It’s the final morning here at eLearning2014 and also the last session with an OER focus.  We have a panel of experts from colleges around the USA talking about

  • James Glapa-Grossklag, Dean, Educational Technology, Learning Resources, and Distance Learning, College of the Canyons
  • Jean Runyon, Associate Vice President, Learning Advancement and the Virtual Campus at Anne Arundel Community College
  • Wm Preston Davis, Director of Instructional Services at Northern Virginia Community College
  • David Shulman, Associate VP, Brouard College

James began the presentation with an explanation of the definition & history of OER and describing how it can be seen as a response to rising textbook costs.  Jean went on to talk about the TAACCCT grant they received to develop open learning materials as part of the National STEM Consortium.  (The terms of the grant mandate for open publication of any materials produced.)  These resources are modular and designed for to ‘bridge’ gaps in knowledge.  They are integrated with learning analytics developed in conjunction with the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University (soon to relocate to Stanford).

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At Brouard College, a case has been made for introducing OER to improve textbook affordability, reduce the pace of textbook change, make it possible for more students to access textbooks, and to improve course design around learning outcomes.  Discussions in the college were followed by consultation with different organisations and stakeholders.  Thus, multiple approaches were used, drawing on the experience of:

  • Pure OER
  • Flat World Knowledge
  • McGraw-Hill Open Campus
  • OpenCourseWare Consortium

14% of their courses can now be accessed by students with no cost for textbooks.  Most new course development makes use of OER and a MOOC is also being planned.  Current terms savings are in excess of $250,000 across more than 100 courses.   A hybrid approach can be said to be working, but one important element has been marketing to students to help them understand the textbook options that are available to them.  When students register those courses that contain elements of OER are clearly identified to them.

Some courses, however, have proved more resistant to OER introduction, sometimes because it can be hard to complete with publisher provision.  These include:

  • Adaptive and Artificial Intelligence
  • Mathematics
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Accounting
  • Computer Science

Preston began the final part of this presentation by describing the OER initiatives at Northern Virginia Community College.  12 OER general education certificates (used in the first year of the associate degree programme) have been offered since Fall 2013.  By Fall 2014 a further 12 OER courses will be offered.  Student savings of up to $1800 are feasible.  It will be possible to complete liberal arts and social science tracks and some flexibility is retained – students can mix and match with courses that are not OER by paying the requisite fees.  The associate programmes provide transfer credit for bachelor degrees at minimal cost to the student.  An instructional design team works with faculty and there is also support from the library.

Savings per textbook have been calculated at $180, meaning that students taking ten courses can save in the region of $1800.  During the life of the OER initiative there are indications that there have been positive effects on student success.

OER Impact at NOVA
Some of the challenges around OER implementation that emerged during the following discussion were as follows:

  • Lack of a single centralized OER repository
  • More generally, discoverability of resources
  • A need for clarity of the roles of librarian and instructional designer when it comes to OER (Jean remarked that it should be a team effort but faculty led; David noted that librarians have specialist knowledge that can be very useful)
  • Correctly classifying the metadata around OER that makes it findable by search queries
  • OER use may impact on revenue from campus bookstores and ways should be found to work with them where possible (perhaps by encouraging footfall to the shops) – bookstores generally are making less money from books and more from merchandise anyway
  • Each college/course is different and solutions need to be flexible in terms of methods of accessing content, assessment and communicating with different stakeholders