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Aurora Institute

Federal Government Takes Steps to Advance OER Development

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Ethan Senack

Issues: Federal Policy, Increase Access to Broadband


Originally published on U.S. Public Interest Research Group newsletter, Volume 3, on October 29, 2015.

Open educational resources (OER) are learning materials licensed in such a way as to permit educators to share, access, and collaborate in order to personalize instruction. By sharing publicly funded learning materials as OER, we can move away from “re-creating the wheel” in all 50 states and territories, enabling sharing and collaboration with learning materials, resources, and professional development. Below, Ethan Stack of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, provides an update on OER from a federal perspective.

Launching the ‘Department of Open’

Based on how focused they’ve been on OER recently, it might be time to rename the Department of Education. OER advocates were at the White House on October 29, 2015 for a symposium on open education, which featured the launch of the Department’s “Go Open” campaign. As we celebrate some of their historic commitments to OER, here’s a sampling of what’s been going on.

  • The Department of Education is proposing a new policy that would ensure educational resources and other intellectual property created through its discretionary grant programs would be openly licensed. The proposal is the first major step that the Obama Administration has taken toward fulfilling a call made by more than 100 organizations this summer for a government-wide policy to openly license federally funded educational materials.
  • A group of technology companies and civil society organizations have made commitments to support school districts who want to #GoOpen. Amazon, Microsoft and Edmodo have announced a set of tools that integrate with the Learning Registry, enabling schools, teachers and students to more effectively find and use OER. Creative Commons, ASCD and the Illinois Shared Learning Environment have pledged professional development and platform support.
  • A cohort of 10 K-12 school districts have committed to take the “#GoOpen challenge” and replace at least one traditional textbook with open resources. Six additional districts with experience successfully implementing OER have volunteered as ambassadors to provide mentorship and support for districts just starting out.

You can join the conversation and see reports from inside the White House event with #GoOpen.

More open government action

Earlier in October, the White House released their third Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. The plan, which includes dozens of commitments to transparency and openness by the government, also includes a strong commitment to open education and open access to research. The plan specifies three general activities the government will take to advance open education:

  • Openly license more Federal grant-supported education materials and resources,
  • Convene stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts,
  • Publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant-supported open licensing projects, detailing how they can integrate open licensing into projects.

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