Ed-Tech Developers Win Contracts to Develop ‘Open’ Resources for States

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A group of content developers have won deals to develop “open” educational resources from 12 states that are working together to create and share the free resources.

The Learning Accelerator, a Cupertino, Calif.-based nonprofit, is helping fund the K-12 OER Collaborative, a coalition of a dozen states and several nonprofit organizations focused on creating open materials—typically defined as free resources that users are able to share, alter, and repurpose to meet their needs.

The accelerator invited developers to respond to a request for proposals late last year to build “rapid prototypes” of 2-3 week open academic units in English/language arts or math. 

The initial round of awards are worth about $1.3 million. But the 10 developers selected will be in the running for a bigger prize: the possibility to secure work from the accelerator, worth an estimated $25 million-$30 million, to develop full, year-long open resources in math and English language arts, said Jennifer A. Wolfe, a partner at the Learning Accelerator. Up to eight vendors will be chosen for those more extensive projects, she said in an interview.

The collaborative received proposals from 24 content developers for the initial RFP. More than 90 individuals from the states interested in open materials helped review the proposals and make selections, which were announced earlier this month.

The 10 developers chosen—which include commercial vendors, nonprofits, and universities—through the initial RFP process are:

  • edCount LLC
  • Expeditionary Learning
  • Illustrative Mathematics
  • LearnZillion
  • Literacy Design Collaborative
  • Mathematics Vision Project
  • Odell Education
  • Public Consulting Group, Inc.
  • University of Utah
  • Victory Productions

Open educatonal resources have been created in recent years by nonprofit organizations, states, and individual educators. They have gained popularity among policymakers and educators who see them as alternatives to costly resources fashioned by commercial vendors and sold across states and K-12 districts.

The Learning Accelerator describes open materials as distinct from “expensive and rigidly controlled” commercial materials, noting that open content is created with licenses for anyone to freely and legally use, modify, and distribute it.

Some commercial vendors argue that many open resources are of middling quality, and that the process of finding and curating reliable materials is both labor-intensive and costly for districts. 

But many states have bought into the concept. The twelve taking part in the collaborative are Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Washington.

The commercial providers who went after the awards most likely saw an opportunity to take part in a project focused on a fast-emerging area of interest in K-12, Wolfe said.

All the developers on the project—whether commercial providers or not—will be required to develop resources that are free and available online for the collaborative, she said, though developers could create their own, separate commercial applications of that work, she noted.

Many students and teachers “have gone too long with instructional materials that are, ironically, both costly and inadequate,” Scott Ellis, the CEO of the Learning Accelerator, said in a statement.

“Open edcuational resources are an important part of a comprehensive solution to improve student learning experiences and outcomes, while freeing up budget dollars for other, critical educational needs.” 

One thought on “Ed-Tech Developers Win Contracts to Develop ‘Open’ Resources for States

  1. This initiative is also important for its commitment to EPUB as the core format for the development of the Collaborative-sponsored OERs. This format choice significantly increase the possibility of widespread adoption and use by many students, including those with disabilities. See the blog post at the Center on Online Learning: http://centerononlinelearning.org/epub-open-textbooks/

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