Today the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the hiring of the first ever open education adviser to lead a national effort to expand Open Educational Resources (OER) in K-12 schools. This announcement marks a critical step for ED and the Obama Administration toward leveraging OER as a solution at a time when improving educational access, opportunity and affordability is at the forefront of the nation’s mind.
The new open education advisor will work with K-12 schools across the country to transition from traditional textbooks to OER, enabling states and districts to adapt and modify materials to meet student needs, and also free up funding to invest in other innovative ways.
Secretary Duncan announced the position during a bus tour stop at the Williamsfield Unified School District in Illinois, which offers a perfect illustration of how schools can leverage OER to improve teaching and learning. Over the past two years, Williamsfield worked to replace a set of traditional textbooks by adapting and localizing OER, creating a more engaging classroom experience for students and generating savings that the schools reinvested to develop a cutting edge STEM program that would have otherwise been impossible with traditional materials.
While the focus of the position is K-12, the impact of this work will also extend to higher education by enabling schools to better prepare students for college and support momentum for the OER movement as a whole.
This exciting announcement is part of the growing momentum within the Obama Administration to support OER and public access to publicly funded resources. Last month SPARC and 100 other organizations signed a letter calling on the White House to ensure that educational materials created with federal funds are released to the public as OER. SPARC expects to work closely with the new Open Education Advisor and continue advocating with our coalition partners to advance open policy at the Federal level.