Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

#OER State Policy in K-12 Education (from iNACOL) – Part II

In the report “OER State Policy in K-12 Education: Benefits, Strategies, and Recommendations for Open Access, Open Sharingfrom iNACOL, current status of enacted policies related to OER in several states are summarized.

Bellwether States: Examples of OER Policy Models

Several states have recently enacted policies related to OER. While these policies vary in their scope, they highlight the potential to policy makers for positively impacting the cost and quality of instructional materials in K-12 education for students, teachers, and schools. In this section, we highlight the OER policies of five states: Washington, Virginia, Utah, Texas, and Maine. Table 1 contains a list of all states that currently have or have had OER policies or initiatives in the past at any educational level.

Creation of Open Educational Resources


The most progressive law related to open educational resources in K-12 education was passed in Washington State. Here legislation was enacted to fund the development of an open course library aligned to the Common Core State Standards (Regarding Open Educational Resources in K-12 Education, H.B. 2337, 2012). The goal of the library, as stated in the law, is “to provide students with curricula and texts while substantially reducing the expenses that districts would otherwise incur in purchasing these materials. In addition, this library of openly licensed courseware will provide districts and students with a broader selection of materials, and materials that are more up-to-date” (p. 1). Of significant importance to this legislation is the financial support afforded toward the implementation of the policy: nearly $1 million over the next five years to fund full-time staff to oversee the development of the library and promote OER adoption. The law also permits a temporary reallocation of existing instructional materials funds to be used to support the development and implementation of the open course library.

Currently, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has used funding from H.B. 2337 to hire a full-time staff member to oversee the K-12 Open Course Library. Initial activities, including organizing an advisory committee and outlining a detailed plan for development and implementation of the library, are now underway. The estimated positive fiscal impact of the Washington open course library is enormous. If just one open textbook in each grade (9–12) were developed and adopted next year, the state of Washington would save an estimated $6 million, even accounting for textbook adoption cycles. A similar library was developed in Washington for its community college system in 2010, with nearly 40 textbooks developed for the highest enrolling courses. Caswell (2012) described this initiative in some detail and also provided evidence of indirect cost savings to the state.


The Virginia legislature adopted a policy that clarifies intellectual property rights for state employees. This legislation permits state agencies and employees to release potentially copyrightable materials produced with public funds under an open license (Patent and Copyright Policies, H.B. 1941, 2009). This policy has enabled the development of an open physics textbook that provides students with more up-to-date scientific information.
Virginia has also created the VA Open Education Curriculum Board with authority to designate Open Education Consortia. The Board sets standards for submission of educational materials and subsequent licensing of educational curricula developed by the Consortia.


The Utah State Board of Education, led by the efforts of then-State Superintendent Larry Shumway and OER advocate David Wiley, approved an administrative rule to the same effect as that seen in Virginia, but with language specific to educators and schools as employees and agencies of the state, respectively (Sharing of Curriculum by Public School Educators, R277-111, 2009). The purpose of this administrative rule was to clarify the State Board’s position on teacher use of instructional materials and copyright laws. The rule explicitly allows for open licensing of materials created by state employees using public funds and gives copyright ownership to the content creator.

The OER policy in Utah has facilitated the development of several OER initiatives currently underway in the state. Specifically, Utah has authorized and supported an online charter high school, Open High School of Utah, with a mission to use innovative technology, service learning, student-centered instruction, and personal responsibility to empower students to succeed. One of their goals is to provide open courses, and Open High School of Utah is developing and sharing their curriculum exclusively as OER. Moreover, the State Board is promoting and facilitating a multi-district collaborative to develop open textbooks in several high school subjects. Utah plans to extend this effort to more subjects and grades.

Updating Instructional Materials Adoption to Include OER


The Texas legislature, led by the efforts of Rep. Scott Hochberg, adopted policy giving authority to the Commissioner of Education to include open educational resources and other digital resources on the official list of approved instructional materials (Relating to Open-Source Textbooks and Other Instructional Materials, H.B. 2488, 2009). In addition, the bill allows for content developed by faculty at research universities in Texas to automatically be placed on the vetted list of approved materials for high school and junior high school students, presumably providing an incentive for faculty and institutions to develop content. H.B. 2488 does not stipulate that such content must be openly licensed, but the option to do so is retained.
Texas has also defined “open source textbooks” as a new category of materials that the state will include in their state adoption process for curricular materials, or even purchase. However, the policy does not require that purchased “open source textbooks” be openly licensed. They could be resources that are contracted for by the state, which would then own, distribute, and license them in any legal manner. It is unknown whether this policy has led to the adoption of more OER in Texas public schools. It is interesting to note the Connexions project at Rice University is a leader in the OER movement in higher education and has some K-12 open educational resources in the repository.

Increasing Access to OER for Personalizing and Customizing Learning


In Maine legislation was recently approved that mandates the creation of an information clearinghouse on the use of online and open educational resources, among other programs (To Support and Encourage the Use of Online Textbooks, L.D. 569, 2011). This legislation also includes approval for the state Commissioner of Education to allocate existing funds to hire or reassign several staff positions to oversee and support the clearinghouse and other digital literacy programs outlined in the law. To fund this legislation, Maine has dedicated some of its EETT Title-IID funds to (a) the identification and the development of quality review processes and (b) the use of OER and the development of professional development to support use in eight academic areas.

open educational resources

Graphic credit : Barbara Dieu

K-12 Open Educational Resources State Initiatives

The following states have enacted legislation or directed funding toward OER initiatives. This list does not include states that have reallocated textbook funding to electronic resources and/or hardware, which also relates to OER usage.


In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California launched the Free Digital Textbook Initiative, calling for free and open high school math and science textbooks that align to California content standards. Initially, 20 textbooks were submitted for review, and of those, 10 met at least 90% of state content standards.


Florida Department of Education, in 2008, was the first State Education Agency to adopt an OER policy with its approval of FreeReading for the supplemental reading programs list.


Maine has dedicated some of its EETT Title-IID funds to 1) the identification and the development of quality review processes and 2) the use of OER and the development of professional development to support the use in eight academic areas. nclb/tiid/arra/


Maryland is using some of its EETT Title-IID funds to assist systems in increasing teacher and student use of OERs in classroom instruction and to determine the cost-effectiveness of using open-licensed resources. This project includes the creation of an open source Learning Object Repository, developing meta-tagging conventions, and creating professional development.


Oregon has funded the Oregon Virtual School District as a program that seeks to increase access and availability of online learning and teaching resources, including OER, free of charge to the public school teachers of Oregon.


Texas has defined “open source textbooks” as a new category of materials that the state will purchase. These “open source textbooks” would be recommended and approved by the commissioner, rather than by the state board as has been traditionally the case. [Note: The current rules state that “open source textbooks” are not necessarily open licensed. They could be resources that are contracted for by the state, which then owns them and may distribute and license them as they choose.]


Utah has funded an online charter high school that is sharing their curriculum as OER.


In 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued a Request for Collaboration to create an open physics textbook, partnering with the CK-12 Foundation, in order to provide more up-to-date science information. These materials are supplemental, since they primarily address topics not found in the state standards.
Virginia has also created the VA Open Education Curriculum Board to designate Open Education Consortia and set the standards for submission of educational materials and subsequent licensing of educational curriculum developed by the consortia.

(to be continued)


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  1. #OER State Policy in K-12 Education (from iNACO...

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
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