Experience and Insight Help to Meet the Needs of Today's Learners
Open educational resources (OER) are teaching materials licensed for free use and repurposing. This case study is a part of a research study conducted by CCSSO and iNACOL. The purpose of the study is to explore the current status of development and dissemination of OER in K-12 education at the state, district, and classroom levels. For more case studies and resources, visit http://www.ccsso.org/oer.
Robyn Bagley talks about the future of OER at Career Path High.
Robyn Bagley helped open Utah's all-digital Mountain Heights Academy (formerly Open High School of Utah) in 2009, and has been working with OER ever since. When Career Path High (CPH) was approved by the Utah State Board of Education in 2013 as the state's first blended learning early college charter high school, Bagley took the helm as a co-founder, board chairperson, and ultimately, its director. CPH gives students the opportunity to earn a professional certificate before graduation. The school employs a blended model; traditional content area courses are offered online, and technical school classes are taken at local colleges.
Curriculum specialist Danielle Bramall works closely with Bagley to make CPH courses better and more engaging by utilizing high-quality resources. This includes building courses from the ground up, and using many openly licensed materials, which she says comes naturally as a by-product of her years as a classroom teacher.
Bagley understands the challenges involved when a new school must build its own curriculum. Her experience helps her see the bigger picture when working with curriculum objectives and standards.
"I fully support OER, but I wish technology was far enough along to create a curriculum to fit our needs. We still don't have all the freedom that we wish we had when putting a well-built and strong curriculum into a learning management system (LMS)," Bagley says, referring to challenges she has faced trying to personalize and modify curriculum resources after they have been put into a LMS.
"Depending on how [online resources] are built, it could be things cobbled together," Bagley says, adding that it's important to "recognize the needs of the students" and where a course may need to include extra practice or learning opportunities.
To meet the needs of her students, Bagley points to the flexibility provided by their LMS, Gradpoint. According to Bagley, Gradpoint gives Bramall the ability to enhance and manipulate OER materials.
Noting Khan Academy, Project Gutenberg, Librivox, and Educreations among the resources utilized by her staff, Bagley also mentions the Electronic High School of Utah as one repository of high-quality resources that have filtered into CPH courses. Bagley says that the potential of OER goes far beyond creating the courses themselves.
Robyn Bagley describes her experiences with OER.
"OER can absolutely have an impact on student learning [due to] the fact that teachers have more and more free resources available to bring courses to life, and make them more engaging," she explains. "If nothing is free, you are stuck with a stagnant curriculum that is boring."
Bagley says that while it is important for her staff to be able to enhance the online courses in use at CPH, it is necessary for the courses to be consistent in their design.
"Our teachers have a great handle on what they can use," Bagley says, "and a basic understanding of what OER is. The teachers are doing some manipulations, but it all goes through Danielle [Bramall]."
Bramall mentions special education as one area where OER created by specialists in that field have allowed Career Path High educators to reach their students on a deeper level.
"A lot of times teachers will discover resources that meet their content needs, and I can integrate them into our online system," Bramall says. "We have really great staff; they are always looking for things online that can better increase our students' understanding."
Both Bagley and Bramall have specific ideas for the future of OER at CPH, which Bramall specifies is just one type of instructional resource educators are using.
"I want to make sure we are using the best OER to help students meet their learning objectives," Bramall says, noting it is important to "learn how to be selective, and not integrate everything for the sake of having it."
Bramall also says that it is important to continue educating her staff about how to find openly licensed materials, and how to understand the different kinds of open licenses conferred on them.
"Most teachers know to do a Google search, but there is so much more than that," she says.
Bagley wants to dig in and continue the work that CPH has started.
"For now we'll continue what we are doing," Bagley says. "I want to focus on our model and how it functions." For her, that means ensuring a rich curriculum with a strong foundation.
Career Path High
Kaysville, UT 84037
Robyn Bagley, Director
Danielle Bramall, Curriculum Development and Technology Specialist