Tools and Resources
Part 2 of Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources in Action

Washington's work to identify OER and put them to use in classrooms

Since they often allow and encourage adaptation, OER bring a huge potential to K–12 for maintaining current content and collaborating within your school district on continual quality improvement of that content. This potential did not go unnoticed by Washington State and, in 2012, the legislature directed the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to create a collection of openly licensed courseware aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in addition to conducting an awareness campaign to inform school districts about these resources. The goal of both of these efforts was to provide districts with options of up-to-date and aligned resources that had the potential of saving money over the purchase of instructional materials.

This is where I entered the picture. As the newly appointed OER Program Manager, I was part of a cross-agency collaborative team at OSPI dedicated to thinking about the best way to approach this work. We surveyed stakeholders throughout the state to get a snapshot of where we stood in terms of the questions people had about OER and how aware they were of these resources. Questions we received basically fell into four categories:

  • How do you find the right resources?
  • How do evaluate quality and standards alignment?
  • How do you ensure equity of access for all students?
  • How do you deal with policy issues with regard to adoption?

We decided to tackle the quality issue first. Teachers from across the state reviewed selected full-course and unit level OER using nationally recognized instruments (IMET, EQuIP, Achieve OER Rubrics) and the same methodology you would use to review any traditional instruction material. Online, we can now provide districts with a guide to 24 math curricula and 60 ELA units. Check it out here: WA OER Project Reviewed OER Library.

The goal of the review process is to provide districts with a Consumer Reports-style guide to OER so that they can make informed decisions about instructional materials. Reviewers called out resource strengths and their ideal use case scenarios, and also identified any gaps in alignment, providing actionable feedback so that districts could adapt the material and fill the gaps in alignment. As a follow-up to this review, we developed a competitive grant program for districts interested in adapting existing OER to better reflect Common Core alignment.

Now we are working to address those barriers that arise when districts consider implementing OER at scale. Most notably, the OER Project is:

  • working with our Washington State School Directors Association to craft a new model policy on instructional materials selection and adoption that recognizes OER;
  • convening OER Summits for district administrators, curriculum specialists, and technology directors to have rich cross-district discussions about OER implementation benefits and challenges; and
  • creating OER user groups to provide support for those first adopters and a platform to share best practices and implementation resources.

Lastly, as we talk with colleagues in other states, there is a need and an opportunity to work together. Common Core helps to facilitate this type of collaboration and the K–12 OER Collaborative is an initiative that’s arisen out of this dialog. The K–12 OER Collaborative is led by a group of 12 states with the goal of creating comprehensive, high-quality, OER supporting K–12 mathematics and English language arts that are aligned with state learning standards.

Ah, but let’s save that for another blog post…

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Washington State K–12 OER Project, please check out our website and feel free to get in touch.

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About the Author: Barbara Soots is the Open Educational Resources Program Manager at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington. She implements state legislation directing creation of an openly licensed courseware library with alignment to state learning standards. She also manages an awareness campaign informing school districts about open resources and their importance in the changing educational landscape. In her previous position with the University of California, Davis, she directed an education program consisting of interactive software creation and teacher professional development. She has designed openly licensed game-based learning software registered in schools nationwide.