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OER Onboarding How Districts Can Best Utilize Open Resources

By: Devin Vodicka

The Texas Learning Exchange (TxLx) has created an Open Educational Resources Library to assist students, teachers, families, and school administrators navigate through (and beyond) the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Open Educational Resources (OER) refers to educational resources (lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, instructional modules, simulations, etc.) that are developed by either a vendor or crowd-sourced and freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing. There are many reasons to consider use of OER, including potential for cost savings as well as the potential for integration into existing technology stacks and Learning Management Systems (see the TxLx EdTech Leadership Guide for more information on these topics).

One advantage of free OER is that you can access and try the materials as a need arises. Everyone who is involved in the learning process may find it useful to explore the vast array of available open resources and try them out at any time. 

In addition to unstructured exploration, this blog is intended to provide school leaders with a more structured process for the best next steps as you consider if and how to implement OER in your context.

Step 1: Identify the need (often based on a locally-developed goal for student learning) and develop a list of key criteria in your specific context at this time, including alignment to standards and tech integration options. At a school or district level, this process should be done with a representative team (such as a Curriculum Council or Instructional Leadership team). If no existing team exists, create an “adoption” committee and be sure to include a diverse group of representatives who can share perspectives from multiple grade levels/subject areas, general/special-education, and English Language Learner programs. High Schools are also encouraged to include post-secondary and business community partners where possible. Each of the steps that follow are best done collaboratively and with the designated team being highly involved. 

Step 2: Review existing resources, including available funds, previous purchases for analog or digital learning resources. In many cases, schools and districts have previously purchased items that are underutilized and you may simply need to refocus your efforts on existing resources. Contacting your vendor to provide training or even additional implementation can maximize the return on that initial investment to address identified needs. If that is not the case and it turns out that you need additional resources, proceed to the next step. 

Step 3: Review available options, including OER (use filters in OER Library for quick scan) as well as for-purchase materials. In addition to the OER Library, check the Texas Home Learning website that includes a list of state-funded materials. Analyze those options based on the key criteria that you specified in Step 1. This will likely result in a short list of potential “best fit” resources. 

Step 4: Develop a “pilot” process to try these resources out in small-scale trials. This pilot process should identify desired outcomes and also include qualitative feedback opportunities regarding ease of use and efficiency of tech integration. For additional resources, including facilitation guides that can be used with the representative team, check out the Texas Network for School Improvement.

Step 5: Evaluate the outcomes and qualitative feedback to determine if the pilot should be discontinued, extended with modifications, or taken to scale. In all cases, implement extensive communications to provide transparency into the decision-making process and next steps. As you consider modifications or scaling, be sure to develop a comprehensive plan for professional learning and ongoing collaboration. 

Using an inclusive process to analyze, evaluate, and implement OER improves the likelihood of achieving goals and best serving students and communities. We are in an exciting time where in some ways we have an abundance of potential resources at our disposal and we encourage you to stay connected with the Texas Learning Exchange project and to re-visit the Open Educational Resources Library for ongoing updates. 

Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions (email: info@txlx.org). We look forward to staying connected.

Author

Devin Vodicka is the CEO of Altitude Learning and the author of Learner-Centered Leadership. Find Devin on Twitter at @dvodicka.

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