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
THE OER DIGEST
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 email@example.com, 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.
SUMMER IN REVIEW
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. https://www.formpl.us/form/5363738620198912
NOMINATIONS: The Open Education Consortium just opened their nominations call for the “Open Education Awards for Excellence.” The deadline is December 18th. http://www.oeconsortium.org/2016/09/oe-awards-2017-call-for-nominations-now-open/
EVENT: International Open Access Week is coming up next month, October 24-30. Events are happening around the world. http://www.openaccessweek.org/
CONFERENCE: The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is happening next month from October 25th-28th, and will include multiple sessions on OER. https://events.educause.edu/annual-conference/agenda
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
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>
TWEET OF THE WEEK
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 http://dailycampus.com/stories/2016/9/7/bookstore-press-conference-uconn-open-source-textbooks
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