OER

The Impact of Open Textbooks at OpenStax College

Cable Green, July 8th, 2013

OpenStax College, an initiative of Connexions, the open educational resources (OER) authoring project at Rice University, is creating high-quality, peer-reviewed open textbooks. All of OpenStax College’s books, including the art and illustrations, are available under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), allowing anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the books.

The first two OpenStax College books were published in June of 2012, and since then Introduction to Sociology and College Physics have been downloaded over 110,000 times, used by more than 1.5 million unique online learners, and adopted at over 200 schools. These adoptions represent real savings for over 30,000 students in classes around the world. OpenStax College estimates that it has saved these students more than $3 million (USD) so far.

OpenStax isn’t stopping there. Biology and its corresponding book for non-majors, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy & Physiology have now been released and are ready for use in classes in the fourth quarter of 2013.

OpenStax College recently received grants to complete six more books from several major foundations, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Kanzanjian Foundation and Lowenstein Foundation. The next phase will feature Introduction to Statistics, Pre-Calculus, Principles of Economics, U.S. History, Psychology, and Chemistry. These books are entering production now and are scheduled to be released by the end of 2014.

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New Education Highway uses OER to make education accessible in Myanmar

Jane Park, July 3rd, 2013

New Education Highway (NEH) is a nonprofit project that could not exist without open educational resources (OER). Launched this year in Myanmar, NEH leverages new and existing OER to provide remote and rural communities — often with no Internet connection — with access to a quality education.

NEH partners with existing organizations in local communities to open free learning centers with tablets or laptops installed with an offline, easily navigable learning interface. Resources are preloaded and span all manner of subjects, including comprehensive K-12 education, standardized test preparation, vocational skills, health/HIV education, sanitation, critical thinking, community development, foreign language training, and environmental and agricultural science. All resources are available under CC licenses, developed by NEH or other organizations. Because permissions have already been granted for reuse, NEH, as well as its communities, can adapt and redistribute the resources as needed.

NEH works with each community it serves to customize the offline interface and OER to that particular community. NEH is always seeking new and existing materials to incorporate, currently in the environmental and agricultural sciences. If you have suggestions for OER, materials that might be adapted and released as OER, or are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, visit http://www.neweducationhighway.org/ or email info@neweducationhighway.org.

Informational content on NEH’s website is defaulted under the CC BY license. The OER used within the NEH Learning Interface is licensed under the CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC-SA licenses and will be made available on the site in the coming months.

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OpenChem, Open Curriculum, and the Value of Openness

Cable Green, June 27th, 2013

I recently spoke with Larry Cooperman, director of OpenCourseWare at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Larry also serves on the boards of the OpenCourseWare Consortium and the African Virtual University. I asked Larry about UC Irvine’s new OpenChem project.

Why, in the middle of such excitement over MOOCs, would the Department of Chemistry and the OpenCourseWare project at the UCI unveil their CC BY-SA–licensed OpenChem project, a set of video lectures equivalent to four years of classes? Because they’ve designed OpenChem to focus on building out an extensive path to learning chemistry via an open curriculum rather than offering highly designed intensive course experiences like Coursera and EdX.

OpenChem is designed to be reused, revised, and remixed — by institutions, departments and instructors. This differs in the most fundamental way from the fixed-path, single-instructor model of most MOOCs. OpenCourseWare and MOOCs aspire to provide access to high quality, higher education learning to those unable, for a variety of reasons, to attend either an “elite” institution or any college or university at all.

For some time, Larry has been arguing that we are falling short of this vision. 80% of Coursera users are college graduates and most of the rest are advanced high school and current university students. There is no doubt that others, for lack of access to a basic internet connection, much less the bandwidth required for high-resolution video streaming, won’t share in these benefits. But there is a second reason, even more troubling than the bandwidth problem, which should concern us. The design of university-level courses, when they come from “elite” institutions, is for that audience — namely, “elite” students. Courses aren’t designed for students whose secondary institutions have left them with gaps in their education.

And that gets me back to the design of OpenChem — or openly licensed curriculum in general. If there is one thing that we can do to use open education to improve higher education, it is to allow existing colleges and universities that serve these students to improve their educational offerings through adoption and adaptation. That means that those who best know a specific cohort of students must be free to choose from easily integrated, openly licensed materials that match their curricular needs and objectives. The very first use of OpenChem occurred locally at Saddleback College, when an instructor used ten minutes of a UCI video lecture that offered an explanation of a very specific topic to use in his flipped classroom. And that’s really the point. An instructor may find ten minutes useful. A department may adopt a course that had not previously been offered. An institution may adapt an entire curriculum. Further, if the content is not exactly what an instructor wants, the open license allows her to change it to meet local needs.

MOOCs could also enable these opportunities, though they will need to make it simple for their course authors and their contributing colleges and universities to add a Creative Commons license to their course content. CC stands ready to help them do so.

Of course, chemistry is a lab science. Allowing students to virtually sit in UCI lecture halls for four years via OpenChem could never substitute for a local institution offering a complete education. By creating a full pathway from a course designed for those without adequate high school chemistry preparation to graduate electives, UCI is making its chemistry education visible. But the goal of OpenChem isn’t substitution — it is to enable both educators and students to collaborate with others. Just as UCI hopes to support science education, they also hope others will adapt and improve OpenChem courses, translate them into other languages, and distribute them far and wide.

Kenneth Janda, Dean of the School of Physical Sciences and Professor of Chemistry at UCI, invites institutions to use “a whole lecture or a series of lectures, free of charge, and without asking permission to advance your educational mission.” That’s a fairly good itemization of the key benefits of openly licensed resources versus public but read-only copyrighted resources; it is the difference between open and free.

UCI also anticipates important learner benefits that are derived from having an open curriculum, including the ability to go forwards and backwards at will. For instance, looking ahead, an advanced high school student can go past the level of AP Chemistry. An entering college freshman could study Preparation for General Chemistry to ensure their readiness. Or an enrolled student can view the typical coursework and decide whether to become a chemistry major. Just as important, a student having trouble with a class can review the prior knowledge — the building blocks that are required to succeed in their current class.

This last point is perhaps the most crucial. Openness in education is about visibility. UCI uses an entire open curriculum to let learners and instructors alike see how it all hangs together. UCI has a lot of work left to do to optimize OpenChem for learning, but is excited to point its university and other institutions in a new direction that brings us all a little closer to the goal of universal access to higher education.

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OPEN Partners Host U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT Grantee Kick-Off Conference

Billy Meinke, June 27th, 2013

OPEN Partner Keynote from Cable Green, visualized by Giulia Forsyth
Giulia Forsyth / CC BY

Wave 2 Kick-off Event, Minneapolis MN

Round 2 Grantees from the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) program were invited to attend last week’s Kick-off Conference, hosted by OPEN Partners: CC, CMU’s OLI, CAST, and SBCTC. This was a unique opportunity for the Gates-funded OPEN Partners to explain services made available to grantees at no cost, supporting the building of Open Educational Resources (OER) that meet current standards of accessibility, pedagogically-sound and technology-supported design, as well as legal openness. Creative Commons is leading the OPEN Partner services and support, lending expertise in legal and technical aspects of open education to the project. Representatives from forty seven Round 2 TAACCCT projects attended workshops to understand service basics, and a showcase to hear from select Round 1 Grantee projects that made use of the complementary services offered to all grantees.

OPEN Conference Attendee
Photo by Cable Green / CC BY

Highlighted Round 1 Grantees included The National Stem Consortium (NSC), the Colorado Online Energy Training Consortium (COETC), and the Missouri Online HealthWINs program, sharing their experiences in the program thus far. All grantees are funded to support the building of community college-level and technical training courses that will provide opportunities for unemployed and under-employed adults to gain certificates and degrees in high-skilled industries. The OPEN partners offer expertise to grantees around accessibility frameworks, open-licensing and technical interoperability, and quality standards for online education. All of the courses and learning materials created in this four year $2 billion DOL grant program are being licensed for reuse with a Creative Commons (CC BY) license, making this the largest OER production effort to date. The pool of courseware will include lessons, videos, images, and interactive content for learners in health care, information technology (IT), advanced manufacturing, and other industries that need high-skilled workforce support. It’s a big deal.

Keynote and Plenary Sessions

CC’s Director of Global Learning, Cable Green, provided the opening keynote for the conference titled Online Technology, Open Licenses, and Open Educational Resources – The Opportunity for DOL TAACCCT Grantees. The Center for Accessibility Supportive Technology’s (CAST) Samantha Johnston provided an overview of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, and spoke about accessibility in distance education, which most TAACCCT courses are being developed for. Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) Boyoung Chae offered a session about creating and managing OER, targeted at new grantees that will likely be collaborating on content in the coming year. CC, CAST, and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) offered multiple hands-on sessions to familiarize grantees with DOL-mandated aspects of their course design, and describe how the OPEN Partners are offering continue support. CC’s Jane Park led sessions on the CC-BY license and best practices for applying CC licenses to work.

As a special service to grantees, Giulia Forsythe joined the OPEN Partners to provide visual recording (see image above) for the major talks. The creation of visual notes offered another way for participants to understand the big ideas of the speakers’ messages, using sketch-based keywords and symbols to describe connections. During a lightning around for new grantees, participants from over forty of the funded college and consortia spoke briefly about their projects and plans. Visual representations of these descriptions will soon be posted to the OPEN4us.org site.

OPEN Kickoff Conference Attendee
Photo by Cable Green / CC BY

OPEN Supporting TAACCCT Grantees

Creative Commons and the OPEN Partners will continue to support TAACCCT Grantees in the upcoming months, maximizing the value and reusability of this amazing pool of OER. Handouts, visuals, webinar recordings, and additional grantee information can be found on the OPEN Partner website, Open4Us.org.

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KA Lite: an offline version of the Khan Academy

Jane Park, June 26th, 2013

kalite-logo

We’d like to draw your attention to KA Lite, an offline version of the Khan Academy developed by a team of volunteers from around the world in collaboration with the Foundation for Learning Equality. KA Lite was developed with the aim of furthering universal access to education, especially those without an Internet connection — or those with a very slow Internet connection. This map shows all registered users of KA Lite around the world.

KA Lite is an independent project, not associated with the Khan Academy, though as the KA Lite FAQ states, Khan Academy is unofficially supportive of the project. The great thing is that the folks behind KA Lite didn’t have to ask for permission because permission was already granted thanks to the CC BY-NC-SA license on Khan Academy materials. This allowed KA Lite volunteers to build an open source application that would support and make available Khan Academy’s 4,200+ high quality educational videos and exercises in an offline setting.

Dylan Barth, one of the creators behind KA Lite, says,

“Through KA Lite, we distribute Khan Academy videos and exercises which are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

The KA Lite sourcecode itself is open-source MIT licensed, and the other included software and content is licensed as described in the LICENSE file (it’s all open-source, it’s just different licenses for different packages we use).

The only potential cost to the end user would be hardware to run KA Lite on (it can run on all types of hardware bundles, from old Windows computers to the $35 Raspberry Pi) and the electricity to run the hardware.”

Check out, download for free, and volunteer for the project at http://kalite.learningequality.org/.

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Blackboard xpLor officially released with OER and CC license options

Jane Park, June 25th, 2013

In January I blogged about Blackboard xpLor — a new cloud-based learning object repository that was being piloted at 70 institutions. Blackboard officially released it today, giving educators the ability to discover, create, and share resources across learning management systems (LMS). As part of its launch, xpLor has integrated support for CC license options for creators of content as well as the search and discovery of existing OER under CC licenses, such as the Khan Academy’s rich collection of videos and exercises. xpLor currently offers four CC license options for course creators (CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA) in addition to the CC0 public domain waiver, which allows you to waive all copyrights to your work should you choose to do so.

From the press release,

Users can create and store materials in xpLor, and then extend their content by sharing and making it discoverable to instructors across working groups, courses and institutions. Content is delivered through the cloud to users’ LMS; xpLor currently supports Blackboard Learn™, ANGEL, Joule® from Moodlerooms and Sakai. Users can tag and rate content, making it easy to find items their peers found to be valuable.

Content can be adapted over time by multiple users. Content authors can control who can see and change their content, and can apply to their work a variety of rights and permissions from All Rights Reserved to Creative Commons open sharing, to enable crowdsourcing collaboration and remixing of content.

For details with screenshots of the CC license implementation, see my earlier post. If you want to check it out yourself, you can via CourseSites or an existing LMS account with your institution (as named above). If you use a different LMS, xpLor may work with it if your LMS employs IMS standards — since xpLor is cloud-based and built to work across systems. To find out more, see the form at http://www.blackboard.com/sites/xplor/.

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Report Released by U.S. GAO Demonstrates the Need for Open Textbooks

Billy Meinke, June 14th, 2013

picture of textbooks
Books /John Liu / CC BY

A report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office on June 6th confirms a trend of the educational publishing industry: textbook costs to students at higher education institutions are rising 6% per year on average, and have risen 82% over the last decade. The study, ordered by Congress, looks at the efforts of publishers and colleges to increase the availability of textbook price information and “unbundled” buying options as required under provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA). The GAO also interviewed faculty regarding benefits of this transparency and offering of new options for students purchasing course materials.

What they found

Findings of the study indicated that faculty are more aware of textbook affordability issues than they used to be, though they see the appropriateness of materials as the most important factor when it comes to choosing resources to use in a course. HEOA requires publishers to include information about textbook prices when marketing to faculty, including wholesale prices and copyright dates of previous versions. While the report finds that publishers have passively made this information available through their websites and other materials, the GAO did not investigate whether publishers are actively providing the information to faculty as required by law. Making this information not only available, but highly visible, is the best way to support and equip faculty to consider textbook costs and potentially explore more affordable and flexible textbook options.

The study also finds that textbook price transparency helped students save money, particularly because of the information colleges and universities posted in course catalogs. Of the 150 institutions the GAO reviewed, 81 percent provided textbook information online during the months leading up to the fall 2012 semester. This allowed students the opportunity to consider the costs associated with each course and the time to seek cost-cutting alternatives like used books and renting. But even with this relief, textbook prices continue to reach into the $200-and-more range for high-enrollment courses. The end goal of the HEOA price transparency provisions is to pressure publishers into lowering their prices for good.

What this means

As Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs) explained, “Overall, the report shows that the HEOA requirements have helped students and professors become more aware of textbook costs, and this awareness builds market pressure that will eventually lead to fairer prices and more affordable alternatives. Although right now publishers stubbornly continue driving prices skyward, they can only ignore the call for affordability for so long.”

The report mentions other textbook affordability efforts that colleges and universities explored alongside providing textbook price information. About two-thirds of the schools that the GAO interviewed offered an institutional rental program, and many offered price information for alternate formats, such as e-textbooks. For example, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ Open Course Library, which offers Open Educational Resources (OER) and other low cost materials for the system’s 81 largest courses, has saved students $5.5 million to date — about three times as much as the program cost. As the shift of resources towards efforts that provide more options to students and faculty is seen across the US and in other areas around the world, we anticipate more participation in communities around OER. Which is a great thing.

Next steps towards affordable textbooks

The HEOA requirements for textbook price transparency were a good first step, but there’s more work to do to solve rising textbook costs and lack of flexibility in choosing learning materials for courses. OER, like those created, revised, and shared in the Open Course Library have the potential to significantly offset these costs while at the same time providing more options for faculty and students to customize textbooks and other courseware to their needs. CC believes that OER is the next step in providing affordable, flexible, and truly open educational opportunities for students and faculty, allowing global citizens to better choose their own learning pathways.

picture of textbook
opensourceway / CC BY-SA

A joint statement issued by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on June 7th affirms the potential for OER as a solution: “As the GAO report suggests, transparency alone isn’t enough. Students need more access to high-quality, affordable options that challenge the current price structure set by a handful of publishers. Open Educational Resources, which include high-quality open textbooks that are free for faculty to adopt and students to use, offer a promising step forward. With many recent technology advancements it will be important for Congress to continue to learn more about the textbook sector to ensure that there are accountability mechanisms in place to protect students and taxpayers.”

The Student PIRGs announcement about the study is here
The full report of the GAO’s study can be found here
And lastly, a podcast with a member of GAO’s staff that led this study is here

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Lumen Learning launches open course frameworks for teaching

Jane Park, June 11th, 2013

course framework
Ryan / CC BY-SA

Lumen Learning, a company founded to help institutions adopt open educational resources (OER) more effectively, just launched its first set of course frameworks for educators to use as-is or to adapt to their own needs. The six course frameworks cover general education topics spanning English composition, reading, writing, algebra, and college success, and are openly licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY).

The course frameworks were developed by the Lumen Learning team in concert with faculty members at nine institutions who worked to align the content with defined learning objectives and quality standards. By providing openly licensed course frameworks developed and vetted by experts, Lumen Learning hopes to make it easier for educators and institutions to use OER. From the press release,

“Our ultimate goal is to provide sustainable open textbook alternatives for an entire general education curriculum and even entire OER-based degree programs,” said Kim Thanos, CEO and co-founder of Lumen Learning. “We are thrilled with the interest and momentum we are seeing around OER today. It is definitely a rising tide, benefitting students, instructors and institutions alike.”

You can browse the CC BY-licensed course frameworks at http://www.lumenlearning.com/courses. Lumen Learning will also offer additional course frameworks in business management, psychology, chemistry, biology, and geography in the coming months.

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Free Wikipedia course offered through the School of Open

Jane Park, May 6th, 2013

Have you ever looked at an article on Wikipedia and thought, “this could really use some work”? With the free online course “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond,” offered through the School of Open, you have the opportunity to take the next step.

In the course, you will learn about both the technical and social underpinnings of this worldwide, volunteer-built resource, and how you can most effectively contribute to its vision to freely share knowledge. The six-week course will start its second round on 14 May (for those in the Americas) or 15 May (Asia/Australia).* Sign up here.

Sara_and_Pete%2C_Communicate_OER
Sara and Pete, Communicate OER / Pete Forsyth / CC BY

While the course is free and open to everyone, it focuses on the topic of open educational resources (OER), and students work to improve relevant Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. The first round of the course concluded last week. The course organizers, Pete Forsyth and Sara Frank Bristow of Communicate OER, had so much fun that they are diving right back in to facilitate a second round. Pete says,

“We learned a great deal in our first run: we were surprised by how few of our students knew about OER, but also how fully they embraced the topic. We hope you will agree, their efforts to improve the OER article have been successful: while there will always be room for improvement, today’s version of the article is much improved from the version prior to the start of our class.”

Several members of the CC community were proud to support this effort. In the first round, CC CEO Cathy Casserly participated in a panel discussion and CC Senior Project Manager Paul Stacey provided a review of the OER article around which the course participants shaped their improvements.

Creative Commons encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the world’s understanding of open educational resources and the open licenses that make them possible. Sign up for the upcoming course today. You can also participate in a future course or engage in other ways by reaching out to the course organizers at the same link.

If you would like to be notified when other “open” courses launch their second rounds, make sure you’re subscribed to the School of Open announcements list.

*If you’re in Europe or Africa, the synchronous course sessions will be in the middle of the night. You are welcome to enroll and watch the archived sessions each week; join the third round of the course, expected to launch in July; or watch for the self-paced version of the course, to be announced in early June.

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Now Hiring: LRMI Project Manager

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

Creative Commons is looking for a LRMI Project Manager. This person will play a key role in leading the LRMI project.

From the job description:

We are looking for a Project Manager to lead the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), a project co-led by Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources.

The LRMI Project Manager will provide general oversight of the internal project staff and subcontractors, and ensure LRMI work plans are clearly articulated and timelines adhered to.

This position:

  • project manages all CC LRMI grants and deliverables;
  • serves as the primary contact for all LRMI subcontractors and external stakeholders;
  • leads the LRMI technical working group listserv and meetings;
  • liaises with open communities, OER repositories / referatories, institutions, standards bodies, and vendors that are integrating LRMI and/or increasing the value of CC’s legal and technology tools;
  • is the key player in CC’s outreach to open education organizations and broadening awareness about LRMI and CC among states and school districts;
  • represents LRMI and CC at private meetings and selected conferences and events;
  • reports progress on the project to CC, the open community and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and
  • serves as an education expert on technology aspects of CC internally and externally.

If this sounds exciting to you, we’d love to hear from you. Check out the full job listing for more information.

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