Materials Adaptation, Research and Reflections, Tools and Resources
Part 3 of Open Educational Resources

Working Together to Create Open Educational Resources

The K-12 OER Collaborative is working to create Common Core-aligned resources

The K-12 OER Collaborative started with a simple idea: it makes sense for states to work together to create open educational resources (OER) aligned to the Common Core.

With that in mind, representatives from the state education agencies in Washington, Utah, and Idaho came together in early 2014 to discuss the opportunity to collaborate. The three states were joined by The Learning Accelerator (TLA), Creative Commons, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Achieve, and Lumen Learning to form the initial members of the Collaborative. Since then, eight additional states and several more not-for-profit organizations and associations have joined the effort. The Collaborative has also morphed into its own non-profit, currently being incubated by TLA.

Every year, school districts across the country spend billions of dollars on instructional materials. Unfortunately, most of these materials are not well aligned to the instructional Shifts contained in the Common Core and surveys continue to find that educators are clamoring for better materials. The textbook industry seems unable or unwilling to provide materials to fill this need, providing an opportunity for open materials that are truly aligned to the Standards and support quality teaching and learning in the classroom.

After 9 months of careful development, in late 2014, the Collaborative released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for content developers who were interested in creating open resources. The RFP asked developers for a complete set of instructional materials for year-long courses for both math and ELA, across the K-12 grades.

We’re often asked how what we’re looking for differs from existing OER. Developers have created many excellent open educational resources, and we’re inspired by the way that schools and districts have adopted and used these resources. At the same time, we feel like OER would see even greater uptake if they were better able to meet the needs of today’s classroom. As such, our resources will be:

  • Designed for digital: Many existing resources were designed for print and are largely static, delivered as PDFs or Word documents. While the materials will also be printable as a fallback, we’re putting an emphasis on materials designed for a digital world, with interactive and multimedia elements that support quality teaching and learning.
  • Aligned to the Common Core to support effective pedagogy: Materials will be deeply aligned to the Common Core State Standards, as outlined by the Publishers’ Criteria. Each unit will be evaluated by educators to ensure that it is rated as “exemplar” in the EQuIP rubric and each full course will be required to pass the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET).
  • Comprehensive: The resources will contain scaffolding for adapting instruction for varying student needs (e.g., special needs, English language learners, highly capable) as well as an assessment suite, including performance tasks with student work examples, formative assessments, unit-level summative assessments, and rubrics to help teachers understand and interpret student performance.
  • Designed for long-term sustainability: As these will be openly licensed resources, states, districts, and schools are encouraged to adapt and maintain individual copies of the resources. In addition, the Collaborative will provide users with a mechanism to suggest updates in order to maintain a master copy with up-to-date content that is reflective of new ideas and best practices as the material is implemented in classrooms. Educators from around the country will be deeply involved in guiding this continuous improvement process.
  • Licensed using CC BY: Some existing open resources have been released under more restrictive licenses (e.g., EngageNY materials are licensed CC BY NC SA). By using the least restrictive Creative Commons license, the materials will better enable educators to adapt and remix materials to meet local needs. This keeps the door open to innovative use of these materials in the future. We want to enable states, districts, and teachers to legally remix our curriculum with any other curriculum out there.

In our next post, we’ll explore the RFP and examine the process we used to create and evaluate the prototype units.

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About the Author: Before joining the Collaborative as one of its founding leaders, Karl served as the Director of the Digital Learning Department at the Office of Superintendent of Public Education at the State of Washington.

About the Author: Jennifer Wolfe is a partner with The Learning Accelerator (“TLA”). TLA is the catalyst to transform American K-12 education hrough blended learning on a national scale. In her role, Jennifer is leading the organization’s initiatives around Open Education Resources, including the K-12 OER Collaborative. The Collaborative is creating a new model for K-12 instructional materials under which all students and educators will have access to high-quality, low cost and open source content, disrupting the traditional publishing industry model.