Month: March 2016

Regular Edition

OER Digest – March 31st, 2016

From Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 11 | March 31st, 2016

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

50 MILLION: the number of scholarly research articles posted online by a 27-year old graduate student from Kazakhstan. Drawing comparisons to the music-sharing site Napster, Alexandra Elbakyan published a searchable database of journal articles that “shatters the $10 billion-per-year paywall of academic publishers.” Modern day hero, or thief? You decide. Here’s a few reads to help you make up your mind:

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College recently announced a partnership with Pearson Education to take over a big chunk of their marketing, recruiting, and student services. The school says that they’re caught between a rock and a hard place – a 12% decrease in enrollment and a statewide mandated tuition freeze, so they’re looking for innovative solutions. It’s a ten year deal, with Pearson earning $500,000 from the school’s marketing budget each year and up to 20% of tuition revenue from new students. It’s a one-of-a-kind agreement, and while stakeholders on campus say they are cautiously optimistic, many others are just plain concerned. Read more>

REPORTING BACK: Creative Commons just wrapped up their second Institute for Open Leadership in South Africa. The Institute “is a training and peer-to-peer learning opportunity that brings together up-and-coming leaders to develop and implement an open licensing policy in their institution, province or nation.” This years fellows were a diverse group from around the world, including two from here in North America. Check out CC’s report back on the Institute and their next steps.

GETTING BIG WITH DIGITAL: A study from the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Assn marks an increase in the number of districts that have digital content and curriculum strategies on the books – from 49% last year to 62% this year. Another 33% of districts have plans under development. Even more relevant: More than half of those existing strategies incorporate the use of open educational resources.”

CONFESSIONS OF A COMMUNITY COLLEGE DEAN: A very straightforward case for OER.

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It’s Thursday, March 31st. There will be no follow-up discussion about March Madness. It’s been a rough few weeks. On another front, there are an estimated 1.5 million tourists on their way to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival, so….there’s that. Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to or @HigherEdPIRG.

Conference, job, and other OER-related opportunities

CALL FOR PROPOSALS – OPEN ED: The 13th annual Open Education conference will be in Richmond, VA this November 2nd-4th. Workshops proposals are due April 15th. See the call>

REGISTRATION DEADLINE – OPEN EDUCATION GLOBAL: The last day to register for the conference is tomorrow, April 1st. Sign up here>

REGISTRATION DEADLINE – OPEN APEREO: The last day to early register for Apereo Foundation’s “Open for Education” conference is April 22nd. Sign up here>

Have an opportunity you want featured? Email it to

A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level

VIDEO BREAK: Open Washington recently released a new set of videos about open education. Here’s what they’re hoping to answer: “Everyone talks about OER Policy, but what does it mean? What do OER policies look like in practice? How do they impact OER initiatives? How does our government and our world perceive Open policy? Is policy always necessary in OER implementation?” Check out the videos for yourself>

Interesting Reads on Education and Open

McGraw-Hill Education Latest to Adopt Knovation | Ed Week

School Reading Unbound | Slate

Flat World CEO: Content, not tech, should be focus of CBE | Education Dive

SCC to study textbook costs | Mantako Free Press

Regular Edition

OER Digest – March 17th, 2016

By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 10 | March 17th, 2016

With the help of Nicole Allen, Doug Levin, Cable Green, and Nicole Finkbeiner

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

STATE GOES OPEN: As part of Open Education Week, the U.S. State Department posted a blog on OER by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan, a high ranking official. The post includes a clear affirmation that “open” is more than just “free,” discusses the steps that the administration has taken to support OER, and what’s coming up next.

SOURCING SOFTWARE: White House Chief Information Office Tony Scott published a blog last week on open source software, announcing a Federal Source Code Policy that they’re opening for public comment. As part of the Second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, the WH policy would “require new software developed specifically for or by the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across Federal agencies.”

TO BE CLEAR: From Doug Levin at EdTech Strategies, “Many of us have observed that recent media coverage of the U.S. Department of Education’s GoOpen initiative has included some unfortunate inaccuracies in characterizing what it means for a resource to be ‘open’ as opposed to being free or digital.” In response, a group of organizations have developed a basic fact sheet/FAQ on OER for K-12 educators. The FAQ (licensed CC BY) can be re-distributed to help clarify OER for educators, policymakers, members of the media, and other stakeholders. See it here.

OpenStax, the open textbook publisher, announced a partnership with NACSCORP and Dover Publications to allow faculty members to customize OpenStax books. The platform will show faculty the print cost of the book in real-time as they add or remove pages and make additional changes. Students will then be able to purchase print versions of the book their their campus store. Read the press release. And, if that weren’t enough, OpenStax also just released a new Calculus textbook and a host of supplementary materials.

SHARING IS CARING: The American Federation of Teachers just relauched their lesson plan and teaching material sharing site The site has more than 900,000 registered users, and all submissions are either licensed as CC BY-NC-SA or CC BY-NC-ND. Originally launched by AFT and TES Global back in 2012, the site just got a big, shiny, new update.

SPEAKING OF: TES Global, the UK-based education company recently released a report saying that 3 in 4 faculty report using OER more than textbooks in their classrooms. Without seeing the questions or the methodology, it’s tough to interpret the extent to which ‘open’ was differentiated with ‘free and online,’ but in any case, the report shows significant growth of technology use in the classroom.

The Open Policy Network’s newest class of fellows in the Institute for Open Leadership are meeting in South Africa right now. For severe scenic jealousy, check out some of the photos with #IOL2.

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It’s Thursday, March 17th. It’s officially March Madness, and as a UConn alum, I’m contractually obligated to mention that we’ve won 2 Men’s and 3 Women’s tournaments in the past 5 years. Tweet me any bracket tips @HigherEdPIRG. Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to

Conference, job, and other OER-related opportunities

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: BCCAMPUS is hosting The Festival of Learning in the Vancouver area this coming June, and is looking for workshop proposals on open education and other edtech subjects. Proposals are due March 21st. See the call>

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: iNACOL is hosting their Blended and Online Learning Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, this October. Proposals are due March 23rd. See the call>

FELLOWSHIP: CCSSO is looking for an OER Fellow to conduct research, identify resources, and write original content for CCSSO’s OER Portal website. See the job description>

JOBS: CREATIVE COMMONS is looking to fill three positions; Director of Engineering, Communications Manager, and Development Manager. See the job descriptions>

Have an opportunity you want featured? Email it to

Brief snapshots from the ground level

VIDEO BREAK: Affordable Learning Georgia is out with a new video, called I Am Affordable Learning Georgia. The 2-minute video features interviews with grantees about their work with OER. Here’s a great quote: “They do contribute to building a greater sense of community between students and each other, as well as students and the professor, by showing students that professors actually care about them.” Watch the video>

FROM ACROSS THE POND: From the Open Scotland blog – “As part of its ongoing commitment to open education, the University of Edinburgh has recently approved a new Open Educational Resources Policy, that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. The University is committed to supporting open and sustainable learning and teaching practices by encouraging engagement with OER within the curriculum, and supporting the development of digital literacies for both staff and students in their use of OERs. Read the Policy>

Interesting Reads on Education and Open

Who Owns Digital Learning Resources Funded by Taxpayers? | Hal Plotkin

How to Go Textbook Free (the UMUC story) | Campus Technology

The Textbook Challenge: Two Sides of the Debate | The Pierce Pioneer

Print is NOT dead | The Fullerton College Hornet

Regular Edition

OER Digest – March 3rd, 2016

By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 9 | March 3rd, 2016
With help from Bo Donoghue, Nicole Allen, and Reg Leichty

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

FULL STEAM AHEAD: Last week, the U.S. Department of Education organized the #GoOpen Exchange, a gathering of state and district leaders, technology companies, and non-profit organizations about helping educators transition to using openly-licensed educational resources. The Department announced that 13 states and 40 districts have made commitments to #GoOpen through expanding the use of OER, a leap forward since the campaign launched this fall. The event included numerous workshops, live technology demos from companies including Amazon and Microsoft, two speakers from the White House who articulated a strong message of support for OER, and a remote conversation with Acting Ed Secretary John King. The Department plans to continue seeking #GoOpen commitments from other states and districts throughout the coming year.  Check out the twitterstream on #GoOpen for more details on the event.

: Last week the White House also announced a project entitled Open eBooks, which provides a new smartphone app for low income children to access a library of free ebooks. Despite what the project name implies, the ebooks are not open, but instead are donated on a limited basis by publishers (we are told the project’s name originated with the app’s use of open source technology). While the project is admirable for promoting reading among low income children, its equivocal use of “open” and proximity to the #GoOpen announcement has caused much confusion. Advocates are encouraging members of the OER community to keep the two projects separate, and redouble our efforts to effectively communicate why “open” is more than “free.”

FULL HOUSE IN THE HOUSE: More than 50 people turned out for a Congressional Briefing on open education this week, sponsored by SPARC, CCSSO, COSN, and SETDA. At least 25 House and Senate offices were represented. Congressman Jared Polis kicked off the briefing, emphasizing the potential for OER and technology to vastly improve access to learning materials. CC-US posted a few photos here>

CHAMPS ON THE HILL: This week, a coalition of national organizations wrote a letter to Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Baldwin (D-WI), as well as Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), thanking them for including OER among the allowable uses of the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program, which was created by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Thanks to their hard work, States and school districts will be able to use SSAEG funding to support a transition to digital learning, including investing in high quality openly licensed materials an tools.  The letter also urged them to ask the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to fully fund the SSAEG program in the upcoming budget.

LIBERATING, ISN’T IT: Earlier this month, learning platform Skyepack announced the launch of the Textbook Liberation Fund, a $500,000 grant program aimed to support faculty that undertake efforts to reduce the cost of the course materials in their courses – including OER. Members of the open community have reached out and started a dialogue with them about ways to better incorporate open licensing and be involved in the open movement.

BUILDING THE CASE: A new article by BYU Professor John Hilton looks at the effects of OER on student performance. In his own words: “Across sixteen different higher education studies involving over 50,000 students and faculty, the consistent findings were that (1) students who use OER tend to do as well or better than their peers, and (2) in general, a large majority of both faculty and students perceive that OER has the same or higher quality than traditional textbooks.”

ELUSIVE NO LONGER?: Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both chambers of Congress to make reports published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) available online to the public. These reports are written for members of Congress to brief them on a wide range of topics. While technically in the US public domain because they are created by federal employees, these reports are notoriously difficult to get ahold of without either contacting a member of Congress or using a paid subscription service such as Lexis Nexis. The new legislation seeks to ensure that these reports are published freely online, so they can be used by schools, libraries, think tanks, businesses and the public.

RARE COOPERATION: In another surprising moment of cooperation on Capitol Hill, it’s looking pretty likely that the Senate HELP committee will consider – and vote on – the nomination of Acting Secretary of Education John King. That meeting is expected to happen on March 9th.

IT’S TIME: Next week is Open Education Week (March 7-11). My quick math shows over 100 events registered so far on the official site: Share your work and the reasons you support open education next week using #openeducationwk!

It’s Thursday, March 3rd
. Ethan Senack here. It’s been a busy month in Open Education! Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to @HigherEdPIRG or Also, want your colleagues or friends to get the Digest? Send them this link:


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

WE’RE HEATING UP:  I took a quick skim on recent campus news stories about open textbooks, and discovered something exciting. Even outside of schools where national groups are organizing, student governments (and students running for student government) have been going to bat hard for open textbooks and open education. I found student government bills and potential policies at nine schools, just in the last week or so.

  • From Ithaca College, whose student government just passed legislation supporting OER, a great quote from a PIRG alum! “For [faculty], it gives them the opportunity to teach the course as they see fit and then to adjust the textbook,” she said. “That’s what a textbook should be. A textbook should be a tool to help teach. It shouldn’t be the actual method of teaching.” Read more>
  • From William and Mary: “This was a resolution in support of Open Educational Resource textbooks as an option for both professors and students to decrease the financial burden that is placed increasingly on students in textbook costs,” O’Dea said. “This is something that the College and absolutely the Student Assembly should get behind and I think the student body will support this bill.” Read more>
  • From Santa Barbara City College: “I would be ecstatic if the school adopted such an amazing [open textbook] program,” said Dakota Cortez, a biology major at City College. “I work two jobs and take 14 units, so whenever textbook season rolls around my wallet dreads it.” Read More>

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Interesting Reads on Education and Open

The Real Value of What Students Do in College | Robert Shireman (an interesting take on the value of student engagement)

Survey Confirms Widespread Technology Use in Early Ed | Teaching Strategies

Never Judge a Book by its Cover | Brookings Institute (an analysis on textbook efficacy)

Are Open Textbooks the Cheaper Solution College Students Need? | NBC News

The Reason for the Rise: College Textbook Prices | GOOD Magazine