This week, educators, learners, and advocates are gathering to celebrate National Open Education Week (March 27-31). The OER (open educational resources) movement has been expanding over the past decade, driven by the critical goal of increasing equity and access to learning. And the data continues to show that OER is gaining real traction, empowering teachers and schools to improve educational access in more than 50 different countries. In today’s post, we’ve highlighted a few examples of OER projects in the U.S. that are making a big impact. If you’re looking for ways to participate online in Open Education Week, we’ve also rounded up some of the free webinars and resources being offered this week (at the end of this post).

Bethel and Grandview School Districts (WA)
In these two Washington school districts, their leaders have often pointed to the large amounts of time spent in finding appropriate materials for teaching in the classroom. Their transition to OER over the past two years have been ambitious. For example, Bethel’s first major effort was to replace their current elementary math program with an open resource from EngageNY, which was established by the state of New York to align with the Common Core State Standards. Their second move was to replace all of their current commercial instructional programs for pre-K through high school math and English with open educational resources. “Although it’s challenging, and not an easy path to take, it’s worth every minute,” said Grandview elementary instructional coach Melissa Candanoza. “The new, open resources are “living documents,” she said, that can be “revised and made better every year.”

Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum
The MPCC is an award-winning grassroots initiative whose goal is to “create a comprehensive collection of digital open educational resources” for grades 3-12. The collective includes administrators and teachers who are actively working in more than 200 districts throughout Minnesota. While other states are in the process of developing coursework and repositories for OER, the MPCC is unique because of its large number of participating districts. With such an active force of collaborators, they are going the extra mile in aligning their resources to the state’s learning standards and finding ways to personalize the open content to improve learning.

MIT OpenCourseWare Project
There are many who point to MIT as the catalyst to the OER movement, when they announced offering MIT’s entire course catalog online in 2001, which includes materials from 2,340 undergraduate and graduate courses. As a result, the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative has inspired 250 other higher-ed institutions to make their own course materials available to anyone, anywhere. They continue to be one of the most frequently used sources for OER among U.S. educators. In 2013, the OCW’s operating costs amounted to $3.5 billion, and they plan to expand exponentially, with the growing list of foundations and major donors that supports them.

Tidewater Community College
The sticker price of college textbooks often stands between students and their graduation. That’s why in 2016, the national community college reform network Achieving the Dream announced an initiative to remove some of these financial burdens. As part of the initiative, over the next three years, 38 community colleges in 13 states will build entire degree programs around open educational resources. Tidewater Community College is one example of success. They received widespread recognition for their “Z Degree” program – a four-year, transferable associate of science degree in business administration with NO textbook costs. Tidewater has since seen major improvements in student retention and an estimated 25-percent reduction in college costs.

UCLA Affordable Course Materials Initiative
In 2011, the Affordable Course Materials program first began when several of their undergrad students began talking to campus librarians about reducing the cost of course readers. In addition to helping UCLA students save money, the initiative has enabled librarians to work collaboratively with instructors to bring more low-cost alternatives into the classroom. The transition to OER has been so successful that many faculty members dropped the requirement that student buy textbooks. In its pilot program, the initiative saved 1,647 students more than $163,000.

Here’s a few free online events and resources you don’t want to miss this week: