New Tool Arrives for Refining The OER Vetting Process

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By Erika Aparaka

Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a vast assortment of opportunities and useful tools, as well as potential pitfalls if they aren't properly vetted. States are sensitive to this reality as the use of OER has proliferated to meet the demand for up-to-date and relevant teaching materials. Florida, for example, requires all learning materials to be provided in an electronic format as of the 2015-2016 school year1. Vetting OER is a process that is critically important to ensuring teachers and students have the best of the available openly licensed materials at their disposal and the process is continually being refined. States may vary in their methods for vetting OER, but a major point of agreement is that the materials need to be high-quality and aligned with state learning standards. 

I had the opportunity to talk with Christine Fox, the Deputy Executive Director at the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). As a former classroom teacher, and curriculum trainer for a whole school reform model, Christine has had extensive experiences with on-the-ground, in-the-classroom OER usage. "States need to be committed to providing leadership. If a state is going to encourage districts to leverage OER, they need to provide resources and professional development to support the implementation of OER," she shared with me in a phone interview. 

During my conversation with Christine, I learned that many states are still figuring out an exact OER vetting process and how to support the teachers using it, but much of it mirrors traditional textbook vetting in terms of the level of rigor applied to the process. A curriculum schedule is typically set in advance, with the time frame varying from state to state, and with school leaders deciding when to review materials to update the curriculum.  

While states apply similar standards when vetting OER as they would textbooks, they face additional considerations, like helping guide teachers to use vetted materials instead of relying on self-directed internet searches for OER materials.  Guiding states to a smoother vetting process opens opportunities for the #GoOpen initiative to lead the way and support states as they work to curate content.

SETDA has recently launched a free tool From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials toolkit, that will support #GoOpen states' efforts to vet and disseminate high-quality OER materials aligned to state standards.  The guide provides a breadth of helpful topics for states to explore, including criteria for determining what constitutes quality materials, steps for planning a vetting process, reviewing district and state policies related to OER, considerations for setting a technology budget, repository resources, and examples from other states. The guide provides detailed steps for state, district, and school-level leaders to more easily curate quality OER in one landing space. Fox reiterated during our conversation, "The focus should be on quality content, regardless of the licensing. The level of quality needs to be held to the highest standards and should meet [students] academic needs." 

As states make the transition to a #GoOpen strategy, the process for vetting OER content will become increasingly important. OER vetting should require the same level of intensive review as traditional print learning materials, which are also scrutinized for quality. While states are approaching the review process differently, the #GoOpen initiative is making an effort to help states develop more systematic procedures with the knowledge that properly vetted OER are a great way to address academic goals and support educators.

1State Policies & Practices 

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