From Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 13 | May 12th, 2016
THE OER DIGEST
Your tip sheet for U.S. OER updates, opportunities, and reminders
PRICEY PROMISE: The White House recently announced a $100 million “America’s Promise” grant program though the Department of Labor to help community colleges create tuition-free education and job training programs. The program will be funded by revenue from an existing fee that’s paid by employers who want hire skilled foreign workers. It’s a creative way for the administration to further their goals around free community college, while avoiding the gridlocked Congressional appropriations and authorization process. The initiative draws strong comparison to the $2 billion TAACCT program, but without further detail, it’s unclear whether or not any open licensing requirements would apply to these funds.
TECHNOLOGY GAINS: Non-profit Project Tomorrow released their annual Speak Upreport last week, an analysis of how digital tools are impacting K-12 classrooms and learning. This year’s survey of more than 500,000 students, teachers, and parents reveals some telling developments. Check out the full report for all their findings on digital learning tools, but here’s a few interesting conclusions:
- 78% of middle school students report using online videos for self-directed learning.
- 57% of school principals say the lack of teacher training on how to integrate digital content within instruction is their top barrier.
- 70% of teachers say they are reluctant to assign homework that requires Internet access because they are worried about students’ at-home connectivity.
MORE DATA ON DIGITAL: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and OneDrive are also out with a report on digital textbooks and other content in K-12 classrooms. The results of their survey of school and district administrators are available here.
FRANKENS TIME: Senator Al Franken introduced the College Access Act of 2016 last month, which would create federal grant money for states that adopt a programs of reforms to increase access to higher education. The list isn’t short, but included in the potential uses of funds is a provision for: “creating programs to create and expand the use of open educational resources, including open textbooks.” Senator Franken is also the cosponsor of the Affordable College Textbook Act introduced last year, which focuses more heavily on OER.
FLASHBACK TO FULLERTON: The Academic Senate at Cal State Fullerton is considering an revamp of their rules governing how course materials are assigned, after their policies gained national attention when a professor was reprimanded last year for refusing to assign a departmentally-chosen $180 textbook. Reviews are mixed – authors say that the rules establish clear procedures for selecting materials and improve systems to generate feedback, but critics say that the changes don’t allow enough room for dissension or go far enough to keep decisions in the hands of faculty teaching the courses. Lily Leung at the OC Register has a great piece here, and will be publishing a follow-up article once the vote happens.
SNEAKING A PEEK: Science Magazine looks at the server data from Sci-Hub creator Alexandra Elbakyan, and finds that the site is being used extensively by researchers around the world. In the 6 months between September 2015 and February 2016, the site received nearly 28 million download requests. The two most popular papers? An analysis of wind-turbine tests, and a genomic analysis of something beyond my limited genetics knowledge. The article also plots IP locations, and includes a fascinating interactive map of site usage.
STACKS ON STAX: OpenStax is launching a revamped Institutional Partnership Program to create cohorts of institutions that will work through and develop their OER strategic plans together. Read more here.
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It’s Thursday, May 12th. Ethan Senack here. DC is in what feels like our millionth straight day of rain; apparently, April showers didn’t quite get the message. It’s actually just 15 days, but we just set a record for dreary. Send your sunny vibes this way with any OER tips, updates, or opportunities to firstname.lastname@example.org or @HigherEdPIRG.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level, and those most impacted
TEACHING TEACHERS: Associate Dean Kristen Munger of SUNY Oswego is the co-author and editor of Open SUNY’s new textbook on literary education. From Oswego News: “All children—and all teachers—need and deserve quality preparation, Munger said. Specially targeting students learning how to practice literacy education and current educators seeking to stay up to date, she said, each chapter is written in accessible language and includes a summary, questions and activities designed to reinforce the material. [Munger] expressed delight that educators around the world can access and use the book: “One of the biggest motivations for me was being able to publish this under a Creative Commons license and make it available for free.”
VIVA VIRGINIA: The Virtual Library of Virginia announced that they’re joining a growing list of schools in the Open Textbook Network this week. They’re bringing with them 72 institutions from the state of Virginia. Read more>
Interesting Reads on Education and Open
Vetting OER for the Common Core (an interview with Karl Nelson) | T.H.E. Journal
OER in Higher Ed: ‘Huge Awareness-Raising Effort Needed’ (an interview with Cable Green) | Campus Tech
Challenging Openness & Innovation – Takeaways from #OER16 & #OLCInnovate | Chronicle of Higher Ed
(Pearson’s Paid Op-Ed) If OER is the answer, what is the question? | Education Dive
(and David Wiley’s great response) OER: Some Questions and Answers | Open Content Blog