This presentation at eLearning 2014 brought together a number of OER Research Hub friends in discussion of the way that OER is fuelling innovation in community colleges.  They comprise:

  • James Glapa-Grossklag, Dean, Educational Technology, Learning Resources, and Distance Learning, College of the Canyons
  • Quill West, OER Project Director at Tacoma Community College
  • Cynthia Alexander, Department Chair, Educational Technology at Cerritos College
  • Paul Golisch, Dean of Information Technology, Paradise Valley Community College

James began with an outline of what OER is and how open licensing works before describing the work that CCCOER does.

Quill started her section with by noting that textbooks are a major cost for students and, in the campus library, textbooks were the most demanded items.  This led to a state-wide initiative to try and reduce textbook costs through open licensing and sharing of resources.  All in all, $643,000 has been saved – some three time the amount invested in the project.  Students are explicit about the impact on their lives in terms of more freedom and more choice over their studies and improved learning experiences.  She noted that part of the key to success here is having a community of people who can offer support and feedback.  Also important is a willingness to share work that might be less than perfect so it can be improved collectively and in response to actual needs.  OER can also be used to support access through universal design for learning and adapting resources to particular institutional needs.

Cynthia spoke about the Kaleidoscope project, which creates open courses rather than individual resources.  Not the courses are publicly available yet (these are mostly technical issues).  Her involvement first started a couple of years ago.  The project requires instructors to collaborate on the creation of resources and makes assessment components mandatory.   Colleges in California, Washington, New York and Nebraska are involved in the course she worked on and the learning objectives did not align perfectly.  This was circumvented by a modular design which allows selection of those components which are most relevant.  Everything must have a Creative Commons licence as well as being 508 compliant.  The course is expected to be complete by the summer after being built in Canvas and pilots will take place in the Autumn/Fall.

Cynthia went on to note that some of the best gains have been arrived at through collaboration with external partners who share new approaches and cultures as course teams work towards meeting their objectives. She also believes it has inspired her to take a fresh look at her own courses and practices.

Paul introduced the Maricopa Community College district and explained how the ten colleges are working together to build OER.  He reported $260,000 of savings for just one course at Scottsdale Community College.  He noted that students feel they benefit from having access to materials from day one of the courses rather than having to wait for financial aid to come through.  The district has a steering team which meets twice a month to strategise OER development, emphasising the value of capitalising on existing content that has already been openly licensed.  They try to spread the message of OER through dialogue days and meetings with librarians and faculty, as well as awarding grants for course development.

Savings have been calculated at around $100 per student – a figure that has been circulated by a number of conference attendees as well as by other researchers.  They also survey faculty to assess the impact of the resources that have been created.

James summed up by reiterating the pleasure and power of collaboration and remarked that CCCOER exists to provide a network of support and resources that college staff can make use of if they are interested in exploring the benefits of being open.  They have a schedule of webinars, group discussion and social media promotion to advise on OER adoption, profiling college projects and sharing best practice on licensing and intellectual property.