Tuesday, March 1, 2016 News

Capitol Hill Briefing Spotlights OER

Open Education

SPARC joined with allies CCSSO, SETDA and CoSN to host a briefing on Capitol Hill about Open Educational Resources (OER) today. The standing-room-only event educated Congressional staff about OER and how its use can help support student success across all levels of education.

The briefing kicked off with opening remarks from Congressman Jared Polis (CO-2) who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional E-learning and Open Source Caucuses, which also co-sponsored the event. Congressman Polis has been a staunch supporter of OER in the House Rules and Education and Workforce Committees, co-sponsoring the House version of the Affordable College Textbook Act and backing language in the Every Student Succeeds Act that inserted OER as an allowable use of state grant funds.


Congressman Jared Polis kicks off the OER briefing. (Image licensed CCBY by Creative Commons U.S.)

SPARC also acknowledged other Congressional champions on OER, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15).

Moderated by SPARC’s Nicole Allen, the briefing panel include three compelling speakers who illuminated different angles of the OER space:

  • Michael Carroll, Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. Mike covered OER from the legal perspective, discussing how educational resources immediately become copyrighted once created, and how permission to openly use resources can be granted through Creative Commons licenses. He also addressed the difference between resources that are merely ‘free’ and those that are truly ‘open.’
  • Ethan Senack, Higher Education Advocate at U.S. PIRG. Ethan covered the higher education perspective with emphasis on students. His message was that OER were a powerful means to expand equity and access in education. He also highlighted how textbook costs are crippling to college students and how taxpayers are impacted because of the funding we invest in higher education through student aid.
  • Val Emrich, Director of Instructional Technology at the Maryland State Department of Education. Val spoke to the K-12 experience, highlighting how Maryland was one of 13 states to commit to supporting districts and educators to transition to using OER as part of the Department of Education-led #GoOpen Campaign. Val also provided rich details on how OER is being implemented at the ground level, including content curation and adaptation, and teacher professional development.
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Speakers on the Capitol steps (left to right) Mike Carroll of Creative Commons U.S., Nicole Allen of SPARC, Val Emrich of the Maryland State Department of Education, Layla Bonnot of CCSSO, and Ethan Senack from U.S. PIRG. (Image licensed CCBY by Creative Commons U.S.)

The briefing follows just days after the Department of Education organized its first event for the #GoOpen Campaign, which brought together more than 100 state and district leaders, vendors and OER experts to discuss how to advance OER. SPARC attended the event and coordinated a session on defining and discovering OER.

Briefing Resources:

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