eLearning Caucus organizes discussion on textbook-free degree program, lowering costs with open educational resources

textbook-publishing-openWashington, D.C. — A Virginia community college is piloting a textbook-free degree program comprised entirely of open educational resources (OER) — from textbooks to the program itself, the components of which will be released for use by other institutions.

Tidewater Community College is still in its first year of the planned two-year pilot, but its vice president for academic affairs, Daniel DeMarte, addressed congressional staffers Monday during a panel discussion organized by the congressional eLearning Caucus.

“We’ve found that the open educational courses are on par or better than our traditional courses,” DeMarte said. “And all that content will be put into Creative Commons. With that content out there and us sharing what we learn, it’s not a steep path for others to do what we did. I see lots of potential.”

Open educational resources are learning materials released under an open license that allows for their free use and repurposing. The resources can be full courses, videos, lesson plans, videos, quizzes — virtually any tool that assists in learning.

But many open education conversations are generally focused on textbooks, especially on Capitol Hill, where open access is a major part of the Affordable Textbook Act introduced in the Senate last year. That was certainly the case Monday, at the sixth event organized by the eLearning Caucus to help inform members of congress about the issues surrounding online education.

Since its creation, the caucus, headed by Congressman Jared Polis, D-Col., and Congresswoman Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has seemed stagnant, only organizing four events in eighteen months. In recent weeks, however, the group has picked up steam. Monday’s panel, the second in two months, coincided with Open Education Week.

In addition to discussing Tidewater’s experimental business degree, the panelists stressed the various benefits of open educational resources.

In the last decade, the price of college textbooks has risen by 82 percent, triple the rate of inflation during that time, according to the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, which moderated the event.

(Next page: What effect would OER have on the textbook industry?)


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