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A NITLE Working Paper

6. Open Education on Campus

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Increasingly chief academic officers see open educational resources playing a role on campus.[1] According to Going the Distance, the ninth annual survey on online learning in the US, 72.4% of the chief academic officers at for-profit universities agree that OER will have value for their institutions; among public and private non-profit universities, 57 or 58% of CAOs agree that OER will be valuable, except that the percentage drops to 48% at the largest  institutions.[2]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 It’s worth noting that a majority of the chief academic officers at all but the largest institutions see OER as having value, but what accounts for the gap between for-profits and other types of institutions? First, most for-profits already have the infrastructure and practices in place to adopt electronic course resources such as OER. As Going the Distance suggests, many for-profit colleges are heavily engaged in online learning; furthermore, they already incorporate e-textbooks into many of their classes.[3] In addition, for-profits likely see adopting OER as an opportunity to reduce costs. Some for-profits, such as American Public University System (APUS), bundle textbook costs into tuition, so they have a strong interest in cutting expenses. Indeed, APUS recently announced an initiativeto recruit its own faculty members to produce e-textbooks, some of which will be released with open licenses.[4]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 But it’s not just the for-profits that see strategic advantages in promoting open educational resources. Community colleges, in an effort to lower costs, broaden access, and improve learning and retention, are taking a leadership role in fostering the development and use of OER. According to a 2008 survey of “1,203 faculty from 12 community college districts and 28 colleges” by theCommunity College Consortium for Open Educational Resources[5] (CCCOER), 91% were interested in using OER in their classes, but only 34% were currently using them.[6] Various efforts are underway to help community college faculty produce, identify and use appropriate OER. Over 200 community colleges from 15 states now belong to CCCOER, which aims to help community colleges find and produce OER. As part of the Obama administration’s strategy to broaden access to higher education, the Department of Labor launched a $2 billion program to prepare students for careers in emerging industries and stipulated that any job training resources developed would be released under Creative Commons attribution licenses.[7] At the state level, Washington’s community college system recently released the first phase of its Open Course Library, which contains high quality, affordable, adaptable educational materials to support 42 courses.[8] According to the Student Public Interest Research Groups, this project is anticipated to save studentsat least $1.2 million a year and could save them as much as $41 million annually, assuming every class in the system adopts the textbooks.[9]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Likewise, some research universities see strategic advantages in pursuing open education. Perhaps most notably, in 2001 MIT decided to share course resources openly through OpenCourseWare, thus contributing to global knowledge, raising its online profile, and enhancing teaching at the university.[10] MIT recently launched MITx, which will provide access not only to open courses, but also to certificates marking successful completion of the course.[11] In 2009 NYU launched an open education pilot projectto advance its goals to be “a private university in the public service” and a “globally networked university.”[12] Aiming “to reinvent the 19th century tutorial model–on a global scale, to boot,” NYU envisions students at its global campuses watching a lecture by an NYU faculty member before coming to class, leaving more time for discussion.[13] NYU has established a partnership with the openUniversity of the People to “identify” potential students who could enroll at NYU Abu Dhabi; some financial support would be available.[14] Open (or at least freely available) education now seems to be leaping from research universities to the private sector. In the fall of 2011, Stanford faculty experimented with several Massive Online Open Courses that attracted thousands of registrants. Recently several faculty involved in these initiatives started up their own for-profit companies: Sebastian Thrun left Stanford to launch Udacity, while engineering professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller started up Coursera.[15]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Indeed, “open education” seems to be gaining traction throughout higher education. The 2010 Horizon Report (disclosure: the authors served on the advisory board) selected open content as a practice likely to come into mainstream use within one to two years.[16] Openness is a guiding principle of the Next Generation Learning Challenges[17] and a key value for Educause.[18] Even publishers and developers of course management systems seem to be jumping on the open education bandwagon. For example, Blackboard recently announced that instructors will be able to share course materials housed in its course management system through a Creative Commons Attribution license, and Pearson launched its “open” learning management system, OpenClass (although, as Audrey Watters suggests, it’s not clear how “open” such systems really are, and Anya Kamanetz suggests that these moves represent “open-washing.”)[19]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 So what about U.S. liberal arts colleges? Although several liberal arts colleges (includingTrinity, Oberlin, Bucknell, and Hope) have embraced mandates promoting open access to scholarship, we are not aware of many that have made institutional commitments to open education, which focuses on teaching and learning rather than research. U.S. members of theOpen Courseware Consortium include research universities (e.g. University of Michigan), community colleges (e.g. Anne Arundel Community College), and even a for-profit (Kaplan University), but only one liberal arts college (Sterling College).[20] Liberal arts colleges do not appear much in three of the major recent books and reports about open education: Toru Iiyoshi and M.S. Vijay Kumar’sOpening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge; Taylor Walsh’sUnlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities are Opening Up Access to Their Courses; and Daniel Atkins, John Seely Brown and Allen L. Hammond’s A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievement, Challenges and New Opportunities.[21]

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Why hasn’t open education been more prominent among liberal arts colleges? Let’s speculate about possible reasons. Perhaps liberal arts colleges, particularly elite institutions, don’t feel the same pressure to bring down textbook costs that community colleges and for-profits do. (However, with risingconcern about the expense of elite liberal arts colleges and the sustainability of their business models, promoting OER may be one relatively straightforward, visible way to lower costs.[22]) Perhaps they are not fully aware of OER, given that a third of chief academic officers responding to the Going the Distance survey said they are just “somewhat aware” of OER and 13.3% said they are not at all aware of OER. Perhaps open educational resources are still at the early adopter phase at liberal arts colleges. Maybe liberal arts colleges don’t have sufficient scale and resources to pursue open education, or they haven’t been as successful in competing for funding for OER initiatives. It could be that there aren’t enough appropriate OER available to support the liberal arts curriculum. Perhaps instructors at liberal arts colleges, who typically select course reading lists, have established preferences for proprietary course materials, worry about the quality of OER, or simply don’t know about open alternatives. In contrast, many instructors at for-profits and at community college have less autonomy in choosing course texts. Perhaps most importantly, liberal arts colleges may not see strong strategic reasons to pursue open education.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 To develop a sharper understanding of the status of open education at liberal arts colleges, we analyzed published sources, created case studies based on semi-structured oral and email-based interviews with liberal arts college faculty and staff doing innovative work in open education,[23] and conducted a survey of CIOs at liberal arts colleges.


Permalink for this paragraph 0 [1] This section draws heavily on a post to the NITLE’s New Learning Resources blog, Lisa Spiro’s “Institutional Strategies for Open Education.” New Learning Resources, a NITLE Initiative, November 15, 2011. http://newlearningresources.wordpress.com.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [2] Babson Survey Research Group, “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011”, November 9, 2011, http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/blank-center/global-research/Pages/babson-survey-research-group.aspx.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [3] Steve Kolowich, “The E-Book Sector,” Inside Higher Ed, June 8, 2010, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/06/08/ebooks.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [4] Paul Fain, “American Public University Enlists Faculty to Write E-textbooks,” Inside Higher Ed, November 7, 2011, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/11/07/american-public-university-enlists-faculty-write-e-textbooks.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [5] http://oerconsortium.org/

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [6] Megan Driscoll, “Bringing Open Education to Community Colleges: Dr. Judy Baker Introduces the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources,” Education Insider, June 22, 2011, http://education-portal.com/articles/Bringing_Open_Education_to_Community_Colleges_Dr_Judy_Baker_Introduces_the_Community_College_Consortium_for_Open_Educational_Resources.html.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [7] Timothy Vollmer, “New Federal Education Fund Makes Available $2 Billion to Create OER Resources in Community Colleges,” Creative Commons, January 20, 2011, http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/26100.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [8] Tom Caswell, “Three Things You Should Know About the Open Course Library,” Tom’s Two Cents, November 10, 2011, http://tomcaswell.com/2011/11/10/three-things-you-should-know-about-the-open-course-library/.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [9] Steve Kolowich, “Advocates Say Public Money for Open Educational Resources Is Smart Investment,” Inside Higher Ed, November 1, 2011, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/11/01/advocates-say-public-money-open-educational-resources-smart-investment.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [10] Walsh, Unlocking the Gates.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [11] Parry, “MIT Will Offer Certificates to Outside Students Who Take Its Online Courses.”

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [14] John Beckman, “NYU Partners with University of the People for Global Learning Opportunity at NYU Abu Dhabi,” NYU Today, June 9, 2011, http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2011/06/09/nyu-partners-with-uopeople.html.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [15] Steve Kolowich, “An LMS for Elite MOOCs?,” Inside Higher Ed, March 7, 2012, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/07/stanford-professors-spin-company-support-free-online-courses; Steve Kolowich, “Massive Courses, Sans Stanford,” Inside Higher Ed, January 24, 2012, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/01/24/stanford-open-course-instructors-spin-profit-company.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [16] Larry Johnson et al., 2010 Horizon Report (Austin, TX.: The New Media Consortium, 2010), http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2010/.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [17] “Guiding Principles,” Next Generation Learning Challenges, http://nextgenlearning.org/the-program/principles.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [18] “EDUCAUSE Strategic Directions,” Educause, http://www.educause.edu/stratdir – values.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [19] Susan Aspey, “Pearson Launches OpenClass: First Full-featured Learning Environment That’s Free, Easy to Use and Scalable,” Pearson, October 13, 2011, http://www.pearson.com/media-1/announcements/?i=1487; Audrey Watters, “Blackboard: Now More ‘Open’,” Hack Education, October 19, 2011, http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/10/19/blackboard-now-more-open/; Audrey Watters, “Pearson’s ‘Free’ LMS,” Hack Education, October 13, 2011, http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/10/13/pearsons-free-lms/; Anya Kamenetz, “DIY U at Educause.” Diy U, October 23, 2011, http://diyubook.com/2011/10/diy-u-at-educause/.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [21] Toru Iiyoshi, M.S. Vijay Kumar, and John Seely Brown, Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education Through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge (The MIT Press, 2008), http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11309; Walsh, Unlocking the Gates; Daniel E. Atkins, John Seely Brown, and Allen L. Hammond, A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 2007).

Permalink for this paragraph 0 [23] We selected case studies based upon our personal knowledge of the liberal arts and open education communities as well as calls for examples issued via the NITLE-IT list, Twitter, and Google+.

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