Creative Commons, U.S. Department of Education, and Open Society Foundations present

Why Open Education Matters

Create a short video that explains the benefits and promise of Open Educational Resources for teachers, students and schools everywhere.

Q: Why is this competition happening?

A: In the U.S and around the world cost and sustainability problems place severe limits on all levels of education. Schools face budget cuts that can leave them stuck using outdated technology and inadequate teaching materials. Schools typically buy and then re-buy proprietary learning content that can't be easily updated, customized, or personalized to meet the diverse education needs of each individual student. College textbook costs now surpass tuition fees at some community colleges, which contributes to the growing debt burden placed on students. And at the same time, administrators and policymakers may not always be aware of the opportunities to leverage existing tools and resources to help teachers and students learn as much as they can as quickly as possible. There’s a huge demand for high quality, affordable education opportunities – and a very limited supply. Open Educational Resources are an important part of this solution. But here is the problem: very few people around the world have ever heard of Open Educational Resources. That is where you come in. We want you to tell that story to the world.

Q: What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

A: Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open Educational Resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. Users of Open Educational Resources have free (no-cost) access to the materials and free (no-cost) permission to engage in the “4R” activities when using them, including:

Open Educational Resources have been available online for the more than a decade. In recent years, several foundations have made significant financial investments to produce new high-quality Open Educational Resources that can be used in both formal and informal learning environments. Likewise, the Obama administration has won congressional approval to spend up to $2 billion over the next four years to produce and continuously improve a new set of Open Educational Resources that can be used entirely free of charge by students seeking cutting edge higher education and job training opportunities. All of these publicly funded educational resources will be openly licensed and free to the public that paid for it. The first $500 million of these federal funds has already been awarded. To learn more about Open Educational Resources, visit the Education Portal at Creative Commons.

Q: What are examples of Open Educational Resources?

Q: What should my video contain?

A: You should submit a video that communicates the benefits and opportunities for Open Educational Resources to improve educational opportunities and innovation for students, teachers and public institutions. We’d like you to draw attention to the best of these new resources, including those being funded by foundations and governments around the world, including in the U.S. Direct your video to communicate to a wide audience a clear, concise, and exciting vision for open education. Keep it simple, but think big. You can take it in many different directions. For example:

Q: But don’t the people running public schools, colleges and universities already know what is best for their students?

A: Like other public institutions, public schools and colleges can sometimes lag behind the private sector when it comes to deploying valuable new technologies and approaches. What’s more, many teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Even so, many teachers and faculty members are already very interested in Open Educational Resources and many are already using them (or creating them!). Unfortunately, though, this usually happens, they report, with little or no support, encouragement or recognition from the educational institutions that employ them. Schools or instructors should not be required to use Open Educational Resources. But we do want to see school administrators at all levels provide more tangible support to teachers and faculty members who do want to create, use and improve Open Educational Resources that everyone can freely use.

Q: What kind of support could educational institutions offer to teachers and faculty who want to use, create or improve Open Educational Resources?

A: Public educational institutions could provide many different types of incentives to support faculty creation, use, improvement and sharing of free high-quality Open Educational Resources. Instructors who use their time and talents to produce and improve Open Educational Resources could receive professional mentoring, stipends, release time, salary increases or bonus payments, public recognition, and appropriate consideration for promotions and tenure, among other ideas. In short, public educational institutions could use the public funds they already have to support the many teachers and faculty who want to create, use or improve Open Educational Resources that benefit the public. At present, just a handful of public educational institutions have programs that provide tangible support to instructors who help students in this way. With your help, we can build awareness and change that.

Q: Aren’t public Open Educational Resources of inferior quality?

A: Not necessarily. In recent years, high-quality Open Educational Resources have been released for free public use by dozens of respected educational institutions and hundreds of internationally recognized scholars. In most cases, they have done this for one simple reason: they want to help students learn. That is why most teachers become educators in the first place! Unlike commercial publishers, however, most of the generous scholars who produce, share and improve Open Educational Resources have no funds available to market their creations. As a result, comparatively few people know they are even available, let alone available entirely free of charge, and often in versions that can be customized by instructors and students depending on their own needs. In some cases, however, the producers of Open Educational Resources have been able to clearly document improved outcomes.

Q: Who pays to produce Open Educational Resources and how are those materials kept current and up to date?

A: In the past, Open Educational Resources have typically been paid for either through foundation grants or they have been produced directly by instructors using their own personal funds and resources. Over time, we expect the source of funding for Open Educational Resources will gradually shift toward public institutions, much in the way that public educational institutions are responsible for providing other essential supplies and facilities required to offer educational opportunities and services. As teachers and faculty members become more informed about these free and open resources and grow more comfortable using them, including to improve their own performance and outcomes, it seems likely that more of them will also become more personally involved in their continuous improvement over time.

Q: Can Open Educational Resources be used offline like old-fashioned textbooks?

A: Yes, Open Educational Resources can be viewed and printed just like conventional commercial learning materials. The only difference is the cost. Commercial textbooks often cost more than a hundred dollars, and in some cases more than two hundred dollars each. Open Educational Resource textbooks, or just the portion a student needs, by contrast, can be printed directly by students for the cost of paper and ink or by commercial publishers seeking a profit at much lower prices, typically less than $30 each.

Q: How much could students and school districts save each year by using Open Educational Resources?

A: On average, college students spend $900 per year on textbooks, while the entire amount spent on K-12 textbooks each year in the U.S. is estimated at $8 billion. Reducing these costs through the use of Open Educational Resources would allow some of these funds to be redirected to other pressing needs, including improved educational facilities and higher wages for teachers and instructors.

Q: What if I want to use third party content in my video?

A: Your competition video should be original, but that does not mean you cannot use some third party content in your video, such as photographs, other snippets of video, or audio. However, before you do so, make sure to follow these basic guidelines.