State of the State: How OER Helps States Collaborate on Standards-Aligned Curriculum

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are designed to synergize student learning outcomes around common educational goals. However, building on a history of individual state standards, and state and district autonomy in implementing standards, policymakers might first need to find ways to foster common practices to maximize student outcomes under CCSS.

Open educational resources (OER), a variety of freely available, online educational offerings, can support states in the collaborative development of a strong common curriculum. This collaboration benefits educators, who do not have to reinvent the wheel if teachers across their state, or even in other states, can share their robust standards-aligned content. In using OER as part of their Common Core strategy, states can also create cost efficiencies, by, for example, drawing on free, open resources for their core set of materials and purchasing materials where gaps exist.

At ISKME, we have spent over a decade developing knowledge sharing tools, including OER Commons—a community of 25,000 teachers, students, and self-learners that has curated over 46,000 open educational resources. Many of these resources are aligned to standards, evaluated for quality, and shared through social networks. Based on our work in this field, here are some helpful tips policymakers can use to make OER work to their advantage:

  1. Develop a tagging strategy for resources. Freely available, online resources can be “tagged” with a variety of keywords, such as the standards met and the learning domain. By tagging resources with identifiers such as these, resources can be more easily found and assessed for relevance--across schools, districts, regions and states. Some Race to the Top states have been working together on tagging strategies by creating a list of common wording for tags, so that tags can be easily read and used by educators in various regions.
  2. Determine common licensing practices regarding the sharing of resources. Open licenses are a way for authors of content to grant permissions that stipulate how their resources may be used. Creative Commons licenses, for example, allow the author of a resource to grant permissions to use the resource based on the author’s rights preferences. Creative Commons offers six licenses that authors can choose from, and some are more restrictive than others. For example, the CC BY-NC-SA license is preferred by authors looking to restrict commercial use while supporting educational repurposing and redistribution. The CC BY license, on the other hand, is less restrictive, and allows others to change and share the work in any way including for commercial uses, provided they attribute the work to the original author. In working with OER, states will need to consider the permissions for use they would like to grant on their resources—based, for example, on their strategies for sharing and reuse of their materials, and their goals around collaborating with educators in other states.
  3. Foster a shared workflow locally. OER Commons allows states to save, evaluate, and share resources they find on the site, as well as to create new and remix existing resources—toward the creation of custom collections of high quality Common Core-aligned resources. Synergizing workflow strategies around OER through tools such as those offered in OER Commons creates cost efficiencies, and can help states expand resource sharing to other regions and states.

The shift from state autonomy to a common set of standards might initially entail more work from education policymakers, who will need to develop ways to bolster curriculum in line with the standards. With open educational resources, however, it’s easier for states to create custom, remixable collections of high quality CCSS-aligned resources, and to share those resources online, across space, and at no cost.

July 19, 2013