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 esenack@pirg.org 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>

Have a story you’d like featured? Email it to esenack@pirg.org.


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)

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