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Welcome to #GoOpen

This Launch Packet is designed for districts that have decided to implement a systematic approach to incorporating openly licensed educational resources into their curriculum by becoming a #GoOpen District. Let’s start with the basics.

Openly Licensed Educational Resources: The Basics

What are openly licensed educational resources?

Openly licensed educational resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a license that permits their free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with others. While not all openly licensed educational resources are digital, this #GoOpen District Launch Packet focuses on resources that are. Digital openly licensed resources include complete online courses, modular digital textbooks as well as more granular resources such as images, videos, and assessment items. (NETP, 2016)

What is the difference between openly licensed educational resources and free digital learning resources?

Openly licensed and free digital educational resources both can be used for teaching, learning, and assessment without cost. However, only openly licensed educational resources allow free, unfettered access and perpetual, irrevocable “5R” permissions, that is, permission from the creator to retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute. So while all openly licensed educational resources are free, not all free resources are openly licensed. For a comparison of openly licensed educational resources, free digital learning resources, and proprietary textbooks, see Table 1.

Table 1: Open versus Free versus Proprietary Learning Resources

Type Cost License Flexibility Example
Openly Licensed Educational Resources Free or minimal cost (i.e. non-electronic print costs) Open license (Creative Commons or other similar) Yes; generally licensed to allow free use and repurposing by others (some restrictions and exceptions apply) OER Commons
Free Digital Learning Resources Free Copyright Restricted Varies; limited ability to use and repurpose without permission from owner/creator Smithsonian Education
Proprietary Textbooks Variable costs Copyright Restricted No; owner has the right to control the copying and dissemination of an original work A number of commercial publishers’ digital textbooks

Open Versus Free table by SETDA, used under CC-BY 3.0/Modified from original

What is a Creative Commons License?

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when authors want to give others the right to share, use, and build upon work they have created so they can tailor it to meet their specific needs. Creative Commons offers a suite of six copyright licenses that provide varying degrees of permissions. It is important to identify which of the six licenses has been applied to content and resources you intend to use. The Attribution License, known as the CC-BY license, provides the most flexibility.

Should openly licensed educational resources replace our existing curriculum?

Based on your state’s curriculum guidelines, your district’s intermediate and long-term goals, and your budget, you will need to decide whether openly licensed educational resources replace or supplement existing materials. You also will need to determine the right mix of openly licensed versus free versus proprietary resources. Some districts use openly licensed educational resources exclusively. Some use them in one or two content areas where they are a great fit. Some use them to fill gaps in existing curriculum. You should choose resources that equitably and sustainably support the highest quality learning experiences in your schools, whether openly licensed, free, or proprietary.

Where can we find high-quality openly licensed educational resources?

A growing number of for-profit and nonprofit entities are building platforms to make it easier for districts to find, evaluate, and integrate openly licensed educational resources. The platforms are designed to be more efficient for this purpose than general internet searches. There also are several nonprofits that provide openly licensed educational resources on their websites, including openly licensed textbooks.

The U.S. Department of Education does not endorse curriculum or particular products. However, we encourage you to reach out to other #GoOpen Districts to learn what platforms they have used and which materials they have found to be effective.

No matter how or where you find openly licensed educational resources, we encourage you to use the same high-quality standards in assessing these resources for classroom use as you would for any curriculum materials.

As every state has a different process for procurement and review of instructional materials; we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the process in your state before getting started.

Participation in the #GoOpen Movement

What does it mean to be a #GoOpen District?

A #GoOpen District is a school district committed to providing high-quality, openly licensed educational resources for students and teachers. #GoOpen Districts have district-level teams that plan, strategize, and organize the implementation of openly licensed educational resources. They also have teams that implement these plans and strategies. #GoOpen implementation teams often include classroom teachers, curriculum directors, librarians, educational technology directors, and administrators. An important activity of a #GoOpen district-level team is to assess your needs and opportunities, and determine specific actions that will best serve your district in the transition to openly licensed educational resources.

What is the difference between a #GoOpen Launch District and a #GoOpen Ambassador District?

#GoOpen Launch Districts are just starting their journey to use openly licensed educational resources at the district level. Some of the districts might have previous experience using these resources and some might not. However, to become a #GoOpen District, they commit to replacing at least one static textbook within 12 months and joining a community of practice to share strategies and receive support.

#GoOpen Ambassador Districts have already taken steps toward implementing the use of openly licensed resources at the district level and commit to mentoring one or more #GoOpen Launch Districts in their journey.

In Summary:

#GoOpen Launch Districts commit to:

  • Identify a #GoOpen district-level team that will apply best practices such as those described in this #GoOpen District Launch Packet to develop a strategy for the implementation of openly licensed educational resources and a #GoOpen implementation team to execute the strategy
  • Replace at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources in the next 12 months
  • Document and share their #GoOpen implementation process and experiences so others can learn from them

#GoOpen Ambassador Districts commit to:

  • Mentor one or more #GoOpen Launch Districts as they design and implement their strategy for transitioning to openly licensed educational resources
  • Evolve their own plans for continued scalability and sustainability of openly licensed educational resources
  • Openly license and share their resources, and share information and insights about their #GoOpen process

Selecting Your #GoOpen Starting Point

Is there a right way to start the #GoOpen process in our district?

#GoOpen Districts start the process by reviewing curriculum adoption processes and policies, then developing clear goals for their use of openly licensed educational resources, and formulating a strategic plan for achieving the goals. The curriculum adoption process will help guide the development of goals and a strategic plan.

There is also the question of the right time to start the process. The path you choose will be based on the goals, needs and strengths of your district. However, most #GoOpen Districts have chosen one of three starting points:

  1. When textbooks are due for renewal: #GoOpen Districts that have chosen this path report that 12 months ahead of a renewal date is a good time to start the process.
  2. When curriculum is lacking: #GoOpen Districts that are unable to find excellent resources in specific content areas that meet the needs of their students and are aligned to rigorous college and career-ready state standards have chosen to start here.
  3. When teacher leaders have the skills and desire: #GoOpen Districts that have a strong cohort of teachers in a particular content area with the skills and motivation to create and curate high-quality openly licensed educational resources have chosen to start here.

For an at-a-glance look at what’s involved in getting started with each of the three scenarios described above, see Table 2.

Table 2: Selecting your #GoOpen Starting Point

Table that presents three entry points for districts choosing to #GoOpen.

About this Launch Packet

In this Launch Packet, we focus on the “Due for Renewal” starting point to implementing openly licensed educational resources. Drawing on the experiences and best practices of #GoOpen Ambassador Districts, we break down the process for implementing openly licensed educational resources into five phases:

  • Phase 1: Setting Goals and a Strategy
  • Phase 2: Selecting and Organizing a Implementation Team
  • Phase 3: Putting in Place a Robust Infrastructure for Learning
  • Phase 4: Ensuring High Quality Learning Resources
  • Phase 5: Designing Professional Learning Opportunities

For each phase, you’ll find recommended tasks, guiding questions to keep you moving forward, examples of how #GoOpen Ambassador Districts have addressed specific questions and challenges and relevant resources to support your work. For a #GoOpen Goal Tracking Tool, see the Appendix to this Launch Packet.

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