Our recent article, The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes, is now available for open access under a CC BY license. Read the abstract below, or grab the free PDF of the full article.

Given the increasing costs associated with commercial textbooks and decreasing financial support of public schools, it is important to better understand the impacts of open educational resources on student outcomes. The purpose of this quantitative study is to analyze whether the adoption of open science textbooks significantly affects science learning outcomes for secondary students in earth systems, chemistry, and physics.

This study uses a quantitative quasi-experimental design with propensity score matched groups and multiple regression to examine whether student learning was influenced by the adoption of open textbooks instead of traditional publisher-produced textbooks. Students who used open textbooks scored .65 points higher on end-of-year state standardized science tests than students using traditional textbooks when controlling for the effects of 10 student and teacher covariates. Further analysis revealed statistically significant positive gains for students using the open chemistry textbooks, with no significant difference in student scores for earth systems of physics courses. Although the effect size of the gains were relatively small, and not consistent across all textbooks, the finding that open textbooks can be as effective or even slightly more effective than their traditional counterparts has important considerations in terms of school district policy in a climate of finite educational funding.

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The K-12 OER Collaborative

As our recent article on The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes in Educational Researcher demonstrated (OA version coming soon), when used in the K-12 context OER have the potential to provide local control, save districts significant money, support students in building up a personal library of science books, and improve learning outcomes. What can be done to help other students and schools enjoy the benefits of using OER?

Last week at OpenEd14 we announced the K-12 OER Collaborative. The Collaborative is creating comprehensive, high-quality, open educational resources (OER) for both teachers and students supporting Mathematics and English Language Arts learning, aligned with state standards. Because the resources will all be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, the resources will be absolutely free to states, districts, schools, (and parents and students, as well) and they will have total and complete local control over what to use and how to use it.

So how will we do it? The Collaborative is issuing a Competitive RFP, open to any and all content developers – both independent developers working out of their garages and major publishers like Pearson and McGraw Hill. The RFP specifications have been informed by extensive educator input with the goal of creating OER that offers a full range of instructional supports and state learning standard alignments. These materials will be vetted by teachers, openly licensed, regularly updated, aligned to assessments, and available for free in digital formats and extremely low cost print formats (states will be able to make their own print on demand deals with vendors, with no royalties to pay because the materials are openly licensed).

The Collaborative is supported by a number of states and organizations, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Achieve, The Learning Accelerator, Lumen Learning, Creative Commons, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the State Instructional Materials Review Association (SIMRA), and the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM).

The launch of the RFP last week represents hundreds of hours of dedicated work and is a milestone for OER in the K-12 context. Congratulations to everyone involved!

If you’re interested in creating OER for the Collaborative, check out the Competitive RFP.

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5R Open Course Design Framework

Supporting Capacity Building as OER Use Enters Mainstream

For over two years now I’ve been working full-time with the incredible folks at Lumen Learning on supporting faculty adoption of open educational resources. (Time really does fly when you’re having fun!) As indicated in the subtitle of our #OpenEd14 presentation – “still bumbling our way toward greatness” – we’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned lots of lessons along the way, and there’s no reason why others should bumble down unproductive paths we’ve already traversed.

I’m currently engaged in the process of capturing, synthesizing, and summarizing these years of lessons learned into a framework of guidelines and best practices for designing courses using OER. We’re calling it the “5R Open Course Design Framework.” The first version will be published in January 2015 and will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC BY) for use and adaptation by anyone and everyone. Lumen Learning will also offer training, professional development, and a course review service associated with the framework.

I’m particularly excited about the professional development aspect of this work, as it will help individuals and organizations build capacity around the effective use of OER. No single organization or group of organizations will ever have the capacity to scale the impact of OER to its full potential. For OER to truly transform teaching and learning across primary, secondary, and postsecondary education, we have a generation of capacity building to do.

I’ve said before that the internet gives us technical capabilities unimagined in times past (zero marginal cost perfect copying, zero marginal cost distribution, extremely low cost editing and remixing, etc.), but that copyright law regulates our exercise of all these newfound capabilities – so that what is technically possible is also legally forbidden. But when educational resources are openly licensed, education suddenly gains access to the full power of the internet – everything that is technically possible becomes legally permitted. It is this future – a future in which all learners and teachers can deploy the accumulated technological advances of society in the service of learning – that hangs in the balance.

The choice by educators to continue using traditionally copyrighted educational materials is like Superman choosing to wear a ring inset with a giant kryptonite stone. Both choices deprive their respective choosers of superpowers to which they would otherwise have access.

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