#GoOpen: More than a Hashtag

Big things have small beginnings.

In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Education challenged school districts to make one small change — to transition one textbook, in one subject area, in one grade band, from being traditional instructional materials to openly licensed educational resources.¹ To support this transition, the Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) established a network of mentoring relationships with experienced districts and states providing support to those districts that were new to the use of open resources. The conversation about this challenge was tagged with a simple hashtag, #GoOpen.

Howard HS of Technology” by U.S. Department of Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This conversation resonated strongly with many leaders of schools, districts, and states who faced frequently changing goals for student learning, approaches to teaching, and digital infrastructure while the materials available to students and teachers were not keeping pace with those changes [See: Why Go Open, Why Now?]. The result of the challenge is that, in less than 18 months, #GoOpen has developed and grown into a network of 109 districts and 20 states, committed to “going open” by partnering with committed nonprofit organizations, policymakers, foundations, and private-sector companies [See: Happy Birthday #GoOpen].

As the #GoOpen movement has continued to grow, OET staff have heard inspiring stories and worked with dedicated educators in many places across the country. District leaders are reevaluating uses of instructional materials, determining how they can further transition to technology-enabled learning, including openly licensed educational resources, and starting to prepare teachers through professional learning opportunities. Educators are unpacking and discovering resources to match standards and tagging and curating resources that offer students and teachers options for personalizing learning.

Wide open future

In March 2017, the Department and the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) co-hosted the second national #GoOpen Exchange, bringing together more than 100 district and state leaders, researchers, nonprofit organizations, and educational technology companies. Participants engaged in a design challenge focused on developing prototype solutions to ensure the quality of educational content, enable the sharing of effective practices, and providing targeted and relevant professional learning opportunities for all staff.

The conversations around the tables at the Exchange, and across the country at district-hosted regional summits, have affirmed our belief that openly licensed resources are the small but important beginnings of big educational impact. In these past 18 months, #GoOpen has not only opened the door to many robust discussions about the merits of openly licensed educational resources but also allowed us to consider how we can collaborate to improve educational quality and access for all students in many different ways.

For example, a frequently asked question is whether openly licensed educational resources provide high-quality educational experiences when compared with traditional instructional materials. Delving more deeply for an answer has led to broader discussions about the quality of today’s education policy and practice. These discussions include evaluating whether our current technology and tools are effective for improving student outcomes, which teaching practices enable greater engagement and learning, and whether assessment instruments accurately and appropriately measure student learning. These same questions have also led to exciting conversations about how openly licensed educational resources can spur innovations in pedagogy and classroom practices that will enable transformative learning experiences for all students.

We believe that the greatest, lasting impact of #GoOpen will not ultimately result from generating more open content or users. Rather it will come when those of us in education shift our conversations away from the use of openly licensed resources as individual solutions and towards the long-term and transformative impact these resources can have on education systems for the benefit of students. We must engage more intentionally with our colleagues who are practitioners and researchers in a broader dialogue on the policies and practices that impact teaching, learning, and collaboration. Our goal must be to provide greater opportunity for all students, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Open Invitation

To this end, the Office of Educational Technology is interested in working with one or more existing nonprofit organizations to build on and expand the #GoOpen network. In addition to connecting additional districts and states to #GoOpen, the expansion will (1) engage education leaders across district and state boundaries to form regional communities of impact; (2) facilitate the further sharing of openly licensed resources and the dissemination of best practices in teaching and learning; and (3) integrate evidence of the efficacy of openly licensed resources into the broader education policy dialogue and research agenda.

The organization(s) best suited to helping us expand the #GoOpen network will

  • have extensive experience assisting educators, such as teachers, district leaders, superintendents, and other educational resource and technology staff, in selecting and implementing a variety of digital and non-digital learning strategies. The organization(s) will have specific expertise in providing assistance to stakeholders to share, use, and collaborate on open educational resources using a variety of digital learning platforms. In addition, the organization(s) will have a positive record of leading or coordinating discussions on a range of education policy issues, especially related to the promise and perils of digital learning and increasing educational opportunity for a growing diversity of students.
  • collaborate with OET in providing leadership for the development of regional communities of practice and building networks of impact comprising a strong and diverse consortium of committed partner organizations. The organization(s) will coordinate with OET to (1) co-design, develop, and lead outreach activities geared toward developing a coalition of local leaders; (2) create experiences that encourage educators, districts, and states to build on initial commitments; (3) capture and share promising practices; and (4) advance the education policy dialogue on the use of technology to transform learning; and
  • have the resources necessary to support their own activities during this partnership. OET will not provide funding for organization(s) in this partnership.²

We encourage interested organizations to submit a written statement of interest to OET, including a proposal that describes (1) a possible design for the structure of the new or expanded #GoOpen network; (2) the organization’s role and approach to scaling the #GoOpen movement through regional communities of practice; (3) the organization’s strategy to integrate evidence of the efficacy of openly licensed resources into the broader education policy dialogue; and (4) any other information relevant to the organization’s experience in education or technology policy. Statements of interest should be submitted electronically to us at tech@ed.gov with the subject line “#GoOpen Statement of Interest” by no later than June 2, 2017.

Openly licensed educational resources can be powerful tools for transforming learning and providing educational opportunities for all students. When implemented strategically, these resources can help states, districts, schools, and students and their families reinvent approaches to learning and collaboration, shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners. #GoOpen has shown that solutions to persistent education issues do not occur in isolation. And we have seen that, through strong partnerships and networks of support from diverse stakeholders, small changes can make big impacts. If you have a story of how openly licensed resources have positively impacted teaching and learning for your students, please share it with us at tech@ed.gov.

Sharon Leu is a Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education Innovation in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. Openly licensed educational resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a license that permits their use, modification, and sharing with others. Open resources may be full online courses or digital textbooks, or more granular resources, such as images, videos, and assessment items.
  2. Note that this is not a notice inviting applications for any grant program.