Excerpted from Tonks, T., Weston, S., Wiley, D., & Barbour, M. (2013). “Opening” a New Kind of School: The Story of the Open High School of Utah. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(1).
OHSU was founded by Dr. David Wiley and approved for charter by the Utah State Office of Education in 2007. OHSU opened its virtual doors in 2009 and completed its inaugural year with 125 9th grade students. Currently the school serves 350 full-time 9-12th grade students and 50 part-time students who take up to two credits online as part of a statewide policy initiative to allow broader access to educational options. Over the next few years, OHSU is poised to offer 9th-12th grade courses to potentially 1,500 students throughout Utah.
A policy commitment to OER was written into the school’s charter documents – the contract with the state of Utah under which the school operates:
Open High School of Utah is an online charter high school that is 100% committed to the use of open educational resources (OERs). This approach allows unprecedented levels of individualized instruction with a highly responsive curriculum.
The core philosophy of the Open High School of Utah is that education is a universal human right and that the most effective education is hands-on, service-oriented, and available to anyone. Because of this philosophy, OHSU is committed to using open educational resources – educational materials that can be freely and legally copied, changed, and shared.
Open educational resources enable our educational mission by providing the greatest pedagogical flexibility possible to OHSU students, parents, and teachers. Open educational resources enable our service mission by providing the greatest number of opportunities to improve our communities and revolutionize schooling around the world.
Most explicitly of all, the charter includes an effectiveness goal regarding OER which states, “All courses will be made accessible free of charge on the Internet”.
The National Education Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) makes specific mention of the current and future value of OER, recognizing that the state has a role in “expanding the availability of digital-learning content, resources, courses, and tools and ensure their continuous improvement by funding the research and development of open educational resources”.
4.3 Support the development and use of open educational resources to promote innovative and creative opportunities for all learners and accelerate the development and adoption of new open technology-based learning tools and courses.
The value of open educational resources is now recognized around the world, leading to the availability of a vast array of learning, teaching, and research resources that learners of any age can use across all content areas. Realizing this value will require new policies concerning the evaluation and selection of instructional materials so that digital resources are considered and processes are established for keeping educational resource content up to date, appropriate, and tagged according to identified content interoperability standards.
The Finnish National Bureau of Education started country wide OER creation process in the beginning of 2001. The platform is named edu.fi. This platform and OER service is built and maintained by the National Board of education. It supports and develops teaching, learning and implementation of the usage of ICT in education. The platform gathers the information of curicular usage of ICT in education and most of the Finnish OER material for basic education, and for the secondary education (high schools and vocational). The subjects and school years based on the Finnish curriculum categorize the OER materials.
The following initiatives are OER initiatives of the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science are licensed under Creative Commons. Some of them are not pure OER, but all are designed to encourage open education and free sharing of resources .
- Biblioteca Digital or Digital Library: conscious of the need to promote and make available to the educational community and the general public the content of their publications, DGIDC has developed a set of actions to make available in digital mode, the content of some of their collections, which research and consulting is accessible through its computerized catalog. The Digital Library is composed mainly by resources and edited by the DGIDC by General Directions that preceded it, and has as its main objective the provision of comprehensive works, for free reading.
- Acordo Ortográfico (AO) or Orthographic Agreement: Space where to find documents about AO and pedagogical resources. It is available for teachers, students, families and the general public.
- Internet Segura.pt or Safety Internet is a center that aims to take away from more and more the task to sensitize the Portuguese population to security issues on the Internet, hence striving to achieve a greater number of citizens. It is a space where to find documents, videos and other resources like quizzes about safe behaviors in the internet.
- GEORED (Digital Educational Resources for Teaching Geography) is a collaborative project between the Association of Geography Teachers and the Department of Geography at the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning (IGOT) from Lisbon University and is funded by DGIDC. This is a site where digital resources are made available under a Creative Commons license; there are a range of educational resources for the development of geographic skills in the use of digital maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS, SIG in portuguese).
- Plano Nacional de Leitura (PNL) or National Reading Plan is a website were to find: New Readings – space to meet new books, authors and illustrators -; PNL Blogue; Biblioteca de Livros Digitais or Library of Digital Books; Clube de Leituras or Reads Club – project that intends to help promote reading habits in Portugal (with available Ebooks ); Ler+ Dá Saúde or Read + Gives Health – involves professionals of health centers and hospitals in the counseling of family reading;Ler+ em família or Read + in family – about how can parents motivate children to read -;Ler+Escolas or Read + Schools – In this site can learn about the projects and initiatives launched by PNL as well as activities undertaken by schools under the Books and Reading; Caminho das Letras or Way of Letters – learning to read with use of modern multimedia systems -; Ler+Teatro or + Read Theatre – website devoted to the theatre and its connection to school-. PNL aims to raise literacy levels of the Portuguese so it links to other sites where can find an assortment of pedagogical resources like free books, free e-books, free videos, activity sheets among others.
- eduSCRATCH: Project around the tool Scratch (a tool to create and share interactive stories, games, music anda art). Aimed at creating an educational community (portal Sctrach) and promoting the dissemination, training, support and sharing experiences using Scratch in educational contexts.
GAVE (Gabinete de Avaliação Educacional or Office of Educational Assessment) initiative:
- Banco de Itens or Stock Items – with license CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 this database allows, among other features, to consult the available items to make ‘online’knowledge tests
- Banco de Exames e Provas or Stock Exams and Tests – with license CC BY-NC-ND 2.5, this database is an archive of all assessment instruments designed within the mission of GAVE since 1997. This archive can be viewed and downloaded files relating to benchmarking tests, final exams and the exam papers at national level (basic education and secondary) and the intermediate tests.
The Norwegian National Digital Learning Arena (NDLA) is portal for OER in secondary education. It is a joint initiative between county councils in Norway that allocates a portion of state funds to ensure free access to textbooks for Norwegian students and to develop digital resources (or purchase from publishers or other producers. The project has produced a large amount of OER and there are many thousand resources available from the portal.
NDLA work with 37 different subjects in upper secondary education. The subjects cover academic specializations as well as vocational education and training. In total, there are about 340 subjects in upper secondary education. The long term ambition is to offer digital learning resources within all subjects.
OECD Education Working Papers No. 76 reports that the government of Norway now insists on free sharing of publicly funded learning materials. (No mention of open licensing.)
Norway reports that the large government involvement in learning materials depends on the fact that both written and digital materials are free of charge to students in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education (International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1 to 3).
Hylén, J. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources: Analysis of Responses to the OECD Country Questionnaire”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 76,
OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k990rjhvtlv-en pp.8-10
The Digital School initiative by the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, is the official repository of all the textbooks in the form of e-books for all levels of education (primary, secondary, upper secondary and professional education).
A notable shift in the mainstreaming of OER has been a decision in late 2011by the Department of Basic Education (which is responsible for schools) to adopt open science and maths books for countrywide distribution to all schools. This means the distribution of millions of print books and the availability an online version of the text plus additional resources under open licences. Mark Horner, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and the brain behind Siyavula and Free High School Science Textbooks blogged in late 2011 in a state of justified excitement:
‘Openly-licensed, Siyavula textbooks are being printed and distributed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for all learners taking Physical Science and/or Mathematics in Grades 10-12 in the whole country for 2012! I don’t know of any country doing anything like this before.’
Since July 2012, the World Bank will “require open access under copyright licensing from Creative Commons—a non-profit organization whose copyright licenses are designed to accommodate the expanded access to information afforded by the Internet” .The default license to be used will be the CC-BY license, which allows anyone to copy, distribute, adopt, or make commercial use of the work, under the condition of attribution.
Text of the policy from worldbank.org:
The World Bank supports the free online communication and exchange of knowledge as the most effective way of ensuring that the fruits of research, economic and sector work, and development practice are made widely available, read, and built upon. It is therefore committed to open access, which, for authors, enables the widest possible dissemination of their findings and, for readers, increases their ability to discover pertinent information. The Open Access Policy for Formal Publications establishes the Banks expectations relating to the public accessibility of knowledge resulting from (1) work carried out by Bank staff members as part of their official duties and (2) outside research funded by the Bank. For work carried out by Bank staff, the policy applies to manuscripts and all accompanying data sets (a) that result from research, analysis, economic and sector work, or development practice; (b) that have undergone peer review or have been otherwise vetted and approved for release to the public; and (c) for which internal approval for release is given on or after July 1, 2012. For external research funded by the Bank, for which funding was approved on or after July 1, 2012, the policy applies to the final report provided by the researchers to the funding unit within the Bank. The Bank owns the rights to this work, as stipulated in paragraph 3.2 of the Principles of Staff Employment, unless it has chosen to relinquish those rights. External research funded through trust funds that are administered by the Bank are subject to the rules of the trust fund.
In its strategic national governmental plan for 2013-2016, the Romanian government mentioned for the first time Open Educational Resources and the integration of IT methods for learning. The strategic plan states that the Romanian Government, together with the Ministry of Education, will ‘support innovative methods for integrating web 2.0 educational resources and open educational resources in the learning process’. At the same time, this governmental plan is backed up by the European Open Data initiative and by signing the Open Government Partnership in 2011. In conjunction to this, the National Education Law mentions a Virtual Library and an e-Learning platform. However, there are no norms as to how this law should be applied.
In short, the progress is slow, but at least there are some policy and legislative texts to fall back on and to give decision-makers a sense of direction.