From Mo Nyamweya (SPARC) | Volume 96 | December 20, 2019
THE OER DIGEST – YEAR IN REVIEW
A look back at the big updates from 2019
U.S. FEDERAL UPDATES: We’re closing out the year with great news that Congress will renew and strengthen the federal Open Textbook Pilot. This week, lawmakers approved a broad bipartisan budget deal including $7 million in funding for the program- a $2 million dollar increase from previous years. Earlier this year, the previous round of Open Textbook Pilot grants were awarded to Chippewa Valley Technical College and Arizona State University. While the timeline for awarding the new $7 million may extend as far as December 31, 2020, advocates noted improvements in this year’s program, including a “significant” number of awards, a 60 day application period, and an opportunity for public comment.
STATE UPDATES: It’s been an outstanding year for OER state policy – Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia all passed legislation encouraging or supporting the use of OER across K-12 and college courses. Some additional highlights from the states:
- FROM ALABAMA: The Alabama Commission on Higher Education voted to increase funding for the state’s need-based financial aid program, prioritizing lower textbook costs for students through the use of OER. Read more >>
- FROM COLORADO: Earlier this year, Colorado began a funded statewide OER initiative. Building upon that, Governor Jared Polis recently launched a ZTC Challenge and will award top schools and departments for progress made by the end of the school year. Read more >>
- FROM INDIANA: An Indianapolis-based foundation, the Lilly Endowment, awarded $520,000 to the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) for their PALSave initiative, which will provide education and funding support to faculty at 24 Indiana colleges, universities, and seminaries to adopt, adapt, and create affordable learning materials. Read more >>
- FROM MASSACHUSETTS: The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s OER Working Group released their recommendations on what a state OER initiative should look like. Among their recommendations are a council of stakeholders and staff housed in the department, a statewide grant program, course markings for OER, and consideration of OER for tenure and promotion. Read more >>
- FROM TEXAS: The University of Texas at Arlington invested an impressive $500,000 to fund open educational resources this academic year, marking the largest award by a public academic institution in Texas specifically supporting OER initiatives. Read more >>
CANADIAN UPDATES: In May, the provincial government in British Columbia announced a $3.26 million commitment to open educational resources at the Cascadia Open Education Summit. The funds will be used to create two grant pathways, a smaller grant for innovative activities and a larger grant for incorporating OER as required materials in credit courses. Meanwhile, University of British Columbia launched a new OER Fund with a commitment from their Office of the Provost of $250,000 for the four years of the program. Kwantlen Polytechnic University also launched a full bachelor’s of arts degree in general studies with no textbook costs. According to KPU, the program is the first of its kind in North America.
K-12 UPDATES: The national #GoOpen summit, organized by the Go Open Network, took place in November, providing an opportunity for district, state, and organization leaders to connect, collaborate, and share strategies for engaging students and shifting instructional practice through the implementation of OER in K-12 classrooms. Meanwhile, a study from the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy at the University of Delaware found that students using an OER curriculum in English courses started to outperform the statewide average after 3 years. Also. OpenSciEd announced that it would be rolling out one of the first full, OER curricula that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards.
OPPOSING PUBLISHER MERGER: In May, textbook publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill announced their plans to merge, seeking to combine the #2 and #3 largest textbook publishers into a $3 billion company controlling over 44,000 titles. Numerous higher ed organizations and advocacy groups have opposed the merger, claiming that it would further reduce market competition, decentivize innovation, and potentially raise textbook costs for students. U.S. PIRG sent in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice opposing the merger on behalf of more than 40 student organizations, while SPARC submitted a detailed filing to the Department also opposing the merger. Other organizations opposing the merger include the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and the National Association of College Stores. The companies have indicated that they hope to move ahead with the merger in early 2020, although the transaction is still pending approval by regulators.
INCLUSIVE ACCESS PUSHBACK: In South Carolina, a used textbook store sought legal action against Trident Technical College over their inclusive access policy. Students at UNC successfully pushed back on the school’s plan to implement an inclusive access program through Pearson, using grassroots efforts in the form of petitions, faculty and librarian statements of support, letters to the editor, and a student government resolution. Stay tuned for updates in 2020 on U.S. PIRG’s Inclusive Access Deal Tracker.
UNESCO RECOMMENDATION: This fall, UNESCO unanimously recommended a new policy on OER in support of achieving the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda. Their recommendations include five objectives: building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, use, adapt, and redistribute OER; developing supportive policy at the national level; encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER; and facilitating international cooperation. A UNESCO report released earlier this year, ‘Understanding the Impact of OER: Achievements and Challenges’, also provided a series of case studies detailing OER policies and initiatives happening across the world.
OPEN ED 2020?: During the 16th Annual Open Education Conference, which took place this fall in Phoenix, Arizona, conference organizer David Wiley announced that he would be stepping down from his role in organizing the conference, leaving the future of an annual open education convening in the hands of the community. As a first step, a group of advocates circulated a letter calling for those who support organizing the conference in 2020 to step forward with their interest and ideas. Those interested in helping to support the conference should respond here. In case you missed it, check out the OER Digest video edition, filmed on-site at the 2019 Open Ed Conference.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
Quick snapshots of those making change on the ground level, and those impacted
FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Six Slippery Rock University faculty members received OER grants to revise their courses by using low-cost or free educational materials instead of traditional textbooks. Bradley Wilson, associate provost for Academic Affairs at SRU, said the grant program began last year as an initiative to promote awareness of OER among faculty and encourage them to do their research and see if OER could work for the courses they teach. “This grant program is sort of an effort to encourage faculty to look at [OER] as an alternative to commercial textbooks that students would have to buy,” Wilson said. Read more >>
FROM CALIFORNIA: Pierce College’s Pierce Open Pathways (POP) program has saved more than $2 million in textbook costs since 2015. Students in the program can earn an entire university transfer degree without ever paying for a traditional textbook. More than 50 classes are offered through the program each term, and that number will only continue to grow, according to Pierce College at JBLM Executive Director Mark Haskins. “It’s important to remember that OER is not just about savings, but it’s also about relevant, flexible course materials,” Haskins said. Read more >>
FROM TENNESSEE: A new initiative to reduce or eliminate textbook costs has taken off in Bethel University’s College of Adult & Professional Studies, improving educational accessibility and affordability for hundreds of students. “One of the beautiful things about this initiative is that it is a vehicle for collaboration among many departments at Bethel,” said research and instruction librarian Earleen Warner. “It’s a way for us to come together and support our students.” Read more >>
HOT OFF THE PRESS
Each edition, we highlight an interesting, new, openly-licensed resource
Temple University Press has published “Structural Analysis” by Felix Udoeyo, an open textbook designed for upper-level graduates studying civil engineering, construction engineering and management, and architecture. The textbook is intended to teach students the methods and techniques for the analysis of structures.
Great reads to repost or share and interesting discussions to consider
Great to Share >>
- Open and distance learning – making transformation happen | University World News
Interesting to Consider >>
- Competition regulator challenges publishing giants’ union | Times Higher Education
- How Professors Help Rip off Students | The New York Times
The OER Digest is a public newsletter distributed to a broad group of stakeholders across the higher education community. You can join the open Google Group or check out the distribution list here.