Multistate Effort Brings 'Open' Content to Broad Audience

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A multistate effort to create a repository of free, open content is being designed to allow a wide variety of audiences—including commercial vendors—to take those resources, and build upon them.

The K-12 OER Collaborative recently announced that it had awarded $1.3 million to 10 content developers to develop 2-3 week open academic units in English/language arts and math.

Those resources, designed to align with the common-core, are expected to serve as the foundation for more extensive, year-long academic materials.

But while some open licenses, such as the one used by EngageNY, give the original, open content developers a route to commercialize their work, the K-12 OER Collaborative goes much further. Its license allows any entity—for-profit or nonprofit—to distribute, remix, and build upon that original work, as long as they credit the original source.

In using that license, the K-12 OER Collaborative's goal is to not only allow schools to benefit from the free, open materials, but to also give other audiences—no matter their affiliation—the chance to try to improve upon the materials, said Cable T. Green, the director of global learning for Creative Commons, which is supporting the collaborative.

The collaborative's message to entrepreneurs is an unabashed "here—go take it," Mr. Green said. (One of the collaborative's financial supporters is The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The foundation also supports Education Week's coverage of "deeper learning." The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.)

Commercial publishers' interest in the K-12 OER Collaborative's resources will likely depend on their quality and usefulness to teachers, said Jay Diskey, the executive director of the pre-K-12 division of the Association of American Publishers.

"Are they creating yesterday's textbooks," Mr. Diskey said, "or something that's a viable product in today's market?"

While it's true a for-profit company could benefit from taking the collaborative's free and open resources, the organization's model includes built-in checks and balances on that activity, said Jennifer A. Wolfe, a partner with the Learning Accelerator, a nonprofit helping fund the effort.

Since free, open resources will be available through the collaborative, a vendor will have to justify to consumers why its product is superior and schools should pay for it, Ms. Wolfe said in an e-mail.

Yet if a vendor makes changes to the open content that are so attractive schools demand to buy it, she added, that's "exactly the kind of innovation we are trying to encourage."

Vol. 34, Issue 34, Page 14

Published in Print: June 10, 2015, as States Join to Develop, Share 'Open' Content
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