Open Education Resources Going Mainstream

Open education resources (OER) are finally moving into the mainstream. At postsecondary institutions, OER has begun to expand beyond the small group of dedicated early adopters. Driven in part by pressure to address the high cost of college textbooks, the list of colleges that launched open learning initiatives boomed in 2017. In K-12, OER is rapidly being integrated into a variety of platforms and full-blown OER curricula are beginning to appear.

Postsecondary first:  OpenStax, one of the leading OER textbook providers, has announced several partnerships that add value to its textbook products. Carnegie Learning’s adaptive 1-to-1 math coaching platform, Mika, will be combined with OpenStax textbooks into a single, affordable learning solution for developmental math. OpenStax has also partnered with Ambassador to integrate its textbooks into Ambassador’s Content Lab, making it easier for faculty to assemble and curate custom-made collections of digital and print materials. The integration will allow content from the OpenStax library to be combined with other OER, web articles, blogs, images, videos and other publisher content, as well as the school’s or professor’s own content. Faculty can also access OpenStax’s instructor-only resources like test banks and solution manuals.

Follett has agreed to make Lumen Learning’s OER courseware available to the 1,200 plus institutions where it manages course materials delivery. Lumen courseware curates the best available OER and adds timely updates, learning design, and technical support to OER, making it easier for faculty to make the transition to open content. Through Follett’s includED™ program, students pay low-cost Lumen course support fees ranging from $10 to $25.

For OER to appeal to a wider range of college professors, it not only needs to be easier to find, it also needs to be supported by a collection of ancillary learning materials (assessments, assignments, etc.) like those that accompany traditional textbooks. These value-added agreements are steps in the right direction.

On the K-12 side, there’s been a lot of activity around integrating OER into the various platforms that schools use to deliver and curate instructional resources. Blackboard and ACT are collaborating to integrate ACT’s standards-aligned open educational resource OpenEd library with Blackboard’s learning management systems and solutions. OpenEd materials include videos, games, assessments, homework assignments, and lesson plans.

Most recently, a partnership between itslearning and Knowvation will give school districts using Knowvation full access to the Knowvation Content Collection within the itslearning platform. Teachers not only need easy access to a variety of OER, they also need the tools to manage the content they discover. itslearning includes 2 million resources and 14,000 playlists curated from sources such as PBS, the Smithsonian, NASA, and National Geographic. Resources include websites, interactives, games, questions, and videos. Each item is tagged with metadata, searchable, and ready to incorporate into tasks and lessons.

These integration partnerships are adding value to OER collections, making it easier for teachers to add resources to individual lessons or to aggregate a variety of OER into larger units of instruction. Another approach is to simply to deliver OER curriculum products. In August, Open Up Resources released its first openly licensed core program, the Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math curriculum. Open Up Resources estimates that the math curriculum will give districts an 80% overall savings versus the cost of adopting materials from traditional publishers. Districts need only invest in Open Up’s implementation services, such as printing and professional development. In November, Open Up Resources announced that it is developing two new full-course English language arts curricula: Bookworms K–5 Reading & Writing and an enhanced version of Louisiana state’s ELA Guidebooks 2.0 for high school, which it is creating with the state of Louisiana and Odell Education.

Obviously, full-blown curricula are more worrisome for the commercial education materials industry. Individual OER learning objects required teachers to do a lot of work, searching for and evaluating the best resources and integrating them into ongoing lessons. A full curriculum reduces the work load and is a familiar entity. On the other hand, districts and schools have become much more skeptical about the value of comprehensive solutions, concerned that they represent a “one size fits all” approach that is not responsive to unique local needs. Of course, teachers can mix and match and rearrange an OER curriculum, but then we’re back to the workload issue. I’m oversimplifying here, but…

It will be interesting to see what the schools’ uptake of these comprehensive products will be, but there’s no question that OER is becoming a bigger threat by the day.

On a personal note, I want readers to know that I have (finally) decided to retire. There’s no big precipitating event; I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while. It’s just time. I want more time for myself and need more time with my Mom. At 100, her every day is a gift and I need to pay more attention to that. I look forward to short walks with her this spring to check out the first buds and maybe even a short trip here and there. 

I am so grateful to all of you for your support over the years. I’ve been blessed to work with terrific people, starting with Nelson Heller and Vicki Bigham and now ending with the team at MDR. People in the education industry have been so generous, sharing their insights and analysis, making sure I was aware of their latest products, pointing me to areas that needed exploring. It has been a real privilege to work in an arena where people are driven by a real passion for what they do and share a commitment to teachers and students. What you all do makes a difference and it’s been wonderful to be part of that.

I’m leaving you in good hands. The redesign of the EdNET newsletter is complete and the team is working hard to continue to bring relevant marketing and industry information to you. You can find industry happenings, marketing ideas and expert insight on our School of Thought blog and you’ll continue to receive the newsletter every other week. I will miss my work but I will continue to keep an eye on the industry and I’ll probably write a few articles over the year. My last official column will be published on March 2. It’s been fun!


  1. has included OER with its lessons for over 10 years and continually makes additions. The results has been a large increase in student success when they can selection the OER that best fit their learning style.

  2. Great perspective on OER’s trajectory. You will be sorely missed!

Comments are closed.