Publishers Taking Notice of OER

EdWeek has a nice writeup of the recent conference organized by the Association of Educational Publishers and the Association of American Publishers’ school division. The article, Ed Publishers Adjust to Changing Market, New Resources, includes this interesting bit about publishers’ current thinking about OER:

Publishers are also trying to gauge how the rise of free K-12 educational materials, often called “open- education resources,” will affect their businesses.

Many education publishers today are assuming that school districts and other buyers of curriculum and other products will recognize the value of products that publishers have poured money into developing, and will be willing to pay more for products the industry believes is of higher quality. It’s a shaky assumption, Goff said.

“I wouldn’t bank on it,” he said. “There has to be an answer [to open-education resources] that goes beyond, ‘our stuff is better than their stuff.’ ”

After his presentation, Goff explained that publishers are likely to take an “if you can’t beat-’em-join-’em” approach to open education resources. That would mean they would either create their own free materials, or partner with others designing those materials, and attempt to make money by offering to curate or organize them in ways that would make them more useful to educators.

I want to comment specifically on the bit about “products the industry believes are of higher quality.” It’s exactly this kind of unsupported claim that prompted my research group to begin focusing on comparing the amount students learn from OER compared to the amount they learn from prevailing publisher materials. After a not showing any difference in learning outcomes in 2010-2011, the Utah Open Textbook initiative data from 2011-2012 are telling a different story. Those data show a small – but statistically significant – positive effect. Students who used open textbooks as their primary materials during the year performed better on the state’s standardized tests than students who did not.

Little by little we’re influencing education for the better. When the publishing industry has to deal with the “problems” OER are creating at their annual meeting, we’re on the right track. Keep up the great work!