The Open Course Library is an initiative of the Washington state community and technical colleges to leverage a variety of existing Open Educational Resources as well as original content by our faculty course designers. I will also discuss the advantages of open educational content that prompted our state agency to invest in the development of education content and to require the resulting digital course materials be shared under a Creative Commons open license. To give context to the Open Course Library I will start by providing some background on our college system, our Strategic Technology Plan, and the formal adoption of an open licensing policy.
The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) is an organization that provides leadership and coordination for Washington’s public system of 34 community and technical colleges. Based on the current Annual Enrollment Report, the number of students attending our colleges is 470,000 and climbing. This is the highest enrollment level in SBCTC history, with much of the recent increase due to growth in eLearning. One reason for this growth is that more students are able to fit school into their busy schedules by attending hybrid and online classes.
In 2008, SBCTC released its Strategic Technology Plan to provide clear policy direction around a single goal: mobilizing technology to increase student success. One of the guiding principles of the plan is to “cultivate the culture and practice of using and contributing to open educational resources” (p. 17). With a clear plan in place the next step was to provide opportunities, incentives, and policies to promote OER in our system. On June 17, 2010 the nine-member State Board for Community and Technical Colleges unanimously approved the first state-level open licensing policy. It requires that all digital works created from competitive grants administered through SBCTC carry a Creative Commons Attribution-only (CC-BY) license. This license allows educational materials created by one college to be used or updated by another college in our system as well as by other education partners globally. Allowing the free flow of all educational content produced by State Board competitive grant funds is an efficient way to engage in the OER movement while maintaining a focus on the specific needs of Washington’s community and technical college students.
Building on the Strategic Technology Plan, the SBCTC eLearning team launched the Open Course Library in 2010, an initiative to design and openly share 81 high enrollment, gatekeeper and pre-college courses. The goals of the OCL project include (1) lowering textbook costs for students, (2) providing new resources for faculty to use in their courses, and (3) fully engaging in the global open educational resources discussion. OCL participants are selected through a competitive grant proposal process. Each winning faculty member or team of faculty designs one course. Each of the 81 course teams is directly supported by a librarian, two instructional designers, and an eLearning director. All teams receive additional support from two institutional researchers, 2 accessibility specialists, and a multicultural expert.
Another important consideration is how we will share the 81 OCL courses at the end of each phase. Internal sharing is easy because of our existing WAOL system-shared courses framework. We will include a copy of the full course in our share course system so it can be viewed and copied by faculty in any of our 34 colleges. For external sharing we have partnered withthe Saylor Foundation. Saylor.org will make the OCL course content modular and easy to search and view online.
Open Course Library development will occur in two phases. The first 42 courses (phase 1) will be released at the end of October 2011. The remaining courses (phase 2) will be completed by summer 2013. Each phase is spread over four college quarters. In phase 1, the first two quarters (summer/fall 2010) were spent designing course objectives, finding appropriate OER content, and creating assessments that aligned with the content. Faculty course designers worked closely with their assigned instructional designers (IDs) during this time to ensure that assignments and assessments are tied to course objectives. Faculty then pilot taught their newly designed curriculum at their college during the third quarter (winter 2011). They used feedback from two peer reviews and the course pilot to make updates to the course during the fourth quarter (spring 2011). Phase 2 will follow the same, four-quarter timeline and will benefit from lessons learned in phase 1.
SBCTC will not mandate the use of Open Course Library materials within our system. But we are already getting positive feedback from students who are grateful they don’t have to pay $200 for a textbook. Because these resources are openly licensed, digital resources anyone will be able to access, modify, adapt, translate, and improve them. The cost of making a million digital copies of digital materials is not much more than the cost of the first copy, and print-on-demand solutions are making print copies very affordable as well.
As we look beyond the content development process, the next major challenge is to increase the adoption of these OCL courses. We will start by making it as easy as possible for our faculty to find, browse, and copy OCL course content. We will train newly hired faculty so they are aware of the Open Course Library content available to them as they are developing their lesson materials. As we look for ways to encourage a culture of OER use and sharing in Washington’s community and technical colleges we will create opportunities for Open Course Library content to be adopted, updated, maintained, and shared back with our system and with the world.
In early April, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that 29 institutions were the receipts of its inaugural Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC); these institutions are sharing $10.6-million to test projects for improving college-completion rates and course success. Open Learning: Bridge to Success (B2S) will offer open, free content to cross the barrier to gaining the skills to learn.
Led by The Open University, an institution based in England that offers open access to online higher education courses, the partnership includes Anne Arundel Community College (http://www.aacc.edu), the University of Maryland University College (http://www.umuc.ed), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Bridging” content will be offered in arithmetic fundamentals, pre-algebra concepts, and learning to learn. The bridging approach has been shown to increase learner capability and confidence, encourage participation, and contribute to progression and completion. B2S places complete bridging modules in the open, pilots them in the US College system, and uses an approach that scales with the intended outcome of student success and achievement in formal gatekeeper courses. OU has achieved adoption of OER at scale in the UK and provides an existing proven solution, supported by well-documented, comprehensive research data. This project will build upon these initiatives and will have a positive impact on student success in the US.
NGLC is led by EDUCAUSE in partnership with The League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association of K-12 Online Learning and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helped design the Next Generation Learning Challenges and fund the initiative.
For more information, contact:
Jean Runyon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dean, Virtual Campus
Anne Arundel Community College
Kathy Warner (KWarner@umuc.edu)
Assistant Dean; Social, Behavioral, Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Patrick McAndrew (email@example.com)
Associate Director (Learning & Teaching), Institute of Educational Technology
Next Generation Learning Challenges
Building Blocks for College Completion
Why is the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement growing so rapidly? Where can you find quality OERs? What kind of standards are relevant for OER and how can they assure quality? Who is developing OERs and what tools are available? Is funding available for creating OERs so that they can be sustainable?
Are you interested in finding out more about open educational resources?
The first of these webinars, “Defining OER: The WHAT and the WHY,” will be delivered on Tuesday, July 19, at 2 pm EDT. Mitchell Levy, CEO of Happy About, will interview Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons.
Cathy notes, “The OER movement has the potential to yield much wider access to and participation in global education, but only if a critical mass of educational institutions and communities embrace openness. Our licenses, especially our Attribution license, are free and simple ways to implement the philosophy of OER using a commonly accepted standard for ‘open’.”
Cathy will discuss what Open Educational Resources are and why the OER movement is growing so rapidly, including addressing why educators might want to use or create OER materials and how OER materials can be licensed. In addition, several OER collections will be reviewed including College Open Textbooks, Connexions, MERLOT and SoftChalk CONNECT.
“Finding and Using OER: The WHERE and the WHEN,” the second webinar, is scheduled for Wednesday, August 17, at 3 pm EDT with COT members MERLOT, ISKME, IMS Global and SoftChalk among the organizations presenting. Cathy Swift from MERLOT will provide an overview of the issues associated with identifying relevant standards and finding quality OERs, followed by Rob Abel from IMS Global, who will address the licensing and standards questions. Lisa McLaughlin of ISKME will demonstrate how OER Commons can be used to find appropriate, quality content. Similar demos will be provided for using Connexions, MERLOT and SoftChalk CONNECT. In addition, Malissa Attebery, an online instructional designer at Lone Star College-Online in Texas, will show OERs in action as she demonstrates her transformation of a comprehensive WWII history eText by Henry (Jud) Sage, Professor at Northern Virginia Community College, into an engaging, interactive learning experience.
The third webinar, “Creating OER: The WHO and the HOW,” will be on Wednesday, September 21, at 3 pm EDT. Rob Abel from IMS Global will address questions related to how OERs are being developed, who is and who should be developing OERs, content interoperability and standards. This webinar will also include a demonstration of various authoring tools for creating OER content and a discussion of different models for developing OER materials, including models developed by the math department at the College of the Redwoods. Finally, Jacque Cain from Tacoma Community College will show how she repurposed Sherlock Holmes stories to create a full online course in Remedial English as part of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant.
The fourth webinar, “Funding OER: Sustainability,” will be in October. Still in the planning stages, this webinar will be about finding funding sources and will complete the series.
Participants can register for these free webinars by going to
Suggested listening: Alice Coltrane, The Impulse Story
I write this now listening to the late harpist, pianist, organist, virtuoso Alice Coltrane cast spells in her ethereal “Journey in Satchidananda.” I am privileged to have seen her perform with her son Ravi and members of the original John Coltrane Quartet in San Francisco, November 2006, one of only two performances before her untimely death, and after her protracted spiritual reclusion from the stage and the public. For me, her music, especially this exquisite creation, is an analogue for the best of poetry: deft in its experimentation and breadth; precise in its openness; welcoming of warmth, musicality, emotion; wise in its scaffolding of history; innocent in its play; and, generous to both the creator and her audience for, as a work of high craft, when the work is ineffable, one is still encouraged to explain it for there is always something familiar in the seeming unfamiliar, always something intimate in the deepening canvas of seeming generalized experience. As a writer and artist myself, I know that Alice Coltrane did not choose her craft. Her craft chose her. And we are most grateful for this arranged marriage!
I speak to the luminosity of Alice Coltrane because her body of work as well as her actual life illustrate the profound gifts art offers the mundanity, discord, and ravages of daily human life. At this time in our present history, the public display of contempt for intellectual vibrancy and its artistic articulation in the verbal, written, visual, and musical arts is at an all-time high. One can look anywhere in our mainstream landscape and find disparagement of that which is sophisticated, complex, and beautiful in the way only the search for truth, wisdom, and humanity can be. This attack has now infiltrated the very protectorates of art, intellectual integrity, humane humanity, and those who teach and live within such purview: public colleges and universities. Specific attacks are now being waged upon disciplines that encourage free thinking, intellectual diversity, and artistic expression, especially humanities and arts.
Because of the current groupthink among powerful decision-makers such as private industry moguls, government officials, and college and university administrators, all of whom are now forming alliances for profit-centered, assembly-line educational models, then certainly those courses and disciplines most vulnerable are those that provide intellectual space for human expression and possibility, not profit generation. Nationally there are stories of humanities, arts, and social science courses being cancelled or usurped. There are now instances where entire programs such as creative writing or music appreciation are being discontinued. When colleges and universities become businesses and teachers become sales executives, then students become products, commodities for sale in the market of linear conformity. This sabotage will result in intellectual docility and, most disturbingly, artistic death. Without art, culture does not survive.
Musical compositions, philosophical dissertations, visual arts, and poems are not widgets. Humanity is not a widget. Though the leadership efforts are dramatically in this direction, human experience – and the minds creating it – are not yet entirely for sale. Poetry is an acute reminder and reclamation of that which can never be bought or sold: truth, justice, generosity, compassion, beauty, and love.
Thus, the open education movement provides critical resistance to such nefarious profiteering by making art – especially written art – widely accessible and free. Moreover, because poetry is the elegant articulation, defense, and honor of organic experience, its accessible and free status via the open course environment ought to remind wayward educational profiteers that there are better, creative, humane ways to save and generate money in the noble profession of education. For artists and teachers, the issue is moot: art is human and humane. Art, simply, is self-sustaining.
There are some fantastic things happening in literary arts inside and outside academia. Yet, the most robust resources are housed and nurtured by academic institutions. There are ample offerings in traditional and experimental poetics, within a variety of platforms, such as open courses, open formats, institutional programs, electronic archives and magazines, digitized books and papers, and the viral glee of social networking technologies. Below the closing poem is a brief listing of innovative resources, by no means exhaustive. Please use and share generously.
In acknowledgment of the redemptive and restorative energies that poetry gives the world, I will close with one of my favorite poems by Lewis Turco. This poem is written in the Japanese form called Somonka, an epistolary love poem made up of two tankas, an extension of the haiku, wherein each tanka follows a line syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7. The first tanka is a statement of love, and the second is a response.
Epistles: The Tarot IX of Swords
I am writing you
from a pit. It is quite dark
here. I see little.
I am scratching this note on a stone.
Where are you? It has been long.
Thank you for your note.
I do not know where I am.
I believe I may
be with you. It is not dark
here. The light has blinded me.
–Lewis Turco, Poetry Magazine, July 1972
Open Licensed Internet Resources for Poetry
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Courses (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license)
The Open University (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)
Free but not open Internet Resources for Poetry
The Poetry Archive (copyright license)
The Internet Archive – search for “poetry” (copyright license)
Electronic Poetry Center at New York State University, Buffalo (copyright license)
ISKME’s work in OER since 2005 has focused on identifying key opportunities for deepening the impact of OER adoption and use through research and practice that support enhanced teaching and learning. For example, our research has shown that access to high quality, adaptable resources provides the flexibility needed for educators to develop innovative, localized content as well as pedagogical practices that are more collaborative and peer-based. Our OER Commons network is a curated collection of over 30,000 educational resources—including open textbooks—that can be shared, adapted, and remixed to fit individual teaching and learning needs.
The overarching goal of OER Commons has been to create an education ecosystem built around the open sharing of resources and knowledge that can support improvements in teaching and learning. In our ongoing efforts to meet this goal, we continue to create new features and tools on OER Commons. This past spring has seen a flurry of new developments including simple ways to find and add resources and comments to the Commons, as well as new services for 24/7 search and discovery of OER.
The Bookmark Button.
Our new bookmark button, featured on the OER Commons homepage, empowers users to build the education commons by making it simple to add resources to OER Commons from anywhere on the web. Just drag the button into your browser bar and click “Add OER” from any awesome OER url to try it out.
The OER Toolbar.
In response to user feedback that an easier way to submit user reviews was needed, we’ve created a toolbar that appears when you go to a resource in OER Commons. From this toolbar, you can rate, review, and tag a resource without leaving the page, scroll through search results, and more. To see an example of a resource with the toolbar, click here.
Green OER is a new section of OER Commons dedicated to cataloguing OER materials that focus on teaching environmental studies and sustainability issues. Green OER was developed with our European partner Agro-Know, whose mission is focused on knowledge-intensive technology innovation for agriculture and rural development.
OER Librarian leverages the power of the OER community in finding resources through Twitter. Users can make a request for particular OER using the Twitter hashtag #oerlib. Anyone can crowdsource an answer by using @ reply to the asker, using the same hashtag. Examples of questions that users have asked include: “I’m looking for a great open textbook to teach beginning art history, any suggestions?” and “Know of any good lesson plans for teaching beginning calculus that includes embedded links to example problem sets?” Try it out, and see what happens!
OER Search App. The OER Search App allows users to access and search the OER Commons library from the convenience of their iphone or android mobile device. Visit the iphone app store or the android market on your mobile device, and use the term “OER Search” or “ISKME” to locate and install the app directly on your phone.
We know that OER have the potential to serve the changing needs of learners, while supporting teachers, schools, community colleges, and other institutions in improving and transforming practice and policy. Join the OER Commons user community and help us to enrich the site through your valuable contributions and knowledge.
The Open Courseware Consortium (OCW Consortium) announced a new partnership with the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) to maximize the impact of open courseware to community college students, faculty, and learners worldwide. CCCOER has over 200 affiliated colleges nationwide and in Canada while the OCW Consortium has 250 colleges and universities worldwide, which will benefit from their combined resources.
Dr. Judy Baker, dean of Technology and Innovation at Foothill College and one of the founders of the CCCOER stated “Both CCCOER and the OCW Consortium serve to increase access to education for students with limited means, which makes this partnership powerful. When educators pool their expertise to foster a culture of shared knowledge, everyone benefits.”
The partnership between CCCOER and the OCW Consortium allows us to raise awareness and broaden access to higher education with new audiences”, commented Mary Lou Forward, executive director of the OCW Consortium.
An “OER” is an open education resource and the most common example is an open textbook. An open textbook is a book, most often electronic, that is licensed in a way that allows re-use, repurposing, editing, and republishing. One of the main advantages in an open textbook, apart from the fact that they are free, is that open textbooks can be edited by the instructor. Some “open” textbooks managed by commercial publishers may not be editable at the sentence level. One of the criticisms leveled at open textbooks is that the quality somehow suffers because they do not have the “imprimatur” of the commercial publishers. Even some advocates of open textbooks believe this myth.
According to the Educause article “7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbooks,” ”The traditional publishing model features robust editorial..mechanisms designed to ensure the quality…of printed textbooks.” In my experience as a former manager for a commercial textbook publisher, their motivation was to bring a textbook to the market as quickly as possible, not ensure the quality. The authors go on to say “an open textbook may seem to be missing an essential credential that speaks to its validity.” This is a more accurate statement because this is about perception, not reality. There is a presumption that a textbook that was not vetted by a project manager at a business conglomerate must have quality and reliability issues. Those who are arguing this do not understand the commercial textbook industry. Textbook publishers don’t always get it right, and often, textbooks are bought by school districts and colleges departments without being reviewed carefully because buyers assume that commercial publishers are careful. Why else would they be so expensive? Here are a few glaring examples (of many) where they were not careful:
I will let these examples suffice for now. You can go to Google yourself and search for “textbook errors” and find many more examples. In that search, I also found articles about how to turn textbook errors into “teachable moments.” How sad is that? Why would we accept these textbooks? How helpless are we that we are content with these errors? The traditional publishing cycle of commercial textbooks means that it can take two years before a corrected commercial textbook makes it back to the “customer” (that is our students). Texas has talked about fining publishers for each error – now there is a teachable moment!
How did we get here? Getting back to the Educause article which says that reliability issues in open texts “places an extra burden on the instructor to ensure an open text is complete, accurate, and appropriate for the student needs.” This should be the work of all instructors and administrators no matter what the licensing looks like.
But the solution can only come from open texts: an instructor or department cannot correct a commercial text, cannot add to it, or adapt the materials to the specific needs of the local student population. That can only be done with texts that are open licensed. With an open textbook, any errors can be corrected as they are found.
Lets do our job as educators and not rely on commercial businesses to teach our students. We should be engaged in the curriculum at all stages and not hold open texts to a higher standard than commercial textbooks. Instructors and academic departments should partner to author, revise, adapt, and vet course materials. We should be partnering with other institutions to support these efforts – a textbook should include a network of subject matter experts, expert practitioners in the field, and advanced students.
Besides all of that, a textbook is not a course. It is a single tool, a reference point. A textbook is not teaching. If the answers to your questions can be found in a textbook, you are not asking the right questions.