U.S. Department of Education

US Senators seek to make college textbooks affordable and open

Jane Park, November 15th, 2013

A Human Timeline of Open Education
Opensourceway / CC BY-SA

United States Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation called the Affordable College Textbook Act that seeks to make college textbooks affordable and openly available under the Creative Commons Attribution license. According to Durbin’s press release, Bill S.1704 does 5 things:

  • Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
  • Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public [via CC BY];
  • Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
  • Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.

You can read the full text of Bill S.1704 here. In addition to highlighting the rising cost of textbooks, Bill S.1704 defines the following terms:

(3) OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE.—The term ‘‘open educational resource’’ means an educational resource that is licensed under an open license and made freely available online to the public.

(4) OPEN LICENSE.—The term ‘‘open license’’ means a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable copyright license granting the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use the work and adaptations of the work for any purpose, conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given to authors as designated.

(5) OPEN TEXTBOOK.—The term ‘‘open textbook’’ means an open educational resource or set of open educational resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of higher education.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) note several existing open textbook programs that have proved successful in lowering costs for students, including the University of Minnesota’s online catalog of open textbooks which has so far saved students $100,000; Tidewater Community College’s degree program where each course uses open textbooks lowering costs to zero for students; and Washington State’s Open Course Library project for its 81 largest enrollment courses that has saved students $5.4 million to date.

In addition to cost savings, SPARC highlights Bill S.1704′s potential impacts of high quality and innovation:

  • High quality materials. Open educational resources developed through the grants will also be available for all other colleges, faculty and students across the country to freely use.
  • Supporting innovation. At a time where new models to support open educational resources are rapidly emerging, this bill would help foster innovation and development of best practices that can be shared with other institutions.

For more info, see:

You can take action to support Bill S.1704 here and use Twitter hashtag #oerusa to share the news!

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REMINDER to enter the Why Open Education Matters video competition

Timothy Vollmer, April 30th, 2012

In March, Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Institute launched the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition. The goal of the competition is to raise awareness of Open Educational Resources (OER) and solicit short, creative videos that help explain what Open Educational Resources are and how they can be beneficial for teachers, students, and schools everywhere around the world.

There’s been lots of interest in the competition, and we wanted to remind you that the deadline to submit your video is June 5, 2012. The contest is open to all, and submissions can come from non-U.S. citizens. Nonprofits, schools, and companies may also enter a video, and you can work in teams. Please check out the website for all the information you need.

The first prize is $25,000 and the second prize is $5,000. We’ve lined up some great judges to help award these prizes, including Nina Paley, Davis Guggenheim, and James Franco. There will also be a $1,000 Community Choice Award in which the public will be able to cast their vote for their favorite video.

Again, video submissions must be received by June 5 on http://whyopenedmatters.org (look for the “Submit a Video” button). We’re eating our own dog food too–any video that is submitted must be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license so that it can be freely used and shared by anyone to help explain Open Educational Resources. Please jump in and share your creative video-making skills to explain and promote OER. Roll camera!

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CC News: Why Open Education Matters Video Competition

Jane Park, March 5th, 2012

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

Why Open Education Matters Video Competition! by Creative Commons, U.S. Department of Education, and Open Society Foundations

Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Foundations announce the launch of the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition. The competition will award cash prizes for the best short videos that explain the use and promise of free, high-quality open educational resources and describe the benefits and opportunities these materials create for teachers, students and schools.  Video submissions are accepted until June 5, 2012 and winners will be announced July 18, 2012. Cash prizes include $25,000 (first), $5,000 (second), and $1,000 (Public Choice Award). Judges include prominent artists and education experts, including Davis Guggenheim, Nina Paley, James Franco, and many others. Learn more.

 

$500 million available in Wave 2 of U.S. Department of Labor grant program for community colleges

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) for Wave 2 of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT). Wave 2 makes available an additional $500 million to “eligible institutions of higher education… with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less…” As with the first wave of funding, all educational materials created from grant funds must be released under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. For Wave 2, the CC BY license must also be applied to modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds. Read more.

Creative Commons and Open Education Week

Creative Commons and its affiliates are participating in Open Education Week! a week-long series of global events on and offline to to raise awareness of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement and its impact on universal access to education. 90 organizations are contributing by hosting workshops, conferences, evening events, and online webinars. The first events started March 1, but the official week is March 5 through March 10. It’s not too late for you to join. Learn more.

In other news:

  • The next CC Salon London — Open Educational Resources: Policies for Promotion — is Thursday, March 29! The event is free and open to the public but registration is required. Learn more.
  • The U.S. Washington State Senate passed an OER Bill for K-12 education! HB 2337 will help eliminate high textbook costs for one million students. Learn more.
  • The German Aerospace Center (DLR) also adopted CC by incorporating CC licenses, including CC Attribution, for its photos and media.
  • CC community member, Makerblock, has developed a new WordPress plugin that makes it easier for you to add CC licenses to your website and blog.
  • Lastly, we urge you to act now to support public access to federally funded research by supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) which would, "require federal agencies to provide the public with online access to articles reporting on the results of the United States’ $60 billion in publicly funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal." Learn more.
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New federal education fund makes available $2 billion to create OER resources in community colleges

Timothy Vollmer, January 20th, 2011

The Department of Labor and the Department of Education today announced a new education fund that will grant $2 billion to create OER materials for career training programs in community colleges. According to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) will invest $2 billion over the next four years into grants that will “provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs.” The full program announcement (PDF) states that all the resources created using these funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license:

In order to further the goal of career training and education and encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (“Grant”), the Grantee will be required to license to the public (not including the Federal Government) all work created with the support of the grant (“Work”) under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (“License”). This License allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted work and requires such users to attribute the work in the manner specified by the Grantee. Notice of the License shall be affixed to the Work. For more information on this License, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0.

The program supports President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 by helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials. The first round of funding will be $500 million over the next year. Applications to the solicitation are now open, and will be due April 21, 2011.

Cathy Casserly, incoming CEO of Creative Commons, said, “This exciting program signifies a massive leap forward in the sharing of education and training materials. Resources licensed under CC BY can be freely used, remixed, translated, and built upon, and will enable collaboration between states, organizations, and businesses to create high quality OER. This announcement also communicates a commitment to international sharing and cooperation, as the materials will be available to audiences worldwide via the CC license.”

Beth Noveck, professor of law and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative, said, “The decision to make the work product of $2 billion in federally funded grants free for others to reuse represents a historic step forward for open education. The Departments of Labor and Education are to be congratulated for adopting more open grantmaking practices to ensure that taxpayer money funds the widest possible distribution of this important job-training courseware.”

Congratulations to The Department of Labor, The Department of Education, and others involved in crafting this important, innovative program. Creative Commons is committed to leveraging this opportunity to create a multiplier effect for public dollars to be used on open, reuseable quality content.

Addendum:
Where new learning materials are created using grant funds, those materials must be made available under CC BY. However, it is not a requirement that all the TAACCCT grant funds be spent on the creation of learning materials. We’ve also updated the title of this post to reflect this clarification, which before read U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education commit $2-billion to create open educational resources for community colleges and career training.

Second Addendum:
See our page about Creative Commons and TAACCCT for further information.

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Summary of OER-related comments on U.S. Department of Education Notice of Proposed Priorities

Timothy Vollmer, September 10th, 2010

We previously wrote about the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) for discretionary grant programs. The Department offered 13 proposed priorities, specifically mentioning Open Educational Resources (OER). Essentially, if the priorities are adopted, grant seekers could receive priority if they include OER as a component of an application for funding from the Department. OER is included in Proposed Priority 13–Improving Productivity:

Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources. Such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school schedules, use of open educational resources (as defined in this notice), or other strategies that improve results and increase productivity.

As mentioned, the NPP includes a Department definition of open educational resources:

Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.

Comments were accepted through September 7. There are 228 public submissions listed in the docket folder at Regulations.gov (note that some of these items are essentially duplicates, as contributors who submitted comments via a document attachment were given two unique IDs if they also included an introductory note in the text field on the submission portal). There are a few submissions that commented on the OER provision of the NPP. The following is a brief breakdown of these comments, based on relevant keyword searches of the docket.

Creative Commons
ED-2010-OS-0011-0124.1

Creative Commons appreciates the inclusion of OER, and highlights the importance of public, standardized legal and technical tools for OER to be successful:

The OER movement is poised to greatly further global access to and participation in education, but only if a critical mass of educational institutions and communities interoperate legally and technically via Creative Commons. Why is interoperability important? Because in its absence, content such as OER cannot be aggregated or mixed and then shared further in a legal or efficient manner without securing special permission from the original creators. Interoperability requires standardized, public licenses that grant rights in advance. Creative Commons licenses are the global standard for open content licensing, grant rights in advance, and are easy to understand and use. Institutions, teachers, and policymakers in all arenas should be required to implement and recommend use of CC’s tools for educational resources.

Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, State Educational Technology Directors Association, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The Student PIRGs, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
ED-2010-OS-0011-0120.1

The signing organizations appreciate the inclusion of OER, and suggest strengthening the definition of OER described in the NPP by: (1) replacing the conjunction “or” with the conjunction “and” to ensure that derivative use is clearly allowable; and (2) replacing the phrase “permits their free use or repurposing by others,” with the phrase, “permits sharing, accessing, repurposing (including for commercial purposes) and collaborating with others.” Under this approach, the revised definition would read as follows:

Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain and have been released under an intellectual property license that permits sharing, accessing, repurposing (including for commercial purposes) and collaborating with others.

The signing organizations also encourage the Department to make the innovative development, use, expansion and dissemination of OER an element of several other priorities, including Priority 2 (Implementing Internationally Benchmarked College and Career-Ready Elementary and Secondary Standards), Priority 4 (Turning Around Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools), Priority 5 (Increasing Postsecondary Success), and Priority 7 (Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education).

State Educational Technology Directors Association
ED-2010-OS-0011-0135.1

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) appreciates the inclusion of OER, and echoes the suggestion made in the joint comment above for the strengthening of the definition. In addition, SETDA endorses the inclusion of OER in Priority 2 (College/Career Ready Standards), and suggests OER be included in a new proposed priority entitled, “Technology, Innovation, and School Reform”:

We believe that investments in technology for learning represent a new baseline infrastructure for education, including investments in the human resources necessary to make best use of the new tools and services enabled by this infrastructure. Under this priority, projects designed to support innovative approaches to school reform could focus on one or more of the following priority areas … (a) Transitioning from print to digital instructional materials, including especially those employing open educational resources …

Council of Chief State School Officers
ED-2010-OS-0011-0117.1

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) appreciates the inclusion of OER, and highlights the importance of OER as a way to providing quality resources to students:

The nation’s chief state school officers are committed to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality instructional materials and other resources and OER represents an important tool for reaching this goal. Many states are already leading in this important area and welcome the opportunity to seek federal support for furthering their work, particularly as it contributes to supporting cost-effective implementation of the CCR standards. We urge you to preserve this priority in the final rule.

1105 Media
ED-2010-OS-0011-0070.1

1105 Media strongly supports SETDA’s recommendations for strengthening the NPP, especially the addition of its proposed new priority, “Technology, Innovation and School Reform”, which suggests that projects designed to support innovative approaches to school reform could focus on one or more of the following priority areas … (a) Transitioning from print to digital instructional materials, including especially those employing open educational resources …

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U.S. Department of Education includes OER in notice of proposed priorities for grant programs

Timothy Vollmer, August 5th, 2010

Today the U.S. Department of Education took another big step in supporting open educational resources (OER). In the Federal Register, the Department released a notice of proposed priorities (NPP):

The Secretary of Education proposes priorities that the Department of Education (Department) may use for any appropriate discretionary grant program in fiscal year (FY) 2011 and future years … This action will permit all offices in the Department to use, as appropriate for particular discretionary grant programs, one or more of these priorities in any discretionary grant competition.

The set of proposed priorities specifically mentions OER. Essentially, if the priorities are adopted, it could mean that grant seekers who include open educational resources as a component of an application for funding from the Department of Education could receive priority. OER is included in Proposed Priority 13–Improving Productivity:

Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources. Such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school schedules, use of open educational resources (as defined in this notice), or other strategies that improve results and increase productivity.

As mentioned, the NPP includes a definition of open educational resources:

Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.

Interested parties may submit comments to the notice of proposed priorities until September 7, 2010. Information about how to submit a comment is described in the notice.

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Creative Commons and Open Educational Resources in the U.S. National Education Technology Plan

Mike Linksvayer, March 6th, 2010

The United States Department of Education 2010 National Educational Technology Plan (pdf) includes the following:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are an important element of an infrastructure for learning. OER come in forms ranging from podcasts to digital libraries to textbooks, games, and courses. They are freely available to anyone over the web.

Educational organizations started making selected educational materials freely available shortly after the appearance of the web in the mid-1900s. But MIT’s decision to launch the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative to make the core content from all its courses available online in 2000 gave the OER movement a credible start (Smith, 2009). Other universities joined the OCW Consortium, and today there are more than 200 members, each of which has agreed to make at least 10 courses available in open form.

Many of these materials are available not just to individuals enrolled in courses, but to anyone who wants to use them. The power of OER is demonstrated by the fact that nearly half the downloads of MIT’s OpenCourseWare are by individual self-directed learners, not students taking courses for credit (Maxwell, online presentation for the NETP Technical Working Group, 2009).

Equally important to the OER movement was the emergence of the Creative Commons, an organization that developed a set of easy-to-use licenses whereby individuals or institutions could maintain ownership of their creative products while giving others selected rights. These rights range from allowing use of a work in its existing form for noncommercial purposes to the right to repurpose, remix, and redistribute for any purpose.

Additional advances in our understanding of how to design good OER are coming out of the work of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University. OLI has been developing state-of-the-art, high-quality online learning environments that are implemented as part of courses taught not only at Carnegie Mellon, but also at other universities and at community colleges. The OLI learning systems are submitted to rigorous ongoing evaluation and refinement as part of each implementation. (For more information on OLI, see the Assessment section of this plan.)

The Department of Education has a role in stimulating the development and use of OER in ways that address pressing education issues. The federal government has proposed to invest $50 million per year for the next 10 years in creating an Online Skills Lab to develop exemplary next-generation instructional tools and resources for community colleges and workforce development programs. These materials will be available for use or adaptation with the least restrictive Creative Commons license. This work is expected to give further impetus to calls for open standards, system utilities, and competency-based assessments. (For more information on the Online Skills Lab, see the Learning section of this plan.)

The OER movement begun in higher education should be more fully adopted throughout our K-16 public education system. For example, high-quality digital textbooks for standard courses such as algebra can be created by experts and funded by consortia arrangements and then made freely available as a public good. Open textbooks could significantly reduce the cost of education in primary and secondary as well as higher education. Textbooks constitute a significant portion of the government’s K-12 budget as well as the student-borne cost of higher education.

Also see the plan’s sidebar on the California Free Digital Textbook Initiative, the first phase of which has been dominated (15 of 16) by CC licensed textbooks.

The plan also directly demonstrates effective reuse — it includes and properly attributes two CC-licensed illustrations.

Congratulations to the U.S. Department of Education and the OER movement!

Addendum: See open education pioneer David Wiley’s reaction to a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan given the day before the National Education Technology Plan’s publication. Wiley highlights OER’s role as infrastructure for education innovation. Those aren’t just buzzwords — read Wiley’s post.

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U.S. Dept of Ed funds Bookshare to make open textbooks accessible

Jane Park, December 2nd, 2009

Remember the California Free Digital Textbooks Initiative and how it resulted in 16 open textbooks, 10 of which met 90% of California’s standards? Well, since these textbooks were licensed under one of the Creative Commons licenses that allows derivation (the licenses sans the ND term), they can not only be translated into various languages, but also modified and adapted into various contexts, including converting them into accessible formats, such as audio and Braille. No extra transaction costs have to be incurred by some middleman to allow these adaptations—any entity with the resources to adapt these textbooks may do so, since the rights for derivation are pre-cleared via Creative Commons.

Realizing this, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has granted $100k to Bookshare, “the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities.” The grant is aimed at “[creating] the first accessible versions of open content digital textbooks. The initial planned conversion of open content textbooks, which are distributed freely under a license selected by the author, are math and science textbooks approved for California students.” From the press release,

“As other states begin to approve open content textbooks, Bookshare will continue to convert these materials to accessible formats for all students who read better with accessible text. The first open content textbooks approved for use in California will be available via Bookshare. The texts will be offered in the accessible DAISY format that enables multi-modal reading, combining highlighted on-screen text with high-quality computer-generated voice, and BRF, a digital Braille format for use with Braille displays or embossed Braille.”

“Traditional copyrighted books, including those contributed to Bookshare by publishers, are protected with digital rights management technology and available only to those with a documented print disability. But Bookshare’s open content books will become part of the freely distributable books in the Bookshare collection and can be used by anybody without proof of disability,” says Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. “These accessible books will not only help disabled students throughout the U.S. and globally, but provide parents, teachers and assistive technology developers with free access to real talking textbooks.”

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“I Am What I Learn” Video Contest for Students

Jane Park, October 2nd, 2009

Students over 13, including all struggling college students, have a chance to win $1,000 from the U.S. Department of Education in their “I Am What I Learn” video contest. eSchool News reports that “to get students invested in their education, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have announced a new video contest, asking students to “inspire” them with their stories.”

I Am What I Learn” asks you to answer the question, “Why is your education important to fulfilling your dreams?” in two minutes or less, and submit it to them by the Nov 2nd deadline. Be sure to visit the site for more details and to check out Secretary Arne Duncan’s own video.

ccLearn encourages you to use CC licensed content for your videos, whether you need a neat soundtrack or image, and to release your own video under one of the Creative Commons licenses.

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Open educational resources and implementation of the U.S. Recovery Act

Jane Park, April 29th, 2009

The U.S. Department of Education’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Using ARRA Funds to Drive School Reform and Improvement (warning: Microsoft Word .doc) mentions Open Educational Resources (emphasis added):

Use technology to improve teaching and learning. Purchase and train teachers to use instructional software, technology-enabled white boards, and other interactive technologies that have been shown to be effective aids for instruction, particularly for English language learners, students with disabilities, and both struggling and advanced learners. Use open education resources or purchase high-quality online courseware in core high school content areas.

This may seem like a very weak mention, but in context is a very important step forward for the legitimacy of the OER movement.

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