Great news! OER courses can boost engagement

More than 60 percent of students in the participating community colleges say they experienced a higher-quality learning experience in an OER (open educational resources) course compared to a typical course, according to a new study of 38 community colleges across 13 states.

The two-year study, conducted by SRI International and rpk GROUP and released by Achieving the Dream (ATD), is among the first to examine the direct costs to institutions for supporting broad expansion of OER and degree pathways, and the direct cost for implementing OER degrees is roughly $500,000 per institution over two years.

Creating OER courses and degrees is often time-consuming, but instructors in several community colleges said they changed their instruction as a direct result of working with the open materials.…Read More

Why do we still have basic textbooks in higher ed?

Textbooks, particularly basic textbooks, are not very efficient containers of information in the Digital Age and represent pernicious cost-drivers for our students. We need to reconsider their role in the modern instructional landscape. A recent study by the College Board indicated that the average cost for a year’s worth of textbooks is over $1200. That’s roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of in-district tuition at my community college.

There is widespread acceptance that this is a national problem and a lot of efforts, stretching all the way from open educational resources (OER) to Congress, have been initiated over the last decade in an attempt to address this issue. All of these efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, miss a basic point: We are still thinking in an industrial mode when it comes to role of the book in our world. These efforts all seek to make books cheaper without asking the question of what their role in education is in the first place.

The problem with textbooks

For centuries, books have formed the backbone of our educational experiences. The earliest universities coalesced around their bibliographic collections. You went to Oxford to “read” history because that was literally where the books were. Even with the advent of printing, books were still a scarce and precious resource. However, books are not the ideas contained in them. They are merely the repositories for the ideas in them and those two are often conflated. The Digital Age is awash with ideas not contained in books. The world of textbooks ignores this basic fact.…Read More

The Borough of Manhattan Community College now offers textbook-free criminal justice degree

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students majoring in criminal justice can now potentially complete the degree program without ever having to buy a textbook, saving altogether, an estimated $2,500.

BMCC faculty have redesigned 20 courses to create an Open Educational Resources (OER) criminal justice associate degree. The effort was funded by a 2016, two-year OER grant from the organization Achieving the Dream.

This milestone was reached through the efforts of criminal justice faculty as well as professors in core courses such as mathematics. A number of faculty who worked to bring the OER criminal justice degree to fruition—the first OER associate degree program at BMCC—say the process was filled with challenges yet ultimately was energizing.…Read More

OER courses can boost engagement, new study says

Open educational resources (OER) offer a host of benefits to students and faculty, according to a new study of 38 community colleges across 13 states.

More than 60 percent of students in the participating community colleges say they experienced a higher-quality learning experience in an OER course compared to a typical course.

The two-year study, conducted by SRI International and rpk GROUP and released by Achieving the Dream (ATD), is among the first to examine the direct costs to institutions for supporting broad expansion of OER and degree pathways, and the direct cost for implementing OER degrees is roughly $500,000 per institution over two years.…Read More

OER planning 101

Open educational resources (OER) are gaining momentum among stakeholders in higher education. From students to faculty to administrators, the benefits of OER can help offset the rising costs of traditional textbooks.

For over a decade, the pioneers of OER consisted of a group of global trailblazers dedicated to the cause of open access and cost reduction for students. Oftentimes, figuring out the logistics and lessons learned along the trail, they set the stage for broader awareness of OER.

In addition to the pioneers, there has been a myriad of both legislative and non-legislative actions that have brought OER to the attention of many higher-ed administrators and practitioners. And while OER may appear to be a “quick fix” for textbook costs, the perception that OER can be done for free is not necessarily the case, not to mention getting started is easier said than done. There are steps and considerations that can make OER conversion a project worth pursuing.…Read More

New initiative targets accessible open resources

A new partnership expands OER opportunities for higher education.

Postsecondary educators report growing challenges to implementing open educational resources (OERs), the most problematic being time loss spent combing multiple sources for supplemental educational material.

In response these mounting concerns, Pearson has teamed with Silicon Valley nonprofit Gooru, a search engine for learning materials, to create Project Blue Sky, a cloud-based content service that makes OERs more accessible. The partnership combines resources from both companies.

“Project Blue Sky is a service that enables academics to search for and curate OER material in a single place and combine it with Pearson content to create new or augmented works,” said Don Kilburn, CEO of Pearson. “It’s a marriage between OER and commercially-available content.”…Read More

Free textbooks coming for five intro college courses

Many students say they go without textbooks, even when they're required.

College students in five of the most-attended courses in U.S. higher education soon will have free peer-reviewed textbooks available to them as a Rice University-based program looks to save students $90 million in book costs over the next five years.

OpenStax College, a textbook initiative funded by myriad nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced Feb. 7 that books for introductory courses in physics and sociology would be freely available to students everywhere, not just on select campuses.

Unlike most open-platform texts—meaning the work is not copyrighted and available to reprint at no cost—the OpenStax College books are peer-reviewed, eliminating a stubborn impediment for professors and instructors who haven’t adopted open textbooks because they hadn’t been vetted like books from major publishing companies.…Read More