OER #GoOpen

5 ways to get started with OER

Interested in the open educational resources (OER) movement? Here's why and how to jump on board

It has been almost three years since the launch of the United States Department of Education’s #GoOpen movement. If you are late to the #GoOpen party, it is the commitment to expand and accelerate the use of openly licensed educational resources in schools across the country.

The commitment, in a nutshell, is to replace at least one textbook with open educational resources (OER) within one year, share in a community of practice with other school districts, and share the resources created with a Creative Commons license. While this sounds like a novel concept in writing, this movement engages every stakeholder in the P-12 educational ecosystem. And, beyond the chatter and hype of #GoOpen’s launch, there is still lots of work to be done. The work begins with implementation and how schools plan to strategically scale OER.

In the words of Simon Sinek, if you “start with the why” when thinking about #GoOpen, the answer is easy:

“To provide equitable access of educational materials that are modifiable and shareable no matter the zip code of each school.”

(Next page: How to get started.)

However, the how and the what can be tricky when thinking about scaling OER in your school or district. With that said, I would like to reignite the passion in anybody who reads this article to begin generating excitement around OER.

Here are five recommended steps to getting started.

1. Assemble your crew.

Scaling OER requires a dedicated team of educators, instructional leaders, librarians, and technology leaders. In addition to these members, I strongly encourage you to seek feedback from students, parents, school committee members, etc. To truly scale OER, schools need support from every stakeholder in the educational community.

2. Find your why.

Even though I just mentioned that this is the easy part, the nuance will vary for every school. No two schools are alike, and all schools will encounter different hurdles and roadblocks along the way. However, it is important for every school to start with a few attainable, measurable goals when setting out on this journey.

3. Assess your assets.

This part of the process is an audit of what you are already doing really well and identifying the gaps in your educational experience. Examine current instructional materials and ask why you are using those and what is the cost to the district. This is not an either/or debate, but rather the opportunity to find the gaps in your instructional materials, to see where you can do better, and to use that information as an entry point for scaling OER.

4. Set your GPS coordinates.

I once wrote a book called The 1:1 Roadmap: Setting the Course for Innovation in Education. I admit, I am not very good at titles, but for that book it made sense because I wanted to share the process of 1:1 implementation. The same goes for scaling open educational resources. Once you have assembled your crew, found your why, and assessed your assets, you will want to work backwards from your goal and develop a roadmap of benchmarks and milestones.

5. Select the right tools.

The most common question when planning OER strategy is, “Which tools should we use to find these resources?” Although there is no definitive answer, I recommend OER Commons as a good starting place. It is a comprehensive, dynamic site that provides opportunities to find resources or build your own. It’s good to get out there and see what is available, but I also recommend building resources organically within your school.

Regardless of the course you chart with OER, keep in mind that this is not about eliminating textbooks. OER is about providing our students and faculty with high-quality, relevant resources that are modifiable and shareable. This is not intended to wage war on the publishing industry, but rather to support equity and inclusion and ensure that all students, no matter the district they attend, have access to high-quality, relevant educational materials.

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