An Interview with Hal Plotkin on Evolving OER from an Idea to a Movement and Beyond – Michelson 20MM Foundation

“Hal Plotkin is a writer, journalist and activist. He served as the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Education during  the Obama Administration. Previously, Plotkin served on the Board of Trustees at the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, based in California’s Silicon Valley, where in 2003, he initiated the first official college governance policy in the United States requiring administrative support for the use of public domain learning materials, which later became known as open educational resources. From 2014 to 2017, Plotkin served as the Senior Open Policy Fellow at Creative Commons USA. He is currently a consultant to the national College Promise Campaign, based in Washington, D.C.,  and a consulting scholar at Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme, based in Paris, where he helps design and implement efforts to expand access to post-secondary education. …”

AAP: US Student Spending on College Materials Down 23 Percent in Fall

“Charting a five-year downturn in US college students’ average spend on course materials, the Association of American Publishers reports an autumn-semester drop of 23 percent….”

And the issue of course content costs for students as an ethical dilemma was brought into focus on Wednesday (December 11) with the publication at The New York Times of Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu’s opinion piece “How Professors Help Rip Off Students.” Wu’s piece examines what he calls “the professional ethics of allowing a book to be sold at exploitative prices to young people.” …

Asserting that instructors should at least survey “what’s out there” as an alternative to expensive traditional options, Wu lists several potential alternatives, writing, “The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenSTAX has spent years developing high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free or cheap for more than 20 of the most popular college subjects. MIT has an impressive collection of free online textbooks, and there are others. The publisher Cengage has been experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription model.” …”

Opinion | How Professors Help Rip Off Students – The New York Times

“…For professors the path of least resistance is just to keep assigning the same book, in its latest edition. When prices were reasonable, that was a fine practice, but it is increasingly indefensible. There is sometimes substantial variation among textbook prices, and also books with stronger rental and used markets. In addition, important progress has been made by groups trying to create high quality alternatives. The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenSTAX has spent years developing high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free or cheap for more than 20 of the most popular college subjects. M.I.T. has an impressive collection of free online textbooks, and there are others. The publisher Cengage has been experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription model. At a minimum, instructors should at least take a look at what’s out there….”

Textbooks could be free if universities rewarded professors for writing them – Academic Matters

“eCampusOntario commissioned me to produce a report on how institutions of higher learning could support the implementation of open educational resources. I worked with the centre for a year as an Open Education Fellow, one of six who were selected because of our own involvement in producing open educational resources at our colleges and universities….

We only found two institutions in Canada, the University of British Columbia and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where explicit mention of open education had been made in performance and tenure policies.


We recommended that Ontario’s colleges and universities recognize creating open resources in policies governing tenure and promotion. Doing so would change the culture of these institutions and be a more effective incentive than course buy-outs or small grants. It would communicate clearly that institutions of higher education take seriously the responsibility to tailor knowledge to students and to reduce barriers….”

On ZTC, OER, and a More Expansive View

“Regardless of whether you feel a stronger affinity with the ZTC [zero textbook cost] camp or the OER camp, there is something we should all strive to remember. Our primary priority should neither be minimizing cost nor maximizing pedagogical flexibility. Our primary priority should be increasing student learning, and our efforts to reduce costs and increase pedagogical flexibility must always be subservient to that end. When we fail to put student learning first, we can become zealots who confuse the means with the ends. This makes it possible for us to pursue cost reduction at any price to student learning. It also makes it possible for us to pursue pedagogical flexibility regardless of the cost to student learning….”

What Exactly Is a ‘Free’ Textbook, and Other Questions About Open Resources – The Chronicle of Higher Education

“A few months ago, we asked you to tell us about some of the teaching experiments taking place on your campuses, so that we could share the lessons you’ve learned. One popular project, we found, is to switch from traditional textbooks to open educational resources, or OER.

While those experiments are just beginning, I decided to get an early take on how things are going. Are people excited? Frustrated? Confused? Who is doing the work, and how will you know if you succeeded? I reached out to a number of the readers who wrote in about OER. Here are their initial takeaways….”

The Library’s Role in Supporting Open Educational Resources | Amigos Library Services

“As the cost of textbooks and other educational materials are exponentially increasing, many institutions of higher education and PK-12 schools are adopting open educational resources (OER) as alternatives for their students. Libraries are starting to see OER as part of a trickle-down effect. More and more librarians are now being tasked with supporting faculty, students, and other members of their communities with the adoption of OER.

Join us on December 4, 2019 for an Amigos Library Services online conference, The Library’s Role in Supporting Open Educational Resources, where we will explore the roles libraries of all types play in supporting open educational resources….”

OpenSciEd – Free High-quality Science Instructional Materials

“The OpenSciEd materials include Teacher and Student materials for each instructional unit in addition to the corresponding professional learning materials designed to support the use of the units. Each unit fits within a Scope and Sequence that provides coherence within and across years….

OpenSciEd units and professional learning materials are being field tested by 200+ teachers, with over 5000 students, in 100 districts across 10 states and revised based on their feedback. Learn more about this process and how teacher and student voices have informed the materials….

OpenSciEd classroom materials are developed, field-tested, and revised in tandem with professional learning materials to support teachers in the enactment of high quality science learning for all students.”

How a University Took on the Textbook Industry | EdSurge News

“This kind of free online textbook was novel in 1999 when Rice professor Richard Baraniuk started gathering them online for students and faculty around the world to use. As demand for low-cost, high-quality materials increased during the Great Recession, the nonprofit project shifted from curation to creation, publishing its first five free textbooks in 2012.

Today, OpenStax—part tech startup, part publishing house, part cognitive science research lab—has a library of three dozen titles. By the nonprofit’s estimates, more than half of U.S. colleges use at least one. And some credit it for helping kick-start a trend—now known as open educational resources, or OER—that has sent shockwaves through the traditional publishing industry….”

A Conference on Open Education Invited For-Profit Publishers to a Keynote. Then the Objections Began. – The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Less than two weeks before its 16th annual meeting, the Open Education Conference has canceled one of its keynote panels — “The Future of Learning Materials” — after facing a backlash on social media.

The panel, which had been scheduled for November 1, was slated to include representatives from Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Lumen Learning, and Macmillan, all for-profit publishing companies, as well as the managing director of OpenStax, a nonprofit. It was supposed to explore the potential role of traditional commercial entities in the future of open education resources.

“That role could be anything from ‘no role’ to ‘deeply committed participant,’” David Wiley, a member of the program committee and a co-founder of Lumen Learning, said in an email. Of the more than two dozen speakers and panels nominated for keynotes, the future panel was one of the top vote-getters on the program committee, he added.

But the reaction to the panel highlighted the often contentious relationship between advocates for open education resources and commercial publishers, as open resources expand in the learning-materials market. …”