Report: The way we buy digital instructional materials may need an overhaul

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
November 9th, 2015

Educators stress the importance of state leadership, transparency for purchasing digital instructional materials

digital-instructional-materialsA new report urges care when purchasing digital instructional materials, and notes that factors such as interoperability, accessibility, and device access should be considered during the process.

Navigating the Digital Shift: Mapping the Acquisition of Digital Instructional Materials, a SETDA report, provides information and guidance on the process of digital instructional materials acquisition.

The report notes that navigating the procurement process is cited as one of the primary challenges for states and districts, and one that proves even more challenging to the companies that want to sell digital instructional materials to them.

“Transforming teaching and learning and providing access to digital instructional materials, both on and off campus is critical for all students,” said Lan Neugent, Interim Executive Director, SETDA. “This work can potentially impact policy changes related to procuring instructional materials to best meet the ever changing individual needs of students in the digital age.”

The report also outlines next steps for strategic support of the transition:

1. Essential Conditions: Support the essential conditions necessary for the successful acquisition and implementation of digital instructional materials for successful digital learning including Leadership, Equity of Access, Accessibility for All Students, Interoperability Considerations and Student Data & Privacy.

2. State Acquisition Policies: Conducting Business with States: States and districts should work to make the procurement process more transparent, and develop specific procedures to aid educators and the private sector in navigating the process.

3. Funding and Budget Implications: Strategic short- and long-term budgeting for bandwidth, devices, and digital instructional materials is fundamental as states, districts, and schools move towards digital learning environments. The coordination of state purchasing contracts and the encouragement of consortia purchasing can support the transition to digital as well. When acquiring digital instructional materials, the cost associated with access to broadband and devices is a pivotal factor.

4. State Policies: Implementation, Adoption, and Vetting of Digital Instructional Materials: States have the opportunity to encourage the acquisition and implementation of digital instructional materials by providing guidance for schools and districts regarding best practices related to instructional materials adoption, professional learning for educators, and recommended vetting practices for any instructional materials regardless of delivery platform or licensing type.

State policies are evolving, and more states are requiring that digital instructional materials be implemented in the next five years.

Legislators are now recognizing the benefits of digital learning and the demand for digital instructional materials that are available to 21st century learners via devices anywhere, anytime.

“Washington state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction provides leadership for our schools and districts,” said Washington state Superintendent Randy Dorn. “That includes instructional materials. We have a new landscape in our state. Materials can be printed or can be digital; they may include textbooks, technology-based materials or other educational media. And all could carry different licenses, from open to all rights reserved. To that end, we have created an OER library of reviewed materials to help support districts. We also have partnered with the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) to update sample school board instructional materials policies to better reflect 21st century instructional materials.”

“It is imperative that, as we design digitally based instructional opportunities, we take to heart Daniel Pink’s philosophy that ‘We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past,’ ” stated Dr. Jack Smith, Interim State Superintendent of Schools, Maryland State Department of Education.

Complementing the report is the Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) website, which provides full profiles for each state’s instructional materials policies and practices and an interactive map to view national trends. The DMAPS site is available here:

Material from a press release was used in this report.