Month: October 2015

Regular Edition

OER Digest – October 29th, 2015

By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 3 | October 29th, 2015

With help from Hal Plotkin, Lisa Petrides, Nicole Allen, Timothy Vollmer, and others

Your tip sheet for U.S. OER updates, opportunities, and reminders

LAUNCHING THE ‘DEPARTMENT OF OPEN’: Based on how focused they’ve been on OER this week, it might be time to rename the Department of Education. OER advocates were at the White House today for a symposium on open education, which featured the launch of the Department’s “Go Open” campaign. As we celebrate some of their historic commitments to OER, here’s a sampling of what’s been going on.

  • The Department of Education is proposing a new policy that would ensure educational resources and other intellectual property created through its discretionary grant programs would be openly licensed. The proposal is the first major step that the Obama Administration has taken toward fulfilling a call made by more than 100 organizations this summer for a government-wide policy to openly license federally funded educational materials.
  • A group of technology companies and civil society organizations have made commitments to support school districts who want to #GoOpen. Amazon, Microsoft and Edmodo have announced a set of tools that integrate with the Learning Registry, enabling schools, teachers and students to more effectively find and use OER. Creative Commons, ASCD and the Illinois Shared Learning Environment have pledged professional development and platform support.
  • A cohort of 10 K-12 school districts have committed to take the “#GoOpen challenge” and replace at least one traditional textbook with open resources. Six additional districts with experience successfully implementing OER have volunteered as ambassadors to provide mentorship and support for districts just starting out.
  • JOIN THE CONVERSATION and see some awesome reports from inside the White House event with #GoOpen

Earlier this week, the White House released their third Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. The plan, which includes dozens of commitments to transparency and openness by the government, also includes a strong commitment to open education and open access to research. The plan specifies three general activities the government will take to advance open education:

  • Openly license more Federal grant-supported education materials and resources,
  • Convene stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts,
  • Publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant-supported open licensing projects, detailing how they can integrate open licensing into projects

FROM MEXICO CITY: A number of OER advocates were south of the border for the Open Government Partnership Summit this week. The Open Education workshop there was cosponsored by the US and Slovakian Governments, Creative Commons US, and SPARC. Read more about it from CCUS’ Hal Plotkin.

All told, the introduction of Senator Durbin’s Affordable College Textbook Act generated more than 60 news articles about open textbooks and OER, including positive coverage from the traditionally skeptical Fox News. Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ) has been added as a cosponsor as well.

Through a new Presidential Open Access Policy, the University of California is allowing their researchers, faculty, and others to grant rights to the University prior to any contracts with a publisher. The new policy means that, while researchers are free to publish in journals of their own choosing, this large body of research will be available to the public and liberated from paywalls.

  • DID YOU KNOW? The UC System is responsible for over 2% of the world’s total research publications!

BUT ALSO, OER TROUBLE: A math professor at Cal State-Fullerton was reprimanded for assigning a different textbook than he was instructed to by his Department head. The course – one in a set of successive courses – was supposed to use the $180 textbook authored by Chair and Vice Chair of said Department. Instead, Professor Bourget assigned one textbook costing $75 and other openly licensed materials that he says teach the same content as the expensive textbook. His disciplinary case is currently before a faculty grievance committee – but is being closely watched by OER advocates as well. An underlying question: does academic freedom apply to individual faculty? or to departments and institutions?

STUDENT DEBT HITS NEW HIGH: A new report from The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) sheds new light on affordability and access concerns in higher education. Their 10th annual report looks at state-by-state and national-level data. From the report:

  • “69% of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 held student debt, at an average of $28,950 per borrower.”
  • “Over the last decade, the share of graduates with student debt rose moderately (from 65% to 69%), while the average debt at graduation rose at more than twice the rate of inflation.”

SOME STABILITY AHEAD?: Congress is only a few short steps away from reaching agreement on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government for two full years! Could this be brief respite from jumping from shutdown to shutdown? Budget stability means that Congress might – just might – be able to move on to reauthorizing the HEA, ESEA, and other education-related bills.

It’s Thursday, October 15th. Ethan Senack here – so many updates this week! Halloween is just a couple days away, and I don’t have a costume. I’m guessing that going as “Guy who forgot his costume” won’t fly this year… Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to @HigherEdPIRG or with the subject “OER DIGEST”.

A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level, and those most impacted

A STUDENT EDITORIAL IN ILLINOIS: ” I didn’t receive enough financial aid to cover the cost of textbooks, and coming up with the money to pay for my textbooks was hard. I had to wait to buy a lot of my textbooks because I didn’t have enough money to buy them all right away… The cost of my textbooks was more than a biweekly paycheck, and it’s hard seeing the money I worked for going down the drain on textbooks — some of which have barely been used. One of my classes requires a textbook with Connect Plus that ended up being about $120. Because it had Connect Plus, I couldn’t buy it used. This class has been going on for eight weeks and we haven’t used the Connect Plus once… An open-source textbook program would make college less financially stressful than it already is.” Read More>

A STUDENT LETTER FROM MA.: “My name is Thi Bui. I’m a freshman Biochemistry major. I came to school never having experienced the nightmare called “overpriced textbooks.” Then came my French class. I added it on the last day of add/drop. On the first day of class, the teacher handed out the syllabus. “Voila! + access code: $154” It hit me like a PVTA bus. I spent two hours that evening asking peer mentors and resident assistants for advice. Some told me to ask the teacher whether she could give me a free code. Some told me to quit the class since it didn’t fulfill any requirements. I even thought of sacrificing 10 percent of my score and changing the course to pass/ fail. However, my RA, who is taking a Spanish class, told me that without the homework, I wouldn’t learn anything. In the end, I had to drop the class. My education is not the only one that is jeopardized because of ridiculously expensive textbooks. We, the students, desperately need more affordable textbook options.” Read More>

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Ed Source | Free online content helps teachers meet Common Core demands
(featuring ISKME)

Inside Higher Ed | Getting There From Here: Confessions of a Community College Dean
(a field perspective on OER adoption models)

T.H.E. Journal | The Promise (and Perils) of Digital Textbooks
(an interesting read on digital and OER in K-12)

Minnesota Daily
| As prices soar, U expands oasis of free textbooks
(a local spotlight on the Open Textbook Network)

Campus Technology | Penn State Technology Allows Faculty and Students to Build Their Own Textbooks from OER
(AI built textbooks?)

Chronicle of Higher Ed | Campus Tech Leaders Report More Support for Free Educational Materials
(latest from the Campus Computing Survey)

Regular Edition

OER Digest – October 15th, 2015

From Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 2 | October 15th, 2015
With help from Nicole Finkbeiner, Nicole Allen, and others

Your tip sheet for U.S. OER updates, opportunities, and reminders

DURBIN BILL A HIT: Late last week, Senators Durbin (D-IL), Franken (D-MN) and King (I-ME), along with Congressmen Hinojosa (D-TX) and Polis (D-CO) introduced federal legislation to support OER adoption and development on college campuses. The Affordable College Textbook Act establishes a federal grant program to incentivize adoption. To discuss the bill, Senators Durbin and Franken joined advocates on a press call for campus journalists and national reporters. The press call generated almost 50 media hits that discuss the bill, define OER, and educate the public.

Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the College Textbook Affordability Act into law. Under the law, championed by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Academic Senates in the state that pass OER supportive resolutions become eligible for grants up to $50,000 to provide training, incentives, and other resources to help their faculty adopt OER. However, the bill requires that any money spent by the state must be first matched with private funds, the same condition that advocates feel hindered the implementation of California’s 2012 OER bill.

DUNCAN STEPS DOWN: Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that he is stepping down after nearly 7 years in office. Duncan is the longest serving member of President Obama’s cabinet, and presided over a large expansion of the Department’s responsibilities. In his place, the President has tapped John King Jr. (formerly the NY Education Commissioner and a Senior Advisor in the Department) to assume the reins. King has been briefed on OER, and members of the community are hopeful that he will continue to support the progress being made at the Department. You can read more about him in his Department biography.

NEW RESEARCH: Researchers at Brigham Young University just published “A Multi-Institutional Study of the Impact of Open Textbook Adoption on the Learning Outcomes of Post-Secondary Students,” in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education. The study compares data from more than 15,000 students, and in the words of SPARC’s Nicole Allen, identifies “a striking trend that students assigned free, open textbooks do as well or better than their peers in terms of grades, course completion, and other measures of academic success.”

  • READ MORE: Nicole’s overview on HuffPost here, or check out the report itself here.

In related worlds, next week (Oct 19th – 25th) is International Open Access Week. Academics and researchers around the world will be hosting workshops, discussions, and presentations to educate their peers about the benefits of Open Access research. Read more about it on the event website.

NEW, FROM OPENSTAX: OpenStax College, an open textbook publisher based at Rice University in Texas, just released four new titles, all of which are available on their website. The subjects are Pre-Algebra, Physics, Macro- and Micro- Economics.

It’s Thursday, October 15th. Ethan Senack here, realizing that somehow, half of October is already behind us. I’ve Googled “What time is it in Seoul” a dozen times this week because many folks in the Open movement are there for CC Global Summit (#ccsummit15). Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to @HigherEdPIRG or with the subject “OER DIGEST”.

A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level, and those most impacted

UCONN GALORE: The University of Connecticut is driving OER hard this year. The UConn Libraries recently posted this blog about their new Open Textbook Initiative, citing “overwhelming faculty support” and saying that “students truly make the difference in moving [these] critical initiatives forward.” Additionally, UConn Professor Edward Neth is partnering with OpenStax to adapt their chemistry book, saying about his decision to go open: “The (open-source) textbook is as good as anything else out there and that was the tipping point.” Read the Article>

CENTRAL VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE: As one of 16 of colleges in Virginia piloting the “Textbook-Free Degree” program (inspired by the Z-Degree at Tidewater Community College), CVCC is diving into the training and necessary preparation for their faculty to make the switch to OER. They’re planning to launch associate degrees in General Studies and Business Administration that can be obtained using entirely open educational resources. While the transition is a significant investment, reactions are positive. “Will we be working? Oh yeah we will, but we are excited,” CVCC Vice President Muriel Mickles said. Read the Article>

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How ‘open textbooks’ could ease college sticker shock

Partial Credit: The 2015 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology

An open letter from UNC Student Stores employees

Durbin Pushes Bill to Lower College Textbook Costs

CGCC librarian receives excellence award for OER work

Regular Edition

OER Digest – October 1st 2015

From Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 1 | October 1st, 2o15

With help from Nicole Allen, Sarah Cohen, Meredith Jacob, and others

HELLO! Welcome to the inaugural edition of the OER DIGEST – your monthly tip sheet on everything open education. Want information faster? Sign up for the weekly update, or tell your friends and peers to do so: It only takes two seconds, promise.

Your one-stop-shop for OER updates, opportunities, and reminders

DURBIN READIES TEXTBOOK BILL: Senator Durbin (D-IL) has informed advocates of the impending introduction of federal legislation supporting OER – likely next week. Although the bill doesn’t authorize new spending, it establishes a competitive grant program to allow universities to access funding for launching OER adoption programs at their campuses. The House companion bill will be introduced by Congressman Hinojosa (D-TX).

A LONG-AWAITED ALLY: During his “Ready for Success” bus tour, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan stopped at the tiny, 500-person town of Williamsfield, IL. Williamsfield’s school district recently decided to forego purchasing a new math textbook and used the money to build infrastructure for using OER instead. The impact has been stellar in such a small town – “The walls break down,” said their K-12 Principal. At the event, the Secretary announced the creation of a first-of-its-kind Advisor on Open Education in the Department. Kudos to all those who worked tirelessly to make that a reality.

MEETING OF THE MINDS: Earlier this week, the State Department organized an OER workshop in conjunction with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The meeting was designed to connect OER advocates, US policy staff, and diplomats from around the world. Participants discussed the barriers they face, unique ways OER is being used, and what the real-world impacts are for different countries.

STATE OF MASS. CONSIDERS ACTION: In an interview with the Gazette, UMass’ daily newspaper, MA Sen. Eileen M. Donoghue (Vice Chairwoman of the Higher Ed Committee) said she was interested in creating a MA digital library of open-source textbooks. Earlier this year, the Chair of the Higher Ed Committee, Senator Moore, introduced a bill that would take similar measures, met with a students and librarians from around the state, and held a public hearing for feedback on improvements to the bill.

It’s Thursday, October 1st. Ethan Senack here, dreading grocery store lines as people prepare for the landfall of Hurricane Joaquin. Don’t forget to send tips, stories, updates and opportunities to @HigherEdPIRG or with the subject “OER WEEKLY”. Also, don’t forget to follow the OER advocacy coalition at @OER_USA.

A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level, and those most impacted

IN TENNESSEE: The Tennessee School Board announced a partnership with Apple to launch the Tennessee Digital Learning Project – designed to save their schools money and deliver up-to-date content through OER. The School Board’s Director, on the project: “All of our jobs nowadays, everything is online and immediate and up to date. And that’s what we want for our kids. We want all of our kids in the state to be prepared, whether they’re going straight into the workforce or to college, to be able to utilize all resources out there because all of our workplaces use things digitally.” Read the article>

IN MARYLAND: A few weeks ago, University of Maryland University College announced that it would start a major transition to OER in place of traditional textbooks. UMUC’s President, Javier Miyares, speaks: “Today, the classroom is untethered by time and space…Let’s get rid of textbooks and instead ask what are the best open, freely available resources out there.” An immigrant himself, he’s sensitive to the cost barriers that many face: “For quite awhile there’s been a narrative out there that college has become very expensive. That has discouraged new immigrants and minorities to think college is not for them. We want to push back with another narrative: If you choose the right path, college can become not only affordable, but you can do it without debt.” Read the article>

IN COLORADO: Last week, the Open Textbook Network joined Colorado State University’s Morgan Library for a faculty workshop on open textbooks. 50 faculty in attendend – double the size of OTN training’s traditional number. The event was a prequel to their Open-tober events, when they will welcome Nicole Allen and David Wiley as keynote speakers. From Sarah Cohen, OTN Managing Director, “We’re proud to see this OTN member engaging their community in open in bold and dynamic ways!”

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Education Week: “Ambitious Initiative Blends Adaptive Tech, Open Ed. Resources”

Inside Higher Ed: “A Textbook Market Strategy That Moves Beyond Professors”

Information Today: “Cengage Learning Acquires Learning Objects”

Sonoma State Star: “Textbook Act Aims to Relieve Debt”

TIME: “Is This the Solution to Crazy High Textbook Prices?”

Education Dive: “Why open educational resources aren’t catching on with some faculty”