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Utah Goes Statewide with Open Educational Resources and CK-12


Today's guest post comes from David Wiley. Wiley is a professor at Brigham Young University and Shuttleworth Fellow, working to lower the cost and improve the quality of education. 

open educational resources from CK-12In 2010, with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we began the Utah Open Textbooks (UTOT) initiative.

The goals of UTOT are to replace expensive high school science textbooks with collections of open educational resources (OER), while researching the impacts on student learning and costs. Naturally, UTOT takes the CK-12 Foundation's excellent science textbooks as their
starting point.

Very few schools in Utah have one-to-one programs. Consequently, the Utah project has focused on providing low cost, print-on-demand textbooks to students.

In the first academic year we worked with seven teachers and learned several lessons about how to use open textbooks in ways that are more expensive than traditional textbooks. However, we also found ways to use open textbooks that saved a significant amount of money - well over half off the cost of commercial textbooks.

In our second year, we worked with about double that number of teachers and saved tons of money. In the first year, preliminary evaluation showed no difference in student outcomes on the state of Utah's Criterion Referenced Tests (the state's standardized tests). You can read all about the early years of UTOT in our article, A Preliminary Examination of the Cost Savings and Learning Impacts of Using Open Textbooks in Middle and High School Science Classes, published in The International Review of Research on Open and Distance Learning. We felt like these early results - saving money while holding outcomes constant - was a huge win for cash-strapped Utah schools. But we believed we could do more.

We're currently finishing up a paper evaluating the project's second year, which includes data on over 4,000 students and uses a significantly more sophisticated statistical approach. Spoiler: students who used open textbooks scored higher on the science CRTs than students using traditional textbooks, even controlling for the effects of age, gender, socio-economic status, science ability, prior academic achievement, prior science training, and classroom.

These successes opened the door for a conversation with the Utah State Office of Education (USOE), which announced last year its intent to "develop and support open textbooks in the key curriculum areas of secondary language arts, science, and mathematics. USOE will encourage districts and schools throughout the state to consider adopting these textbooks for use beginning this fall."

Accordingly, this February the USOE convened two two-day teacher professional development workshops to support teachers in adapting CK-12 textbooks into highly customized open textbooks that are tightly aligned with Utah's science standards. These books are:

  • Based on the CK-12 Foundation's open science textbooks
  • Customized specifically for Utah students by Utah teachers
  • Each book's Table of Contents is the Utah Science Core Standards
  • Professionally designed by a graphic designer
  • Available in print through Amazon's CreateSpace print-on-demand service for an average cost of $5 per book

If you wonder what Utah-specific, professionally designed, open science textbooks look like, here are links to the PDF versions of the books:

and links to the open textbooks print versions available through CreateSpace:

  • 7th Integrated Science -
  • 8th Integrated Science -
  • Earth Science -
  • Biology -
  • Chemistry -
  • Physics -

More importantly, all six open textbooks have been through the state's instructional materials review process and have been approved for adoption statewide. While the first three years of UTOT were limited to a single pilot district, as of Fall 2013 open science textbooks will be used statewide in Utah.

My research team, the Open Education Group, are gearing up for a huge influx of data as these books rollout statewide, and we will continue to report on their impacts on science learning. Lumen Learning will be releasing our process whitepaper describing "the Utah model" for creating and adopting open science textbooks in mid-May. Overall, it's an amazing time to be involved in OER, open textbooks, and STEM education. 

  Find Free Books by Subject


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