Recapping the year in digital learning

Open educational resources (OER) have been around — and gaining ground — for more than a decade, but 2018 was a turning point in a number of ways. Governments put nearly $20 million toward expanding OER in higher education, including $8 million from New York for the second year in a row, and $10 million from the U.S. Congress.

Similar investments have generated significant returns in student savings, most recently confirmed in a North Dakota state audit that documented savings 10 to 20 times the modest original investment. Worldwide, the savings through OER for students, parents and schools have surpassed $1 billion, according to our calculations.

Also this year, OpenStax announced that its free, open textbooks are used at nearly half of all U.S. institutions, and at least 38 community colleges are establishing degree pathways that use OER in every course. Links between OER and equity are emerging, with a new study from the University of Georgia that found the use of OER was associated with higher grades for Pell-eligible and other traditionally underserved students. Meanwhile, OER is becoming a focal point in mainstream higher education conversations, most recently with an OER implementation summit organized by the regional higher education compacts MHEC and WICHE.

Five years from now, we will still be talking about OER — but not in the way you might think. My prediction is that 2019 is the year when the national conversation about OER shifts from being solely about saving money to leveraging openness to make course materials better. OER has the power to unlock new ways for faculty to exercise academic freedom in the classroom, for students to meaningfully engage with their materials and for institutions to promote the success of all students.”

Why are college textbooks so expensive

Textbook costs overall have risen 67% from 2008 to 2018 – some four year college students spend close to $500 a year on textbooks.

Almost 80% of the textbook industry is dominated by five publishing companies – Pearson Education, Scholastic, McGraw-Hill Education, Cengage Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

These companies do everything they can to keep their books expensive and prevent students from renting older versions….”

Self-publishing, Open Textbooks and Open Practices at The University of Manchester – UK Open Textbook Project

“I spoke to Lucy May, Scholarly Communications Librarian (@UoMLib_Lucy), and Helen Dobson, Scholarly Communications Manager (@h_j_dobson), based at The University of Manchester, about open access publishing at the University and the interest they’d received from students in self-publishing journals. 

The University of Manchester Library has explored its relation to publishing over the past few years through a number of university projects, which have resulted in collaborative outputs involving both Manchester University Press (MuP) and other university departments.  In Spring 2018 MuP launched Manchester HIVE, a one-stop-shop to e-resources available via the University and host of Manchester Open Library (MoL) content.

Previously both the library and MuP had supported MoL which provided a platform for open access journals produced at the University, including the James Baldwin Review….”

Lakelands schools push free alternatives to costly textbooks | News | indexjournal.com

“According to a presentation at its most recent area commission meeting, Piedmont Tech has identified 10 of its courses that use OERs and will have 25 by the fall 2019 semester.

Lander, meanwhile, has 400 course sections that do not require their students to buy a traditional textbook, according to Lloyd Willis, an English professor at Lander and the director of its center for online and innovative learning.

Both schools are trying to formalize what has, thus far, been a bottom-up effort among professors to make education more affordable….”

Textbook Cost Zero Marking Coming to UH Course Listings – University of Hawai’i OER

Students at all ten campuses of the University of Hawaii system will soon be able to make more informed decisions about the courses they take than ever before. Beginning in Spring 2019 semester for some campuses, and Fall 2019 for all campuses, instructors will now easily be able to give their courses a “TXT0” attribute to indicate that the course has adopted an Open Educational Resource textbook or moved to using only free resources. Marking of courses to indicate their being textbook-free or OER based has been an ad-hoc effort at various campuses for the last couple of years, but now a standardized technical implementation will be available to all instructors in all sections of a course….”

Tipping Points, For-Profit Scientific Publishing, and Closed Science

“Here’s the thing. How can I support a textbook that students will need $214 dollars to buy?  I cannot.  Not as a scientist committed to the tenet that information should be available to all, an educator who believes education is a right not a privilege, a mentor who needs to remove barriers for my students, and lastly someone who came from a lower socioeconomic family, struggled to purchase textbooks, and is now committed to reaching back and pulling others up.  I. CAN. NOT….”

10/31/18: Daniel Williamson’s 10-year retrospective – OpenStax

“My path to OpenStax was a convoluted one. I went to Rice University to study opera performance, but like many students I had a change of heart somewhere along the way. Luckily, I had also been working as a technologist throughout college, doing website design and development for faculty. When I graduated in 2008, in the height of the recession, I was fortunate enough to have one of my supervisors recommend that I look into working at Connexions – the predecessor to OpenStax.

I joined the team as a content manager, thinking that this would be a good interim job where I could learn some new skills while I figured out what I was going to do with my life.

I quickly realized that I was working with brilliant people looking to solve a very interesting problem: how to democratize access to publishing and increase the availability of knowledge….”

michael_nielsen on Twitter: “Open access is often argued about in the abstract. I want to talk about a specific case study where I have detailed data – usage patterns for my (open access) online book/monograph “Neural Networks and Deep Learning” https://t.co/Kwy23b9E11″

“Open access is often argued about in the abstract. I want to talk about a specific case study where I have detailed data – usage patterns for my (open access) online book/monograph “Neural Networks and Deep Learning” http://neuralnetworksanddeeplearning.com/chap1.html …

Would any of this have been possible closed access? Of course some of it would have. I might have made more money. But on nearly every other metric, I suspect being open access was a 100x or more multiplier on the impact….

To sum up: open access makes material freely available to people who would otherwise never even hear about it. This amplifying effect is not small, it is enormous.  And it applies in parts of the world woefully underserved by the existing publication system….

Some additional calibration data: an editor at a major academic press tells me great sales figures for a similar technical textbook in a “hot” field are typically about 5,000-10,000 a year.  So open access has a factor 200x or more here….”

University of British Columbia: Recognizing Open in Promotion and Tenure | EDUCAUSE

“Driven by student government advocacy, one university’s change to its promotion and tenure guide highlights an important way institutions can incentivize open practices and provide a model for others to follow. Last year, the University of British Columbia (UBC) made a giant leap in the support of open education: the inclusion of language recognizing open educational resources (OER) in the institution’s “Guide to Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Procedures at UBC.” Driven by effective student government advocacy, this change highlights the importance of tenure and promotion as a way for institutions to incentivize open practices and will hopefully provide a model for others to follow….”

OpenMed – Opening up Education in South-Mediterranean countries

“Five partners from Europe and nine from South Mediterranean Countries are working together to widening participation and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) as a bottom-up approach to support the modernisation of the Higher Education sector in Morocco, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan….”