Federal OER Regulations Must Consider Quality and Research

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The US Department of Education recently announced that it is seeking to implement new regulations requiring any educational resources created through the department’s discretionary competitive grants to be made widely available under an open licensing agreement. While current law already requires that materials created with federal funds be made available free of copyright, many stakeholders do not know this opportunity exists. The proposed regulation seeks to make this opportunity more widely known and materials more easily accessible.

SIIA and the education technology industry are not opposed to the creation or use of open educational resources (OER) or openly licensed content. Like the department and other education stakeholders, SIIA wants to ensure there is a sustainable flow of high-quality educational resources to schools, teachers and students.

Many education technology companies providing content and learning management services to schools disseminate free OER and openly licensed materials through their products. Other content publishers may utilize OER as supplemental content to their rich, digital-native primary materials.

SIIA believes that in encouraging or incentivizing the development, dissemination, and adoption of OER and openly licensed materials, it is imperative that the department ensure the quality of materials is, at a minimum, equal to that of commercially available resources. This includes ensuring that OER and openly licensed materials are research-based, aligned to state learning standards and are accessible to all students.

The department must also help schools understand that there are additional cost considerations when adopting OER and openly licensed materials beyond initial acquisition costs. Simply moving to OER does not mean schools will no longer require funding for instructional materials. There are hardware, software and professional development costs in addition to the costs of updating the materials on a regular basis.

SIIA will review the department’s proposed regulation and will provide comments aligned with these views. SIIA has already provided similar comments on the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently before Congress.