Open Educational Resources

Non-Profit Works with Microsoft to Integrate OER into Office 365

A non-profit that develops K-12 curriculum and distributes it as open educational resources (OER) has teamed up with Microsoft to make the materials available to schools running Office 365. The deal between Open Up Resources and the Redmond firm calls for Open Up's OER to work with a customized version of OneNote, Microsoft's idea-capture application, and Forms, the company's program for creating surveys, quizzes and polls. Both are included in Office 365, Microsoft's online office productivity suite.

Open Up's offerings include math curriculum for grades 6-8 and English language arts curriculum for K-5. The materials are free and can be used by teachers and students on any platform or device through a web browser.

The resources include:

  • Student materials that can be viewed digitally or printed out;
  • Teacher materials, such as module and unit plans, lesson plans, assessments and embedded professional learning, all of which are available in digital and printable form;
  • Lists of source materials;
  • A curriculum map;
  • Lesson-specific supports for English learners and students with other special needs; and
  • Family resources.

Besides the professional development embedded in its OER, the organization also offers customized PD through on-site workshops and remote help.

The ELA content was originally built by EL Education for New York State's EngageNY initiative but has since been expanded with the addition of ELL scaffolds, a new design and the addition of K-2 coverage. The math resources were produced by Illustrative Mathematics, another non-profit that also provides free math materials to K-12. Currently, Illustrative Mathematics is developing curriculum for high school, including Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. That series is expected to be published as OER in time for 2019-2020 adoption. The organization has also partnered with the Louisiana Department of Education to develop middle school ELA curriculum. That's expected out in time for 2018-2019 adoption. As those appear, Open Up intends to integrate the new OER into OneNote as well.

With the new OneNote integration, the benefits to schools are many, according to Open Up.

  • Teachers can distribute the Open Up course materials to any device via OneNote; they can also integrate OneNote class notebooks with popular learning management and student information systems;
  • Students can take notes, annotate, collaborate and save their work into a personal digital notebook;
  • Both teachers and students can collaborate in real-time on materials through the curriculum;
  • ELA and other learners can use a text-to-speech option;

The integration with Forms allows teachers to distribute assessment to students with a one-click assignment and do automated scoring. An analytics dashboard displays assessment data.

The non-profit benefits from the integration by giving greater visibility for its freely available curriculum and broadening its distribution through the Microsoft sales channel.

One district that has beta tested the new combination said the integration of the OER with OneNote Classroom has advanced student learning in math "in powerful ways." According to Stefanie Buckner, a math curriculum specialist in Buncombe County Schools in North Carolina, "The collaboration space provided in OneNote classroom has enhanced mathematical discourse as students are provided a space to record their independent thoughts, then learn interdependently through classroom talk and facilitated discourse."

The intent, she added, was for students to build math notebooks "year to year." "We are excited about this continuous access to mathematical thinking as they progress from grade to grade."

"We are now combining the best curricula in K–12 with the most advanced platform for digital use of content in classrooms, all freely available to districts," said Larry Singer, CEO of Open Up, in a press release. "By making this excellent option freely-available to districts, Open Up Resources and Microsoft are making important investments in U.S. education."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.