Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

Joint Commission on Technology and Science - Open Education
Subcommittee Meeting

July 8, 2008

The JCOTS Open Education Subcommittee meeting was held on July 8, 2008, with Senator Watkins as chair.


Patrick Cushing, JCOTS Staff Attorney
Patrick Cushing gave a brief overview of the role of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science and the Open Education Subcommittee. He explained open educational resources as “an Internet empowered worldwide community effort to create an education commons” (Wikipedia). He noted that resources range from learning content and course management programs, to software tools and implementation resources such as intellectual property licenses. The benefits of resources include reduction of costs to local school divisions across the Commonwealth and increased capability for teachers and schools to provide innovative content.

Michelle Vucci, Virginia Department of Education
Mrs. Vucci explained the impact of three bills passed by the 2008 Session of the General Assembly on the procurement process for textbooks for K-12 by the Commonwealth. Companion bills HB 137 and SB 356 updated the Textbook Procurement Act by removing obsolete sections, clarifying that the State Board of Education must publish a list of resources on its website, removing the requirement that a textbook remain in use for six years, and adding a definition of “textbook” that defines textbook as both print and electronic resources. HB 354 was identical to HB 137 and SB 356, but added a provision that allows private schools to purchase from local school board contracts if the local school board and publisher agree.

Mrs. Vucci also demonstrated updates to the VDOE website, which allows users to view procurement and pricing information for approved textbooks. The website includes a link to a spreadsheet viewable by subject and grade level, consolidating information and simplifying use of information that was previously available. The DOE will be providing school superintendents with a memorandum to publicize the new and improved website. Additionally, there will be a new email address for school officials who have questions about the textbook procurement process.

Mark Burnet, Director of Virginia Open Education Foundation
Mark Burnet presented to subcommittee members two draft bills for consideration by the subcommittee.

The first proposal was a resolution that would request the Superintendent of Public Instruction to encourage teachers who create educational content to use the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike U.S. license or place the materials in the public domain.

The second proposal would create an open educational resource center in the Commonwealth. This proposal is based on similar legislation in California and would establish a clearinghouse for open educational materials and provide guidance to those teachers in the Commonwealth who would like to use or develop open education content.


One of the main topics of discussion during the meeting was the accessibility of content contained in past SOL tests released by the DOE. Although DOE provides the tests in an Adobe PDF format, Mr. Burnet claims it is difficult for teachers to manipulate the test and individual questions to create new learning content for the classroom. The subcommittee discussed the inclusion of a copyright notice and how that may be seen by teachers as a barrier to further use of SOL test questions. Mr. Burnet clarified that a Creative Commons 3.0 Share-alike license would protect a copyright from resale, just not reproduction or adaptation for noncommercial uses. Staff will review the copyright policies of the Commonwealth and provide an update at the next meeting and the DOE has agreed to work with Mr. Burnett to see what alternatives may exist for releasing SOL test questions.

The chairman remarked that the subcommittee should be more focused on bringing about a paradigm shift of how educational materials are made available, for example paper to digital.
Staff updated the subcommittee on a previous meeting with the Secretary of Technology, Aneesh Chopra, concerning textbook procurement. Secretary Chopra suggested registering textbook publishers on eVA in order to encourage greater competition among publishers. To gauge initial feedback from the local school boards, Staff sent questions through the Virginia School Board Association inquiring whether the local boards would be interested in using eVA to purchase textbooks. Staff will also examine possible interest from print-on-demand industries in the open education movement.

Dennis Reynolds, NBS Solutions, reported that Adobe is developing the technology to make PDF documents "livable" rather than static files. Such technology is not yet publicly available, but he offered to work with the subcommittee in researching options for distribution of state materials, such as the SOL tests.

The chairman requested John Felton of WCVE-PBS to provide a brief summary of his work to bring education content to Virginia's public schools. Mr. Felton reported that public television networks have over the past 40 years amassed a huge collection of educational videos that are being converted into a digital library. WCVE also has a SOL correlation database, so with digital conversion many materials could be made available to teachers and searchable by SOL content. Given current funding and support, it is estimated that it will take PBS 20 years to convert all of its materials to electronic format.


A PBS presentation on available services, costs of conversion to electronic media, and the possibilities of putting digital information on a server; the Pearson Publishing presentation; a more detailed report on Creative Commons Licenses; and the results from polling questions sent to local school boards are on the agenda for the next meeting. Information on the date and location of the next meeting will be posted on the JCOTS website and the General Assembly calendar as soon as available.

The Hon. John Watkins

For information, contact:
Patrick Cushing, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

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