By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 5 | December 17, 2015
With help from Reg Leichty, Mary Lou Forward, Nicole Allen, and others

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

STEP UP FOR OPEN: Not long ago, the Department of Education issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) around their interest in openly licensing educational materials funded by their direct competitive grants. Now, it’s crunch time. Comments to the Department are due by the end of the day tomorrow, Friday 12/18. We know they’ve received a number of comments both in support of the proposal and against it, so if you haven’t taken the opportunity to tell the Department how you feel, this is your chance. Every bit of feedback will help ensure they adopt the strongest possible policy, so we encourage you to consider weighing in.


Congress has passed, and the President has signed, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The bill update became due in 2007, and lawmakers have been working on the draft since 2010, so it’s long overdue. Besides significant changes to the No Child Left Behind policy era, the bill also includes a new OER provision in the multi-billion dollar State Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program. Looking forward, states may use that funding to support districts in making instructional content available as OER.

The mission of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Earlier this month, they released a new report titled Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation. Here’s a key quote from their blog post:

„In the end, perhaps OER will be one of the most significant and substantive ways that technology will transform teaching and learning.

Creative Commons has released their second annual State of the Commons report, which finds that over 1.1 billion CC licensed works have now been contributed to the shared global commons, up from 140 million in 2006.

Coming up in the new year, from March 7-11. The Open Education Week Planning Committee „invites your contributions to and participation in the annual Open Education Week, featuring online and in-person events around the world. You decide how you will participate: host a local event, give a webinar, submit a video about your open education work, use the week to highlight the benefits of open education, get creative and try something new!“

STAFF CHANGES AT ED: Rich Culatta, Director of EdTech at the Department of Education, announced that he’s stepping down this month. Rich was a staunch supporter of open education during his tenure, and he’ll be missed. Deputy Director Joseph South will serve as acting director – also a champ of open education. The change comes in parallel with Secretary Arne Duncan’s retirement and John King moving into that role.

A NEW CLASS OF FELLOWS: The Open Policy Network just announced 16 new fellows to carry the open policy torch – including one from the US.

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

#GoOPEN IN PROFILE: The Affton School District in south St. Louis County is one of 10 school systems across the country taking part in the Department of Education’s #GoOpen. Robert Dillon, director of innovation, said the prospect of allowing teacher to mix and match the best materials for students could be a game changer in the classroom. “I think the open education movement has the opportunity to bring the best resources to all kids, especially those students that may be in schools that are struggling to succeed,” Dillon said. He added that the current model of a district buying a textbook every five years is outdated. “We’re in a time and place where that cycle has to be shorter, and the only way to do that is with open resources.” Read the article>

A PROGRAM THAT’S WORKING: The OER project at North Shore Community College was launched by a campus „Vision Fund Innovation Grant“ for $5000. The idea? Bring together resources on campus to help faculty identify OER for their classes. Thirty faculty attended the first summit, with ten formally applying to participate in the first semester, and five more in the second. These faculty receive a $600 “Tech Across the Curriculum” grant and are matched with an advisor from the Instructional Design Lab and a librarian, to work on replacing their texts with OER or other affordable alternatives. And while the 15 faculty are formally have saved students a modest $20,000, many others on campus are now following their lead – expanding into OER and working to get special notation for OER-based courses in the catalog.

Have a story you’d like featured? Email it to ese…


Bookstore or College Store: Building a Relationship | From the Bell Tower

Sharing the Benefits of Open Educational Resources with Everyone | Hewlett Foundation Blog

Free, open-source textbooks are catching on at colleges | Orange County Register

U Georgia Nears $2 million Mark in OER Savings | Campus Technology


Ethan Senack
Higher Education Advocate
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
(202) 546-9707 x321

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