can include full courses, software, streaming videos, print articles and more.

At the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) we agree with English that OER has the potential to change classrooms through the infusion of more, high-quality content. That's why our team is working to advance the understanding, adoption and implementation of OER practices at state and district levels.

We have joined with the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (Ed. Tech.), as well as other educational organizations, to provide leadership, support, education, professional development and expertise around the #GoOpen Initiative.

The first #GoOpen cohort is comprised of 14 states, each pledging to fulfill five commitment areas around OER -- including the development of a statewide repository of OER materials. The goal is for each state to have access to high-quality OER that they can re-purpose to align with the standards of their state and freely share across district and state lines.

In Maryland, a #GoOpen state, Valerie Emrich, Director of Instructional Technology at the Maryland State Department of Education, appreciates the collaborative side of OER. "The number one thing is that it allows for sharing across states [and] within states, which is something we don't always have," said Emrich. "Sharing reduces the redundancy of efforts."

States sharing high-quality materials hones state resources and saves time and money, which is recycled back into the classroom.

Paul Drescher, Education Technology Coordinator who heads the #GoOpen initiative in Vermont, finds that "teachers can quickly and easily update and include new findings, new incidents and events."

"That's the exciting part for me, we're moving to a place for students where the material has become really relevant to their everyday life," he said.

For OER to successfully reach each classroom, we have to educate the educators about OER, licensing standards and accessibility, and equip them with support in conducting these tasks.

At CCSSO, we're encouraged by the number of states and districts adopting OER policies and practices. Of course, with any new educational resource, we recognize the importance of providing teachers with the support they need to incorporate OER into classroom learning.

In the Vista Unified School District, English recognized the importance of professional development in implementing OER. District principals, library media techs and teachers on special assignment were trained during a four-month program on curating content and determining how OER should be used in the classroom.

To provide more support, the Vista district implemented Teacher's Institutes led by professionals that understood the pedagogy and standards of student learning. The institutes help teachers use OER in the classroom.

Our ultimate goal is always to increase student achievement. There's no one-size fits all approach to student learning, but OER provides one flexible tool for educators to provide top-quality resources to our students.