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

By Ethan Senack, Student PIRGs | Volume 7 | February 4th, 2016

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

UPDATE FROM LABOR: A new rule from the Dept of Labor that was announced on the eve of the new year will bring open licensing to intellectual property created under their competitive grants. Analysis by Lindsey Tepe at New America shows that the rule will likely impact around $300-400 million dollars in grants, once it’s fully implemented. At the same time, the rule will hopefully add impetus to the Department of Education’s proposed rule to require open licenses on products from some of their grants.

NEW TEXTBOOKS REPORT: Time for one quick, shameless plug. The Student PIRGs released a new report yesterday, titled „Covering the Cost.“ The report reveals the results of a 5,000 student survey regarding textbook prices and financial aid use. Key findings from the report include:

  • Almost one-third (30%) of students replied that they had used financial aid to pay for their textbooks.
  • For those that used financial aid, the amount of financial aid dollars they put toward purchasing textbooks was more than $300 on average per semester.
  • Textbook prices disproportionately impact community college students: 50% of students report using financial aid for books at community colleges, compared to 28% at 4 year public schools.

The report highlights the potential of OER and open textbooks to solve high textbook prices, and includes recommendations for decision-makers on campus and in the government. Students on a couple dozen college campuses held stand-up release events with local administrators, librarians, and faculty.

SHARE IT: on Facebook, or on Twitter, via PIRG or Senator Durbin. We’re using #FreeTheTextbook.

CC announced their strategy for the next five years. They’ll focus on building infrastructure that supports sharing, pushing back against an outdated copyright system, and strengthening access and usability of the commons. Expect more information about their Open education plans soon.

CAMPUS ACTION! While state and federal policy often get all the glory, individual campuses around the country are stepping up and taking action around OER. Our „Stories from the Field“ section has reported on some of them, but let’s recognize just a few of the big commitments campuses have made so far this year. This week, Rutgers University announced that it is funding a new OER initiative, and a bunch of other institutions made the news: the University of Connecticut for their leadership in a new statewide OER initiative, North Carolina State for their Alt-Textbook program, even Grand Rapids Community College for their OpenStax partnership! That’s just those who made the news – there are dozens of schools that are working to jump in on OER.

OPENSTAX ANNOUNCEMENT: Speaking of OER growth, open textbook publisher OpenStax recently announced that their books saved students $39 million in 2015. Their adoption tracking shows that their books are now in use at 1-in-5 degree granting institutions in the U.S.

STAFFING CHANGES: The state of Rhode Island has hired its first-ever Chief Information Officer – none other than former Department of Education Director of EdTech, Rich Culatta.

It’s Thursday, February 4th. Ethan Senack here; I’ve been laser focused on finishing our latest textbooks this past month, and I’m excited to rejoin the rest of the world in February. Don’t forget to send tips, updates, opportunities, and feedback to @HigherEdPIRG or ese… with the subject „OER DIGEST“.

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

VIDEO BREAK: University of Northwestern – St. Paul, an Open Textbook Network member,  recently approved a strategic three-pronged approach involving the use of open textbooks in order to reduce instructional material costs for students.  To help give a voice to this approach, they created a brief video of their students talking about how textbook prices have impacted them and how–in the second half of the video–the use of an open textbook has helped them.  As a result of this high-level approval, University of Northwestern – St. Paul reports their first instances of faculty of large-enrollment courses choosing open. See the video here>

AND ONE MORE: Students at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts made a mini-documentary about textbook affordability and open textbooks (featuring one of our staff!). See the video here>

Want your story featured? Email it to ese…

Quick, Interesting Reads

5 key lessons learned through the B.C. Open Textbook Project | BC campus

Prof finds ways to keep textbook costs down | Bloomington Pantagraph

Creating an Infrastructure for Open Access | Inside Higher Ed

Amazon Planning to Open Hundreds of Stores? | The Republic/AP–Amazon-Bookstores-Report

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