Open education seems to be getting some traction here in Utah. In addition to our recently launched Utah Open Textbooks project targeting high school science, I was very pleased to see open education generally, and the Open High School of Utah model specifically, recommended prominently in the Utah Advisory Commission to Optimize State Government’s Report to Governor Herbert issued last week. The Utah Student Association Open Textbook Initiative gets a mention also, although I don’t believe it has a website yet.
Education recommendations are included in Section 3. Quoting from throughout the report (emphases below are mine):
3. Leverage technology and existing resources in education to expand the use of technology in teaching and learning, utilizing open?source learning materials, and coordinating efforts to generate economies of scale.
3d. Expand the use of online textbooks
Details: Encourage participation in open-source or online textbooks and related materials to reduce costs to school districts and post-secondary education students. Support the Utah Student Association Open Textbook Initiative, which seeks to provide a common open textbook for Math 1050, with materials for additional core courses expected. The initiative requires a one-time investment of approximately $75,000 for administration and development of materials.
Impact: Combined school district savings could eventually be $1 to $2 million annually. Collectively, Utah’s higher education students could save $1 to $3 million annually.
3e. Expand online high school courses
Details: The Governor, along with the State Board of Education, should set a future goal of the number of high school courses to be delivered online by 2015 (e.g. 20%). The Governor, working with the State Board of Education, should evaluate the available online courses and delivery methods.
The Commission evaluated one model with great potential to deliver high-quality, online education with teacher-targeted “just in time and just on topic” assistance to students. The model gathers information that allows educators to know the capabilities of each student and to individualize learning to individual students’ strengths. Through technology, teachers could handle a higher number of students while providing higher-quality instruction to those students on a statewide basis. Consideration should be given to providing some courses in an online format only to reduce the need for specialized teachers.
Impact: Further analysis required. Online instruction should result in savings related to a reduced need for buildings, buses, and administration and a higher student-to-teacher ratio. The value of delivering high-quality courses to underserved areas of the State should also be evaluated.
Slowly, but surely…