October OER Digest

By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 2 | October 15, 2015

With help from Nicole Finkbeiner, Nicole Allen, and others


Your tip sheet for U.S. OER updates, opportunities, and reminders

DURBIN BILL A HIT: Late last week, Senators Durbin (D-IL), Franken (D-MN) and King (I-ME), along withCongressmen Hinojosa (D-TX) and Polis (D-CO) introduced federal legislation to support OER adoption and development on college campuses. The Affordable College Textbook Act establishes a federal grant program to incentivize adoption. To discuss the bill, Senators Durbin and Franken joined advocates on a press call for campus journalists and national reporters. The press call generated almost 50 media hits that discuss the bill, define OER, and educate the public.

CALIFORNIA STEPS UP: Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the College Textbook Affordability Act into law. Under the law, championed by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Academic Senates in the state that pass OER supportive resolutions become eligible for grants up to $50,000 to provide training, incentives, and other resources to help their faculty adopt OER. However, the bill requires that any money spent by the state must be first matched with private funds, the same condition that advocates feel hindered the implementation of California’s 2012 OER bill.

DUNCAN STEPS DOWN: Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that he is stepping down after nearly 7 years in office. Duncan is the longest serving member of President Obama’s cabinet, and presided over a large expansion of the Department’s responsibilities. In his place, the President has tapped John King Jr. (formerly the NY Education Commissioner and a Senior Advisor in the Department) to assume the reins. King has been briefed on OER, and members of the community are hopeful that he will continue to support the progress being made at the Department. You can read more about him in his Department biography.

NEW RESEARCH: Researchers at Brigham Young University just published „A Multi-Institutional Study of the Impact of Open Textbook Adoption on the Learning Outcomes of Post-Secondary Students,“ in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education. The study compares data from more than 15,000 students, and in the words of SPARC’s Nicole Allen, identifies „a striking trend that students assigned free, open textbooks do as well or better than their peers in terms of grades, course completion, and other measures of academic success.“

  • READ MORE: Nicole’s overview on HuffPost here, or check out the report itself here.

#OAWEEK! In related worlds, next week (Oct 19th – 25th) is International Open Access Week. Academics and researchers around the world will be hosting workshops, discussions, and presentations to educate their peers about the benefits of Open Access research. Read more about it on the event website.

NEW, FROM OPENSTAX: OpenStax College, an open textbook publisher based at Rice University in Texas, just released four new titles, all of which are available on their website. The subjects are Pre-Algebra, Physics, Macro- and Micro- Economics.

It’s Thursday, October 15th. Ethan Senack here, realizing that somehow, half of October is already behind us. I’ve Googled „What time is it in Seoul“ a dozen times this week because many folks in the Open movement are there for the Creative Commons Global Summit (#ccsummit15). Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to @HigherEdPIRG or esenack@pirg.org with the subject „OER DIGEST“.


A brief snapshot of those making change on the ground level, and those most impacted

UCONN GALORE: The University of Connecticut is driving OER hard this year. The UConn Libraries recently postedthis blog about their new Open Textbook Initiative, citing „overwhelming faculty support“ and saying that „students truly make the difference in moving [these] critical initiatives forward.“ Additionally, UConn Professor Edward Neth is partnering with OpenStax to adapt their chemistry book, saying about his decision to go open: “The (open-source) textbook is as good as anything else out there and that was the tipping point.“ Read the Article>

CENTRAL VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE: As one of 16 of colleges in Virginia piloting the „Textbook-Free Degree“ program (inspired by the Z-Degree at Tidewater Community College), CVCC is diving into the training and necessary preparation for their faculty to make the switch to OER. They’re planning to launch associate degrees in General Studies and Business Administration that can be obtained using entirely open educational resources. While the transition is a significant investment, reactions are positive. “Will we be working? Oh yeah we will, but we are excited,” CVCC Vice President Muriel Mickles said. Read the Article>

Have a story you’d like featured? Email it to esenack@pirg.org.


How ‚open textbooks‘ could ease college sticker shock


Partial Credit: The 2015 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology


An open letter from UNC Student Stores employees


Durbin Pushes Bill to Lower College Textbook Costs


CGCC librarian receives excellence award for OER work



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