Permalink for this paragraph 0 What motivates institutions and faculty to use, adapt, or produce open educational materials, offer open courses, and/or develop strategies that focus on open education? In making the case for open education, advocates point to several advantages for institutions, students, and society, including lowered costs, improved learning, and greater visibility.
5.1 Lowered Costs, Increased Flexibility
Permalink for this paragraph 0 With increasing public attention to the rising costs of higher education, adopting OER offers one strategy for saving students money on course materials and expanding access to education. According to the student PIRG’s 2010 report A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks are the Path to Textbook Affordability, the typical student spends about $900 per year on textbooks, which represents 26% of annual tuition costs at a public, four-year university. Not only could open textbooks cut students’ costs by as much as 80%, but they could also pressure publishers to reduce their prices. Open textbooks could also offer more options to students, who could choose the format that they prefer (such as color or black and white for printed materials, digital for various platforms). The Internet radically lowers the costs of copying and distributing materials; whereas it would cost $5 to print a 250-page book and around $5 to ship it, it costs about $0.0008 to copy a digital version of that book and about $0.0007 to distribute it.
Permalink for this paragraph 1 Although colleges could save students some money by adopting open textbooks, the impact would likely be fairly limited at many liberal arts colleges, since textbooks are typically a small part of the overall cost of education. Yet given increasing pressure on administrators to reduce costs, saving students nearly potentially hundreds of dollars a year could generate goodwill and make a tangible impact.
5.2 Improve Learning
Permalink for this paragraph 0 While lowering costs is important, Cable Green argues that the key advantage offered by OER is “that it encourages and gives educators legal permission to take content and make it better.” By sharing existing resources and supporting re-use, open education can enable instructors to build upon, learn from, and improve educational resources. With the current system, educational innovation is typically hidden behind classroom walls, while open education brings that innovation out into the open and breaks down silos. For example, MIT’s OCW encourages collaboration and the use of digital teaching materials and methods across campus. A JISC study argues that OER’s benefits to educators include meeting learner’s needs for supplemental or targeted learning, “[b]enchmarking their own practice,” and fostering collaborations among teachers, since instructors can see how others are approaching a particular topic and work together to create and use OER. Rather than having to create images, animations, activities, and other content themselves, instructors can adapt resources created by others and thus support multiple approaches to learning. By embracing open education, institutions can foster more concerted, collaborative efforts to develop content and strategies that improve learning.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Open education also benefits students seeking to review material, fill in gaps in their knowledge, and pursue subjects independently. Indeed, MIT found that nearly 70% of its on-campus students use OCW heavily to go over past material, reinforce their learning in current courses, or delve into other academic areas; more broadly, the heaviest users of OCW are self-learners (43%) and students (42%). Students can use open resources best suited to how they learn (such as podcasts, videos, texts, or images) and can participate in virtual study groups that allow them to get help, broaden their perspectives, and motivate their learning.
5.3 Improve Outreach and Visibility
Permalink for this paragraph 0 According to an OECD study, educational institutions have pursued open education to advance outreach to potential students, alumni, instructors, and the broader community. By producing OER, some universities have indeed raised their profiles. In a 2005 survey, MIT found that 31% freshmen were aware of OCW before applying, and of those 35% of those said it was a very significant or significant influence on their decision to attend MIT. Global goodwill toward MIT was likely strengthened by OCW, which is used around the world. Of course, there is a risk that as more and more colleges and universities produce OER, it will be more difficult to raise their visibility unless they do something unique or powerful.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In addition to raising the profile of universities and colleges, open education initiatives such as MIT OCW also increase the visibility of participating faculty. Perhaps one reason that colleges and universities tend to value teaching less than research is that teaching occurs away from public view. Bringing teaching out into the open may mean that instructors get more credit for their work and are recognized for their contributions. Witness, for example, professors hailed by The New York Times as “the tweedy celebrities of cyberspace,” those whose free lectures on topics such as anatomy, physics, or economics become popular on iTunes U or YouTube.
5.4 Promote Social Good and Extend Access
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In the United States, colleges and universities are facing increasing pressure to broaden access to higher education. Since educational institutions fundamentally aim to diffuse knowledge, embracing open education enables them to serve this mission. As David Wiley argues, openness upholds the core function of education: “Education is sharing. Education is about being open.” Liberal arts colleges, which face criticism for high tuition costs, can contribute to this larger mission. Indeed, Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College, recently called upon elite liberal arts colleges to harness technology to enlarge access: “Elite institutions with the brightest minds and the most ambitious programs would be well served to consider how we flatten the curve to make this quality education available readily to a much broader section of our society.” At the local level, lowering the cost of learning materials can make education more accessible to current students.
5.5 Shape Innovation
Permalink for this paragraph 1 In a 2011 talk at Bryn Mawr, Candace Thille, director of OLI, insisted on the importance of the Open Learning Initiative remaining open so that its research can be freely shared and it can drive further innovation. Rather than having a publisher sell learning materials and systems to universities, the higher education community can exercise great control by collaborating to produce them. As Thille asked, a revolution in learning is underway; “who is going to lead it?” Likewise, the edupunk movement emphasizes that colleges and universities should not pay corporations for constraining technologies, but instead run their own flexible, open systems that enable information and ideas to flow freely.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Nicole Allen, A Cover to Cover Solution (The Student PIRGs, September 2010), http://www.studentpirgs.org/textbooks-reports/a-cover-to-cover-solution.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Quoted by Hal Plotkin, Free to Learn Guide (Creative Commons, October 2010), 17, http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Free_to_Learn_Guide.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  OECD, Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (OECD, 2007), http://www.oecd.org/document/41/0,3746,en_2649_35845581_38659497_1_1_1_1,00.html.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Liz Masterman and Joanna Wild, OER Impact Study: Research Report (JISC, July 31, 2011), ii, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/oer2/oerimpact.aspx.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  A. Kanwar, S. Uvalić-Trumbić, and N. Butcher, A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) (Commonwealth of Learning & UNESCO, 2011), http://www.col.org/resources/publications/Pages/detail.aspx?PID=357.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Katie Hafner, “Higher Education Reimagined With Online Courseware – Education Life,” The New York Times, April 16, 2010, sec. Education / Education Life, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/education/edlife/18open-t.html?pagewanted=1.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Barry Mills, “Convocation 2011: President Mills’ Opening of the College Address,” Bowdoin Campus News, August 31, 2011, http://www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1bowdoincampus/008795.shtml.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Candace Thille, “What Is CMU OLI? The History, Definition and Demonstrated Success of CMU” (presented at the June 2011 Blended Learning Workshop, Bryn Mawr College, June 28, 2011), http://nextgenlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/conferences/june-2011-blended-learning-workshop/.