Let’s Open Educational Resources Up to Everyone

Originally Posted HERE

When you have to pay for the best things, there is an immediate separation to the access that is available for most. This is true when it comes to the best cars, the best houses, and the best vacation locations. This has also been the case when it comes to access to the best education, and this reality is only growing as tuition at private schools grow while the funding for public schools continues to decline. Open information, available on the Internet more widely than ever before, has masked this reality for a time, but even this societal shifting innovation can’t continue to counteract the influence of money to segregate education. It is going to require a secondary push by those interested in high quality learning.


The current phenomenon of districts, schools, and teachers paying for the majority of their resources to the tune of over eight billion dollars a year isn’t sustainable for systems and professionals that are at various levels of financial distress. This has created a growing conversation about the possibility that a fresh movement around Open Education Resources (OER) could relieve the growing pressure on the system while also including more students into a learning space that features the best materials.


Conversations around OER aren’t new. Organizations, both large and small, have been collecting resources to be shared openly for some time, but the new conversation is bringing together a deeper bench of voices including thought leaders like Participate Learning. This new work on OER has already been able to bring quality resources to more classrooms because of the greater access to technology in our nation’s classrooms. Some challenges remain, including how to strengthen the core (currently the Learning Registry) of the OER work, scaling the amount of resources being shared freely and openly, curating resources as quickly as possible as to allow high quality resources to rise to the top, and bridging the gap on building adequate sequencing of resources to save preparation times by teachers.


Disrupting the publishing industry


Even with these limitations, OER is set to disrupt teaching, learning, and be potentially most disruptive to the major publishers. The standard publishers in education have worked to shift their information into a digital format over the last five to seven years with the idea that schools and districts needed and were dependent on their information. This latest OER push has exposed a few limitations to these traditional publishers including their speed to maintain accurate information in their printed material and a need to publish to the average instruction that happens in classrooms in a time with standards, methods of teaching and learning, and assessment is more personalized than ever.


This new reality is a challenging one for the traditional publishers, but there does appear to be a way for them to slide into partnership with the promise, hope, and desegregation that OER is bringing back to the system. In order for this to grow into reality, publishers will need to figure out ways to:


  1. Move from digital resources that mirror print textbook to building dynamic resources that growing through a rapid cycle evaluation program that lend itself to the believe that any resources can grow better today.
  2. Wrap expert voices around their materials to help bring context to the materials and a vision for how the materials can be used to maximize learning.


Traditional publishers could also look at a new realm of services that support OER. This would be supporting curation of materials that emerge from OER in terms of how they support learning models like: inquiry learning, project based learning, and blended learning.


Exciting moments are ahead for the equity and access of the best resources for all students, but it is going to take a true partnership between the traditional powers in the school resource space and the new innovative players like Participate Learning. It will take conversations that include parents, educators, students, and the business community to truly shape a system that works for all kids, but in the end the mantra for all of us needs to be, “Let’s Open This Up to Everyone.”