Month: September 2016

Regular Edition

OER Digest – September 22nd, 2016

From Brady Yano (SPARC) | Volume 15 | September 22nd, 2016

With help from Katie Steen, Nicole Allen and Ethan Senack


Your bi-weekly newsletter for open education updates, opportunities, and reminders

ACCESS DENIED: On Wednesday, the Student PIRGS released a groundbreaking report revealing the new face of the textbook monopoly: access codes. Access Denied investigates both the role of access codes in the market and the transition to access codes from a student consumer perspective. The report comes as publishers continue to shift their business models toward digital content suites. Key Findings:

  • Across institutions and majors, 32% of courses included access codes as required materials.
  • At campus bookstores, the average cost of an access code alone was $100.24.
  • In bookstores, only 28% of access codes were offered in unbundled form. Even when acquired directly from the publisher, only 56% of all required access codes were offered without additional materials bundled in, despite federal law requiring materials to be sold separately.

Among other concerns, this shift eliminates a student’s ability to opt-out and precludes other affordable alternatives like used and rented books. Share it on Twitter or via HuffPost>>

COLLEGE PROMISE CAMPAIGN: Last week, the Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden and former Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter held a roundtable event with leaders in the Silicon Valley area to discuss the College Promise Campaign — an offshoot of the America’s College Promise initiative that President Obama announced in the 2015 state of the union. Nicole Allen (SPARC), Hal Plotkin, and Phil Kim (20 Million Minds) were present and had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes on how OER fit into the free college conversation. Look out for other roundtable events in the coming months.

OER SHAPING CALIFORNIA K-12: A partnership between Open Up Resources and Illustrative Mathematics has resulted in a large scale mathematics OER pilot test spanning 30 middle schools across five California school districts. The participating middle schools will be beta testing Open Up Resources’ OER curricula as it becomes available during the 2016/17 and 2017/18 years. The complete curricula is set to save districts up to 80 per cent of the costs associated with adopting materials from traditional publishers while also providing extensive support to facilitate district-wide adoption.

CA ADOPTS POLICY ON COLLEGE COURSE CATALOGS: The California State Legislature announced last week that as of January 1, 2018 each campus of the California Community Colleges and the California State University will be required to disclose in course catalogues which courses are exclusively using OER. The law will request that each campus of the University of California also comply.

WA ADOPTS K-12 OPEN POLICY: The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently launched a new open policy requiring all copyrightable intellectual property created by OPSI employees, contractors and grantees be openly licensed. In addition, Washington is also the 17th state to join #GoOpen with State Superintendent Randy Dorn noting that “We have been and will be extremely supportive of open resources”.


Conferences, jobs, and other OER-related opportunities

JOB: The State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo is looking for an Executive Director for Open Educational Resources. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

JOB: Tidewater Community College is looking for an Open Educational Resources Librarian. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

JOB: The Open Education Consortium is looking for a Communications Manager. This is a part-time position and the closing date is October 10, 2016.

EVENT: Open Education Week 2017 will be taking place March 27-31, 2017. For more information on how to participate visit

EVENT: International Open Access Week is coming up next month, October 24-30. Events are happening around the world.


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

FROM ALBERTA:The underlying problem is the fact that a student’s right to education is considered equal to a right to profit. When the right to education is commodified, students are ultimately left behind. For many, these unnecessary costs are a barrier to obtaining an education.” Read more>

FROM ARIZONA: “Lieren Hefner, a speech language and hearing sciences junior, spent $350 on textbooks this semester and didn’t even buy all of them — she said that if she had, she would’ve paid more around $500. “We’re already paying so much for tuition, and then books on top?” Hefner said. “I feel like I need to get them before school starts and then we barely use them. I’d rather go online anyways.” Read more>


@HigherEdPIRG: Access Codes? More like #AccessDenied. A new tactic from publishers to continue profiting off students:


Interesting Reads on Education and Open

Open Educational Resources: Good for Affordability; Better for Learning | Temple University

UConn co-op to donate $250,000 to affordable textbook initiatives | the Daily Campus

As schools move to the cloud, top drivers are instruction-related | Education Dive

OER to be a Game-Changer in Higher Education | CIO Review

Brookdale Gets $900K To Create Digital Content As Alternative To Textbooks | Middleton Patch

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Regular Edition

OER Digest – September 8th, 2016

From Ethan Senack (PIRG) and Brady Yano (SPARC) | Volume 14 | September 8th, 2016

With the help of Nicole Allen, Katie Steen, and Kasya O’Connor Grant


Your bi-weekly newsletter for open education updates, opportunities, and reminders

Welcome back to an improved OER Digest! After a hiatus this summer, we’ve made some changes to increase consistency and reliability, streamline our delivery system, and make the Digest more accessible to the community. You can now share event notices, policy updates, exciting milestones, and other open education stories directly to, or tweet us @OERdigest.

BACK TO #TEXTBOOKBROKE: With school starting again, OER supporters, including Senators Durbin, Franken, and King, took to the twittersphere and Facebook to call out costly course materials and advocate for OER using #TextbookBroke. Senator Durbin shared infographics that show the impact of high prices on students, and highlighted steps forward like visiting the Open Textbook Library, or for students, joining the new Open Textbook Alliance. On Twitter alone, #TextbookBroke showed up on timelines over 9.5 million times in 26 hours. Check out the highlights>

UPDATED DATA: Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the increase in costs for college expenses. Over the past decade, tuition and fees have increased sixty-three percent, while there was only a twenty-one percent increase on items generally. The most drastic cost increase was, unsurprisingly, that of textbooks – which saw an eighty-eight percent increase in the past 10 years.

MAJOR MILESTONE: Last week, the Open Textbook Library received it’s 1 millionth visitor! Check out this great chart depicting their growth, and share the tweet to say congrats.

CENGAGE OER REPORT: Cengage recently released a report titled “Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Evolving Higher Education Landscape”, where they “interviewed industry experts and surveyed more than 500 OER primary adopters, supplemental adopters, and non-adopters”. The report has some interesting conclusions: About 78% of non-adopter faculty said they “expected to use OER or would consider using OER [in the next three years]”. It’s worth noting, however, that Cengage is a major textbook publisher and has pushed against OER policies in the past.


Catching up on what happened while we were away

BIG BOOST FOR OER DEGREES: A newly-launched OER Degree Initiative coordinated by Achieving the Dream seeks to reduce financial barriers to community college, by expanding degree programs based around OER. Over the next three years, 38 community colleges across 13 states will work to build “Zero-Textbook-Cost-Degree” of their own.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: Shortly after the OER Degree initiative was announced, the California government approved $5 million in the state’s budget to fund the development of “Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees”. The newly-approved state funds will be distributed as grants to California community colleges, where students are hardest-hit by textbook costs (a 2008 California State Auditor report found that on average textbooks cost more than tuition!) California has a track record of investing state resources in OER, including 2012 legislation to identify or create open textbooks for 50 high-enrollment courses.

FROM THE BAYOU STATE: The Louisiana legislature has passed a concurrent resolution to establish the Virtual Library Study Commission, which will make recommendations regarding the development of a statewide virtual library. Part of the study will explore the role of a statewide library in distributing OER to reduce textbook costs for students.

OREGON’S ANNOUNCEMENT: The State of Oregon has announced a grant opportunity in accordance with legislation passed last year, which allows the state’s public higher education institutions to apply for funding to develop OER in high enrollment courses.

DEPT OF ED RULE: June marked the six month anniversary of the public comment period for the Department of Education’s proposed open licensing rule. The Open Education community celebrated the Department’s proposed rule last fall as the first proposed Federal agency policy that would comprehensively ensure publicly funded educational resources would be openly licensed for the public. Since then the Department has continued to be a vocal advocate for OER through its K-12 #GoOpen campaign. The rule is currently under final review by the White House and could be issued as early as mid-September.

OER AWARENESS ON THE RISE: The Babson Survey Research Group released a new national report assessing faculty awareness and attitudes regarding OER in U.S. higher education. The report shows OER is gaining ground in U.S. higher education, but still faces barriers our community is working to address. Below are some of the key survey findings:

  • Faculty awareness of OER has increased, with 25% of faculty reporting that they were “Aware” or “Very Aware” of open educational resources, up from 20% last year.
  • Open textbooks have gained a market share around 5.3% of courses. Open textbooks published by OpenStax have a 10% adoption rate among large enrollment undergraduate introductory courses.
  • The most common factor cited by faculty when selecting educational resources was the cost to the students. The next most common was the comprehensiveness of the resource, followed by how easy it was to find.
  • The barriers to adopting OER most often cited by faculty are that “there are not enough resources for my subject” (49%), it is “too hard to find what I need” (48%) and “there is no comprehensive catalog of resources” (45%).

NIH ANNOUNCES OPEN GRANTS: The National Institutes for Health has launched a new round of grants for OER in conjunction with its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program. The grant program, entitled BD2K Open Educational Resources for Skills Development in Biomedical Big Data Science, seeks to fund the creation of courses that can give scientists the skills to extract knowledge from biomedical Big Data; grantees are directed to release materials as OER.

AMAZON INSPIRED: In keeping with Amazon’s commitment to #GoOpen, the tech giant released a closed beta of their OER platform, Inspire, earlier this summer. The company is working with school districts to aggregate open materials and develop systems to review it. After some early hiccups, the company has also engaged OER advocates in an effort to improve the system.


Conference, job, and other OER-related opportunities

JOB: The Open Education Group is searching for OER Research Fellows. The deadline for applications is a week away on September 16.

NOMINATIONS: The Open Education Consortium just opened their nominations call for the  “Open Education Awards for Excellence.” The deadline is December 18th.

EVENT: International Open Access Week is coming up next month, October 24-30. Events are happening around the world.

CONFERENCE: The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is happening next month from October 25th-28th, and will include multiple sessions on OER.


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

FROM VIRGINIA: “As college students, we are all here to better serve our societies once we have successfully completed our journeys of higher education. We only wish to order books that will get extensive and necessary use from them throughout the entire semester. As students, generic brands of food fill our pantries, and we work outside of class just to pay our rent or else we scrape together our student-loan money to last us months. Paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks that we will not be instructed to use more than a few times is not our idea of getting the most for our money or our time when it comes to our educational finances.” Read more>

FROM BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Some students in B.C. are taking to social media to show that they are #textbookbroke. The student societies at UVic, UBC and SFU are running awareness campaigns to show just how much of a student’s budget is now eaten up by purchasing textbooks. “Over the last 10 years, prices have risen four times the rate of inflation in the textbook industry,” said Maxwell Nicholson, the director of campaigns and community relations for the University of Victoria Student Society. UVSS is posting photos of students with their textbook bill on social media to draw attention to the issue.” Listen to the story>


Senator Dick Durbin @SenatorDurbin: Over the past 40 yrs, the price of college textbooks has tripled, even after adjusting for inflation #TextbookBroke   RETWEETS 145    LIKES 89


Interesting Reads on Education and Open

Study: Open Educational Resources and Market Growth | Inside Higher Ed

The Demise of the Textbook Mafia | Boston Magazine

State Legislators Praise OER at UConn | The  Daily Campus

Contracts Pose No Roadblock to Alabama SGA Open Textbooks Bill | The Crimson White

Non-Profit Pilots Delivery of Offline OER for Prisoner Education | Campus Technology

Something we missed? Let us know at, or tweet us @OERdigest.