5 ways to expand federal educational OER

Ed-tech groups rally in support of federally-funded, open educational resources

open-educationalIn a letter sent earlier this month, a group of ed-tech stakeholders urged the Obama administration to make federally-funded educational materials available as Open Educational Resources (OER).

Creating OER, which are free to use, share, and edit, would help increase educators’ access to educational, training, and instructional materials, according to the more than 85 stakeholder organizations that signed the letter.

The letter was a response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s request for suggestions around how to strengthen the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan.

Next page: Five core principles for OER policies

The supporters outlined five core principles for policy on this issue:

  • Adopt a broad definition of educational materials
  • Provide free access via the internet
  • Create conditions for resources that enable reuse
  • Require prompt implementation
  • Mandate regular reporting of progress and results

“Giving educators, students, and the public at-large greater access to publicly funded resources will only mean greater opportunity for success. The Administration can further expand its effective leadership on this matter by addressing this important need in the next Open Government National Action Plan,” said Keith Krueger, CoSN CEO.

“At a time when educational opportunity, workforce development and access to knowledge are critical to America’s future, taxpayers should have access to the educational and training materials arising from billions of dollars invested in relevant programs each year,” said Nicole Allen, SPARC Director of Open Education. “We’re grateful for President Obama’s leadership in advancing public access to publicly funded resources and urge the Administration to use this opportunity to make federally funded educational materials available as Open Educational Resources that are free to use, share, and improve.”

Members of the public can join the call for opening up taxpayer funded educational materials by tweeting with hashtag #OERUSA.

The federal government currently invests billions of taxpayer dollars each year in programs that include the creation of educational, training, and instructional materials through grants, contracts, and other cooperative agreements. This investment produces educational resources ranging from innovative curricular resources to workforce training materials to English language learning tools. While these materials are created for the public good, they are generally not open to the members of the public who paid for them.

The availability of publicly-funded educational and training materials could address key challenges facing our educational and job training systems, the organizations noted.

Currently, student outcomes suffer as school districts struggle to provide up-to-date textbooks, and require students to share books and materials. In higher education, where textbook costs are borne directly by students, the rapid rise in prices too often forces students to skip required materials, alter their course of study, or even drop out because it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This burden is particularly significant for community college students, for whom textbook costs comprise a larger portion of overall expenses.

The signing organizations maintained that ensuring educational materials that taxpayers have already paid for are available for free could directly expand educational opportunities.

In issuing this statement, coalition representatives said the groups hopes to ensure that educational materials arising from programs funded with billions of taxpayer dollars are freely open to the members of the public that invested in them.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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