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OER common standards

Making the case for common K-12 standards

In a time of policy uncertainty, here's why common standards for OER and its technology could make all the difference.

Education is changing, things are in flux, and there is uncertainty. In this ever-dynamic landscape, “common” standards for education seemingly get a bad rap, but they’re useful, particularly for the development and distribution of open education resources (OER).

The key to creating and curating great OER that will survive the choppy waters of policy changes is to maintain education standards that can operate independently from Common Core, or any state or federally mandated standards.

When OER curation was in its infancy, there were few common standards in place for vetting and cataloging this content. At Knovation, after years of hands-on experience with over a million educational resources, frequent interactions with teachers and students, and by partnering with experts in their field, we have developed common standards that allow curation processes to scale and flourish.

There are three fundamental types of standards that we use as a basis for the decisions made around the science and art of curation.

Types of Standard Alignment

1. Quality Standards: Consistently applying the same standards of quality to all curated OER is critical to any certification process. Considering factors such as level of authority, depth of learning, structure, advertisements, effectiveness, etc. helps smooth out the variability in how OER is selected for curation.

2. Metadata Standards: A well-designed metadata schema is at the center of all OER curation. In order to innovate in ways that anticipate and serve the needs of teachers and students, standards are applied to how OER is tagged, how tags support one another, and the editorial style that is imposed upon all metadata.

3. Academic Standards: OER is most relevant when it’s aligned to meaningful structures that support the ways that teachers teach and students learn. One of the most common sets of structures are academic standards. As we have all come to realize, these must be considered during the curation of OER in order to provide meaningful connections to content.

The Value of Common Standards in OER

It’s interesting to compare the path, and growth of, academic standards to other common industry standards. We have closely watched as the IMS Global Learning Consortium’s Learning Tool Interoperability standard (LTI) has gradually been adopted by the educator community to connect Learning Management Systems (LMS) with content providers, and is now on a path to become the de facto standard for authentication in K-12 education. Technologists, publishers, parents, teachers and most importantly, students all benefit from this commonality. When there is agreement on a common standard, these touch points make learning with technology easier and more effective.

There is an important comparison to draw between LTI, or any common standard, and the current conversation around academic standards. We believe that common standards can benefit all stakeholders.

When research-based, rigorous standards put students first, we all stand to gain. These common standards allow us to tap into diverse perspectives and a broad pool of expertise. When knowledge and skills are not specific to the geographical location of children, we best serve our children by developing policy that does not limit the conversation to only those within state lines.

From a policy perspective, we must continue to push for standards that support the quality of education that our students deserve. From a practical perspective, we must make the connection between rigorous standards and accessible high quality content. OER curators, publishers, assessment providers and independent content creators genuinely looking to “do something good for kids” are able to author, produce, curate and distribute content that is of a higher quality and more closely connected to standards when these standards are shared by many.

In a commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Bill Nye reminded graduates, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t. Respect their knowledge, learn from them.”

Video: Nye’s speech

By embracing this belief, and attempting to harness our collective intelligence, we too can be reminded that developing common frameworks doesn’t mean that we have to compromise our high standards; it just means that we recognize how much better we are together.

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