Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

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

In the report “OER State Policy in K-12 Education: Benefits, Strategies, and Recommendations for Open Access, Open Sharing” from iNACOL, after reviewing the policies and initiatives about OER in several states, barriers, opportunities and recommendations are discussed.


Barriers and Opportunities

While the policies we have just described are good examples of what some states are doing to take advantage of the benefits of OER, there are still several barriers to OER policy development and implementation that policymakers should consider.

There are at least two main barriers to OER policy implementation: (a) lack of funding to support OER development and oversight, and (b) lack of funding for marketing and promotion of OER. In the first case, several of the OER policies described above have not been implemented as quickly or as widely as possible because the state agencies charged with policy implementation have lacked the experience, staff, and support necessary to lead OER initiatives. For example, in Washington, funding has been set aside for one staff member to oversee the OER library, but even some policymakers there acknowledge that the current funding allocation is inadequate to move the project forward either quickly or widely.

The second barrier to OER policy implementation relates to the differences between how OER developers promote their content compared to how traditional publishers market their materials. In general, funding for OER is dedicated to content development with little remaining for marketing and outreach. In Texas, the OER community, or those content developers openly licensing their content, have done little to inform potential schools and district buyers in the state that openly licensed (and generally freely available) high-quality content is available. In fact, not a single OER developer has yet attempted to get content on the Texas “approved instructional materials” list. One potential solution to this barrier from a policy standpoint is to allocate funding for the greater promotion and awareness of open content and professional development related to OER use and adoption.

While barriers certainly exist, we acknowledge there are also many opportunities for OER policy creation and implementation to provide more efficient and effective government practices when considering content and instructional materials. In particular, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by 45 states and territories provides a chance for governments to reconsider their sources and strategies around instructional materials. There is currently a great need for CCSS-aligned content, and the OER community has begun to produce it. States should consider policies that will make it easy for their schools and districts to vet and adopt such content. In addition, efforts are underway to organize a consortium of states to participate in a collaborative effort to develop even more CCSS-aligned OER. Policies favorable toward OER development and adoption have the potential to save states a great deal of money, provide personalized learning experiences for engaging students, and potentially impact student outcomes when OER is used that is aligned with the CCSS.

open educational resources, OER

Image credit : Breno Trautwein

OER Policy Recommendations

Based on our understanding of current OER policies and initiatives, we make the following recommendations for policy:

  • Allow for open licensing of materials created by state, district, or public employees using public funds and give copyright ownership to the content creator. Publicly created learning materials for public education should require a Creative Commons open license (see
  • States that have materials approval processes (like Texas) should ensure that OER are allowed to be included on approved instructional materials lists.
  • States should enable more flexible use of instructional materials budgets to support the development and maintenance of openly licensed instructional materials, devices, or infrastructure needed to help implement online curriculum and assessments aligned with the CCSS and other relevant standards. Such development could occur on a statewide basis (as in Washington State), through a collaborative between states (e.g., PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia), or on an individual or collaborative district level with oversight from the state board of education (as in Utah).
  • States should establish and fund an OER evaluation and adoption committee (where applicable). This committee could be composed of content experts, master teachers, and administrators from throughout the state to serve the purposes of identifying and rigorously evaluating existing OER with alignment to the CCSS and other relevant standards, such as the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses.
  • States should establish and adequately fund a professional development program aimed at helping teachers and administrators understand the benefits and uses of OER, open licensing, and open content curation. Engaging higher education, pre-service, and in-service teacher preparation programs at state colleges and universities (that are publicly funded) is an important strategy.
  • States could consider establishing at least one permanent OER specialist position with responsibility to oversee all OER-related activities throughout the state. This person would be responsible for overseeing the work of the OER evaluation and adoption committee, the collaborative development projects, and revision and updating projects.
  • States should consider flexibility for funding the adoption of digital devices for student use (e.g., tablets) on which all online learning materials, online courses, and open textbooks could be accessed. Such devices could contain potentially all necessary instructional materials, effectively leading to a more cost-effective approach than printing.



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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
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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