Why do I think that SD73 would benefit from implementing an open education resource (OER) policy to encourage more schools and teachers to use OERs?
The simple answer is that OERs support high quality teaching and learning and they do so in a way that is both financially and environmentally sustainable.
What is an OER?
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has published what is becoming a widely accepted definition of OERs…
OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.
So open educational resources are either in the public domain (no copyright), or they are licensed in such a way that permits their free use by anyone as long as certain requirements are met.
The most common licenses are Creative Commons (CC) licenses, which, at minimum, require the user to attribute the original author. There are six different CC licenses, and I encourage you to follow the link and investigate their characteristics.
CC licenses allow users to do various things with resources:
- Retain, own, and control copies of resources.
- Reuse resources in various ways.
- Revise resources to provide context, translate, change examples, or personalize.
- Remix resources by combining them with other OERs to create something entirely new.
- Redistribute resources by sharing the original and/or your revised or remixed resource with others.
How would OERs benefit SD #73?
There are many benefits to using OERs, but I will focus on only two here, cost and quality of teaching.
Textbooks and other classroom materials are enormously expensive. The BC Science 10 text is listed at $84.29, or $99.16 retail, with institutional pricing available. If we assume that the institutional price for this book is $50 and that there are about 1000 grade 10 students in SD #73, that represents $50,000 to purchase enough new texts for each student.
Typically, schools don’t buy new textbooks every year, even though publishers release new revisions on a regular basis, so textbooks become outdated, damaged and unusable over time.
Replacing this text with an open text could save SD #73 close to 90% of that cost, which is likely pretty close to the salary for a CEA to support a classroom teacher full-time.
Keep in mind that this rough calculation involves replacing one textbook in one course, imagine if SD #73 assumed leadership in K-12 public education and started a system-wide program to gradually replace old, dated textbooks with open textbooks that can be updated locally, delivered digitally, or printed on demand?
This would represent significant cost savings in a time where funding for public education is being cut.
High Quality Teaching
Since OERs allow teachers to revise and remix the resource, they promote thoughtful engagement of teachers with the resources used in their classroom. Instead of being stuck with an outdated textbook, teachers can modify, update, enhance, and localize their open textbook as they go. This means that, over time, the open textbook becomes more relevant and up-to-date rather than a publisher’s book which becomes less relevant over time.
Part of this process of continual renewal is the ability to collaborate with other teachers, both local and distant. Since revised resources can be shared with colleagues, the planning process becomes cooperative and the benefits of updated resources spread throughout the system. This, in turn, promotes greater collegiality and supportive connections between teachers.
The end result is that teachers are empowered to effect positive change in their classrooms, according to the learning needs and challenges embodied in their students. When teachers are more engaged, excited, and thoughtfully reflective about their practice student learning will improve.
Open Education Resources by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.