U.S. Government Pledges Support for Open Educational Resources

Last week, the White House strengthened its support for Open Educational Resources (OER) and committed to expanding access to them through open licenses and technology.

As part of the global Open Government Partnership, created to “promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable,” the Obama administration released an updated Open Government National Action Plan with the following section supporting open educational materials and licensing.

Open educational resources are an investment in sustainable human development; they have the potential to increase access to high-quality education and reduce the cost of educational opportunities around the world. Open educational resources can expand access to key educational materials, enabling the domestic and international communities to attain skills and more easily access meaningful learning opportunities. The United States has worked collaboratively with domestic and international civil society stakeholders to encourage open education initiatives. Building on that momentum, the United States will openly license more Federal grant supported education materials and resources, making them widely and freely available. In addition to convening stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts, the United States will publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant-supported open licensing projects, detailing how they can integrate open licensing into projects from technical and legal perspectives.

The day after the announcement, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the launch of its #GoOpen campaign to encourage states, school districts and educators to use OER.

Doing so, reports Creative Commons, will benefit schools in a number of ways including: increasing equity, keeping content relevant and high quality, empowering teachers, and saving districts money. In a statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stressed the importance of open resources saying:

“In order to ensure that all students—no matter their ZIP code—have access to high-quality learning resources, we are encouraging districts and states to move away from traditional textbooks and toward freely accessible, openly-licensed materials. Districts across the country are transforming learning by using materials that can be constantly updated and adjusted to meet students’ needs.”

The #GoOpen campaign is a multi-faceted approach to furthering open education that includes the following aspects:

  • Creative Commons will lead OER workshops across the country
  • A proposed Open License Policy requiring “grantees who receive funding through competitive discretionary grant programs to openly license all copyrightable resources created with ED funds.”
  • The use of CC licenses in new OER Platforms, including Amazon and Microsoft
  • Naming Andrew Marcinek as the first US Government Open Education Adviser
  • Ten school districts will replace at least one textbook with OER within the next year
  • Six #GoOpen Ambassador Districts will help other school districts move to openly licensed materials
  • The ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), will provide ongoing professional development resources and webinars for Future Ready school districts committing to help train educators on the use of OER

While the White House plan—released during the Open Government Partnership Summit in Mexico City—is not as progressive as earlier recommendations made by Creative Commons and over 100 other organizations, it mentions open education and open licensing as important areas for action.

“This type of work,” states the Creative Commons website, “could help move the U.S. toward a default open licensing policy for the digital education and training resources created with discretionary federal grants funds.”

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Photo: Dept. of Education (CC). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

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