Voice from the Field: The Increasing Desire to Effectively Utilize OER for Digital Curriculum

As Knovation’s Vice President of Sales, I have the opportunity to talk with a lot of district leaders in conferences and meetings around the country. Each district has its own set of challenges and goals—some unique, some shared. One goal that clearly and consistently stands out is the desire to implement high quality digital content aligned to both state and Common Core standards that can be easily integrated with other existing systems (e.g. Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems, Learning Object Repositories) to support digital curriculum initiatives and blended learning environments.

Free is Not Always Free

As free Open Educational Resources (OER) proliferate faster than one can keep track of and as many states now allow districts to use textbook money to purchase digital content, the goal of compiling and maintaining a solid body of high quality digital content shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish—but it is.

While most districts are eager to use OER, sifting through the millions of digital resources to identify only the best is a huge undertaking. Teachers already have too much on their plates, and many districts don’t have time or resources to build out their lesson plans and curriculum maps leveraging digital content and are looking for partners that can assist.

The reality ends up being that access to a lot of free digital content in itself is still far from crossing the finish line of implementing a successful digital curriculum strategy. The situation was perfectly described by one of our customers, Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, Deputy Superintendent for Cabarrus County Schools in North Carolina. Watch Video

Cabarrus Video Image

Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, Deputy Superintendent.

“With the elimination of much of our textbook budgets over the last several years and the intuitive understanding that digital content is the way to the future, we asked the question: ‘Is there enough available, free content on the internet that can be used to teach an entire K-12 curriculum?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it’s a matter of organizing that content, vetting that content and getting that content to the hands of teachers in a way that is usable and meaningful for students. As we looked at the idea to have our own people take the time to vet internet content, organize and structure it in such a way that our students and teachers could have access to it, it quickly became apparent that it would not be cost effective.”

The Changing Resource Selection Process

In September, Knovation released the results of a National Survey on Digital Content & Curriculum that addressed the need to revise the resource selection process when acquiring digital content. The goal of the study was to share insights of what is most important to educators across the U.S. when selecting digital resources to purchase, ensuring quality and rigor of digital resources, organizing learning resources and aligning them to district curriculum and prioritizing learning object attributes, so districts leaders can employ a different logic to acquire active digital content than the one used to purchasing static textbooks.

How are you making use of OER to support your district’s digital curriculum and blended learning strategies? What is working well for you? What challenges do you face as you move forward with implementation?