From Hailey Babb (SPARC) | Volume 119 | December 17th, 2020
THE OER DIGEST – A YEAR IN REVIEW
A look back at the big updates from 2020
COVID-19: Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world around us. The impact has been felt in every corner of society, from how we teach and learn to how we connect and communicate to how we are able to care for each other. The rapid pivot online in the spring and continued uncertainty throughout the fall has had a significant impact on all levels of education, worldwide. During the first months of the pandemic, the OER Digest brought you biweekly updates on stories and resources for adapting to the virtual environment, and has continued to cover the efforts at the local, national and international level to adjust to the new environment and leverage the benefits of OER.
INTERNATIONAL: After formally adopting an OER Recommendation at the end of 2019, UNESCO was poised to draw connections between the challenges created by the pandemic and the opportunities of OER, issuing a joint call for action and guidance for using OER during school closures. The OECD released a report entitled The Impact of COVID-19 on Education outlining the impact of the pandemic on the world’s educational systems.
HIGHER ED: Many organizations working within the higher education space published documents and statements making the case for OER during COVID, including DOERS3, ISKME and NEBHE. OERu launched an OER support group, and ALT created the Open COVID Pledge for Education.
K-12: The K-12 community also saw major pushes for OER during the pandemic. New America has curated a list of OER for K-12 students, and OpenStax has been supporting educators by sharing resources (such as this list of free and open resources for K-12) and facilitating conversations about OER. Countless school districts have also promoted the adoption of open materials to support students in their remote learning.
RACIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITY IN OPEN EDUCATION: The Black Lives Matter movement and protests over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others in 2020 are now considered by many to be the largest civil rights movement in U.S. history. In light of these events, many organizations in the open education community have renewed, strengthened, or created commitments to anti-racist work in education. These include The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s $15 million pledge to support organizations working to combat systemic racism and recent award to the Community College Consortium for OER (CCCOER) for an Open for Anti-Racism (OFAR) Project for the California community colleges. Program officer Angela DeBarger also wrote a powerful articulation of the Foundation’s approach to systemic racism in open education.
CONNECTING VIRTUALLY: Nearly all of the gatherings of open education community members this year moved online. While we all may feel some nostalgia for hallway chats over lukewarm coffee and serendipitous connections, moving events online also created new opportunities for people to engage. The 2020 virtual CC Global Summit and Open Education Global Conference defied traditional conference schedules by running programs around the clock, and breaking down barriers to welcome those who may not have been able to attend in the past due to financial or travel restraints.
- OPENED20: One the top stories in our 2019 annual review was entitled “OpenEd20?” as the fate of the open education field’s largest and longest standing annual convening was in question—and that was even before the pandemic hit. As many readers know, the 2020 Open Education Conference not only took place this November, but it included a record breaking 1,500 participants, representation from 70+ countries, and five days of programming. Organized through a collaborative, community-driven process that included hundreds of contributors, the conference will continue to evolve toward independent governance over the next year. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved in the 2021 virtual conference.
FAILED MERGER: We entered 2020 with apprehension about the future of the textbook market, as the second and third largest publishers, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, were on track to merge—in spite of widespread opposition from students, university groups, libraries, bookstores, and others. After mounting pressure from antitrust authorities, the two companies officially called off the merger in May. Had it not failed, the merger would have turned the textbook market into an effective duopoly, which would have stifled competition and caused prices to rise. The merger’s failure effectively maintains the status quo, but avoids what opponents say would have been a significant roadblock to the continued expansion of OER.
OPEN TEXTBOOK PILOT: This year, the Open Textbook Pilot grant program was renewed for $7 million. The US Department of Education also held a public comment period to solicit community feedback on the program, and garnered over 70 formal comments. This year’s grantees are expected to be announced by the end of 2020, and the $7 million grant is expected to be renewed by Congress in the next fiscal year.
Conferences, jobs, and other OER-related opportunities
CALL FOR PROPOSALS: The Cascadia Open Education Summit invites you to share your groundbreaking ideas, research, and best practices for using OER or engaging in open educational practices. The virtual event will take place from April 27-29, 2021. Apply by January 15th here.
JOB OPPORTUNITY: Boise State University is hiring for an OER Librarian. The deadline to apply is January 4, 2021.
JOB OPPORTUNITY: The Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC) is hiring for a part-time OER consultant. For more information, read the job description here.
WEBINAR: DigiTex is hosting a free webinar on OER Sustainability on January 27 at 2:00 PM CDT. Presenters will discuss the topic in the context of the work of CCCOER and DOERS3. To register for this event, please click here.
CALL FOR PAPERS: The International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER) has released its Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue. If you are interested in submitting a paper, or joining the editorial peer reviewer board please contact Dr. Melissa Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
Quick snapshots of those making change on the ground level, and those impacted
FROM ONTARIO: In light of COVID-19, the Ontario government has announced a new Virtual Learning Strategy through the Ontario Onwards Action Plan. To support these activities, Ontario is making an historic investment of $50 million in 2020-21 to support the postsecondary sector in driving innovation and expanding access to Ontario’s postsecondary system for domestic and international students. The strategy will build on and leverage Ontario’s existing digital learning organizations – Contact North and eCampusOntario – that improve access and drive innovation in virtual teaching and learning. Read more >>
FROM MANITOBA: Devin Latimer from the University of Winnipeg has completed the province of Manitoba’s first-ever full-text OER adaptation, a collaborative project on Chemistry 2e (OpenStax). His work has resulted in the creation of a new OER, Chemistry and the Environment, and has saved his students a cumulative total of more than $8500. “I simply believe in the idea of openly sharing content”, says Latimer. “… The fact that we can then offer resources for free to our students, [and also have] a way to support education around the world, is a major bonus and makes the work even more important for me.” Read more >>
HOT OFF THE PRESS
Each edition, we highlight an interesting, new, openly-licensed resource
The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) has released a new OER called Copyright for University Instructors and Staff. In a series of seven short self-directed modules, university employees are guided through instructional videos and brief quizzes that will help them navigate the complexities of copyright law in Canada.
Beau Branson from Brescia University has released the fourth book in the Introduction to Philosophy open textbook series: Philosophy of Religion. The text explores various arguments for and against belief in the existence of God, ranging from the most common and traditional to more recent and less well known.
Great reads to repost or share and interesting discussions to consider
Great to Share >>
A Fall Like No Other | Inside Higher Ed
Interesting to Consider >>
The Strange Case of the Exploding Student Workload | Inside Higher Ed
The OER Digest is a public newsletter distributed to a broad group of stakeholders across the higher education community. Subscribe here.