Permalink for this paragraph 0 What are some effective ways for liberal arts colleges to engage strategically in open education? We outline a range of approaches, including providing incentives to faculty to integrate open education into the curriculum, collaborating with other colleges to curate or produce OER, and drawing on the expertise of faculty and staff across the campus. All of these approaches depend upon the college defining its strategic vision with regard to open education.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Define the strategic rationale. What does the college wants to get out of its engagement with open education? Particular goals should drive the college’s open education initiative. For Empire State, providing unfettered access to education stands at its core, so promoting open education extends from this mission. MIT takes as its mission “to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” Hence MIT’s mission underlies its own commitment to open education, as it aims to benefit the nation and the world through access to knowledge and education. For liberal arts colleges, adopting an open education policy may enable them to promote educational innovation, lower costs, foster collaborations, and raise their profile. Colleges may even want to formalize their strategy by adopting an open education policy that could, for example, encourage faculty to produce and use OER. 
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Provide high-level administrative support. According to Hal Plotkin, enlarging the benefits that open education provides to schools and students depends upon “more active support and leadership from higher education governance officials.” Factors contributing to the lack of administrative support for open education include cultural barriers, such the tendency to stick with traditional practices; “chronological” barriers, such as leaders’ lack of familiarity with digital learning and culture; and systemic barriers, such as the initial failure of OER to meet federal requirements that resources be accessible to the disabled, a barrier that is fading.< Chief academic officers play a major role in building interest in technology, generally, and OER use follows this pattern. Deans and provosts can allocate resources, encourage department chairs and committees, and generally generate a climate friendly to open education. As non-technologists (usually), their support is perceived as part of the academic mission, rather than being associated with developing information technology. At its core, open education focuses on learning, not on technologies.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Raise awareness of current developments in open education. Tracking developments in open education can be challenging, given rapid developments in areas such as business models, supporting technologies, certification strategies, and pedagogical approaches. Colleges can raise awareness of open education through faculty advocates and professional development programs. (To keep up with ongoing developments, consider following open education bloggers such as David Wiley, Paul Stacey, and Tom Caswell.) Libraries such as those at Empire State and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are compiling guides to resources on open education. As part of NITLE’s focus on new learning resources, the authors of this working paper track open education through a Diigo group “OER and the Liberal Arts,” a Zotero collection on New Learning Resources, and a blog dedicated to the topic.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Build up use cases. Colleges can begin their exploration of open education with small pilot projects. If faculty run a successful class using OER content, that is a powerful inducement to others. NITLE is also working to foster cross-campus awareness of open education through its work on new learning resources.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Offer incentives. If an institution wants to pursue open education, it should provide incentives to faculty to use and/or produce open resources, since they typically drive success. These incentives include credit for tenure and promotion, release time, and monetary support. Institutions should also clear away obstacles, such as prohibitive intellectual property policies or outmoded tenure policies.
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Both Temple University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst recently launched successful experiments to encourage faculty to adopt OER, resulting not only in savings to students but also, it seems, in innovative approaches to learning. Through its alt-textbook project,Temple University awarded $1000 to 11 faculty to get rid of their textbooks and create their own multimedia course resources. Not only did students save money, but they also seem to have learned more, working with archival resources, primary source materials, and/or more current sources; one class even wrote their own textbook. Likewise, theUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst recently saved 700 students over $72,000 through a $10,000 grant program that supported 10 faculty in replacing expensive textbooks with freely available digital content.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Recognize that the successful use of OER materials in class draws on several aspects of established pedagogical practice. To begin with, instructors already select and aggregate materials in designing their classes. Open resources can simply be considered part of the range of available materials, along with articles, print books, DVDs, and so on. In addition, many OER support assessment, whether through built-in tutors and learning dashboards (as in the case of OLI) or quizzes. Seeing OER use in terms of assessment might not create faculty enthusiasm, but it does align with a major current in academic work.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Involve multiple campus populations. Supporting open education requires cross-campus efforts among faculty and staff. From print collections to e-reserves, librarians have worked closely with faculty members to support the classroom experience. The library can help faculty members find the most appropriate materials for their pedagogical approaches and curricular needs. Librarians can also consult on producing, providing access to, and preserving open content, drawing on their expertise in metadata, data management, digitization, digital publishing, and copyright. In addition, academic computing and instructional design specialists typically have a wealth of knowledge concerning integrating digital content into courses and supporting open systems. Within the faculty, cross-disciplinary and cross-campus conversations can facilitate sharing of experiences and practices.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Emphasize practical benefits. As part of their open education initiatives, colleges should build in assessments to measure practical benefits. These benefits could include lowered costs to students, new opportunities for professional development through OER-inspired course redesign, and improvements to student learning. How much can students save by using OER materials instead of textbooks? How much faculty professional development is done by OER-based course redesign? Do student scores improve with OLI tutors? These questions can lead to quantifiable, shareable, and perhaps persuasive answers.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Foster collaborations around evaluating and curating OER. To make it easier for faculty to find relevant, high quality resources, liberal arts colleges could work together to identify, evaluate, and recommend OER appropriate to the liberal arts curriculum. A sector-wide effort to curate OER could save time, build community and identify gaps in available resources that could inform efforts to develop OER. If faculty were convinced that there were high quality, trustworthy open textbooks available in their field, they would be more willing to use them. Indeed, 95% of faculty respondents to a survey by Harley et al. said they would consider assigning an open textbook if its only difference from their traditional textbook was the mode of access. Likewise, according to a study of open textbooks at community colleges, factors leading instructors to adopt them included reduced costs, good quality, and ease of use.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In curating OER, liberal arts colleges could partner with existing repositories and build upon prior work. For example, a coalition of liberal arts colleges could collaborate with OER Commons or another repository to identify and add OER relevant to the curriculum at liberal arts colleges. These resources could be filtered through a liberal education lens. Such a collection could build on existing curation efforts, such as a database of OER compiled by Jennifer Spohrer to support Bryn Mawr’s Next Generation Learning project. As the open education community works on the challenges of making resources easier to find and evaluate, colleges could push for better filtering mechanisms to help faculty find relevant material, including peer review and search engines that enable more granular searches. A user rating system could help users sift material, but academics would need to develop trust in such a system.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Launch a pilot project to produce OER in a few key liberal arts disciplines. As noted above, quality concerns and lack of appropriate content prevent many faculty at liberal arts colleges from adopting OER. However, if liberal arts colleges collaborated to produce a series of open textbooks and supplemental resources appropriate to the liberal arts curriculum, then such concerns should likely be allayed. Although producing OER may seem like a daunting task, colleges can reduce effort and increase the impact by building upon existing content, collaborating to divide labor among faculty experts, and partnering with groups that can offer the necessary infrastructure to develop and disseminate these resources. Some faculty already have course resources, even textbooks, that could be shared more broadly. Likewise, some faculty (such as classics professors profiled in the above case study) are already working together to create common course resources, but their efforts could be scaled and sustained with cross-institutional support. Many colleges teach similar courses, so partnering to create common resources can help to reduce duplication of effort, bring greater transparency to teaching and share innovations. A group of contributors could put together an outline and each contribute a small chunk of the overall textbook, thus minimizing their time commitment. Connexions, for example, provides a platform for a modular approach to textbook production, so that an engineering professor can write about his or her specific area of expertise but not be responsible for producing the entire textbook. Adopting a model from the open source community, academics could come together in a book sprint to produce a textbook in a short amount of time.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 A pilot project could focus on a particular discipline such as media studies or physics, providing faculty with funding or release time to collaborate in developing a modular course resource. The program could even pair senior and postdoctoral scholars, enabling postdocs to focus on designing effective instructional resources with input (and reputational capital) from more senior colleagues. In producing open resources, colleges should keep in mind principles of effective instructional design, with careful attention to learning objectives and outcomes, interactivity, support for the learner, and evaluation. Indeed, perhaps what will drive a shift to open textbooks will be the ability to “improve the learning experience,” such as by incorporating rich media or supporting modularity. To create and publish OER, colleges could use an existing publishing framework (such as WordPress or an institutional repository), partner with an organization such as the Saylor Foundation or Connexions, or encourage faculty to contribute to open repositories.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Just as the higher education community has come together to develop and maintain open source software such as Moodle, Sakai, and Kuali, so colleges could take a community source approach to open education, enabling them to pool resources and reduce duplication of effort. With community source, colleges and universities agree to contribute resources in order to build open systems and content, taking a directed approach. As Brad Wheeler suggests, the community source model upholds academia’s mission to share knowledge, enables adaptation and re-use, and serves colleges’ own self-interest. For a community source model to work, colleges need to determine an appropriate model for collaboration, build an active community, and ensure institutional support. CLAMP provides an instructive model for how the liberal arts college community can come together to make an open education solution work for them.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Experiment with new models for education. To promote innovation and devise strategies to cope with ongoing changes, liberal arts colleges can experiment with open educational models. For instance, they could work together to offer a liberal arts-focused MOOC (most to date have focused on technology), thus reaching out to a larger constituency (including a global audience) and experimenting with new, technology-supported teaching methods. To expand their course offerings, they could award credit for open courses that meet quality standards. They could explore how interactive, assessment-driven educational materials such as OLI can enhance learning. How colleges approach open education will depend on their institutional profile and goals.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Devise appropriate sustainability plans. Strategies for sustaining open education include minimizing costs, pursuing partnerships, engaging the community, and developing new business models. Lowering costs can be an important element of sustaining projects. As Jim Groom suggests, rather than investing in expensive infrastructure and systems, colleges can use freely available open tools and content and focus to create “simple, affordable micro-cultures for teaching and learning.” In the case of the University of Mary Washington, that means using WordPress Multi-User to build learning communities at a cost of about $6000 per year, enabling the user to publish their ideas to the open web. Colleges can also lower costs by using student or volunteer labor to build and maintain OER, distributing costs across consortium members, or integrating OER into the regular systems for educating enrolled students. Although open educational initiatives do cost money, resources are wasted in the current closed system, where efforts are duplicated and faculty cannot benefit from innovative work done by others. Ultimately an open initiative is more likely to succeed and be sustained if it advances a clear value proposition and builds up an active, supportive user community.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Although selecting the appropriate sustainability strategy may be challenging, some compelling models are emerging. Indeed, open education may spark the development of new business models. Stephen Downes identified several models for funding open education projects:
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- endowment model, such as that used by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- membership model, such as Sakai or Kuali
- donations model, such as Wikipedia
- conversion model, where an organization provides something for free in order to convert users into paying customers, such as Udemy, which offers both free courses and courses ranging from $5 to $250
- contributor-pay model, such as Public Library of Science’s author payments
- sponsorship model, such as iTunes U
- institutional model, such as MIT OCW
- governmental model, such as JISC’s Jorum
- partnerships model, such as Connexions’ partnership with the government of Vietnam to provide a platform for its educational content
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Additional models have emerged, including:
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- substitution model, whereby an institution replaces proprietary with open technology and takes advantage of the resulting savings, such as using Moodle instead of paying Blackboard licensing fees
- recruitment model (a form of partnership/indirect sponsorship), such as Hacker School, which partners with recruiting agencies to identify qualified software developers, collecting a recruiting fee.
- advertising models, such as YouTube
- subscription model, such as the GoodSemester course platform
- freemium/segmentation model: offering some content for free, while also providing value-added services. For example, MITx plans to offer courses for free, but charge for the credential, as does OERu. See also Flat World Knowledge, below.
- student fees: the Student PIRGs found that 76% of students surveyed would be willing to pay “a small fee each semester that would subsidize authors to write open textbooks.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Let’s delve into two of the most compelling models, the segmentation and conversion models. Adopting a segmentation model, Flat World Knowledge (FWK) makes available a free online version of a textbook and charges for other formats (e.g. print, PDF, and audio) as well as supplemental material. FWK bases its business model on developing quality textbooks with top editors and careful editing, adopting Creative Commons licenses to enable instructors to customize textbooks, and employing a “digital first” publishing infrastructure that makes it easy for instructors to rearrange, delete, annotate, and augment content and for the company to generate different formats of the textbook. This model has attracted investments from Random House and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. In the fall of 2011, over 300,000 students at more than 2,000 colleges were expected to use FWK textbooks. Around 56% of users purchase something, while the rest read for free online; given FWK’s ability to produce and sell books at a low cost, these numbers lead to a “healthy-looking balance sheet.” Likewise, other open initiatives are pursuing what Paul Stacey calls “Content for free, Teaching & Credentialing for a fee,” including MITx and Udacity.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 With the conversion model, a college or university may offer some content openly as a way of recruiting new paid registrants to its online learning or other educational programs, typically for credit. A limited pilot study at BYU by Justin Johansen found that providing open access to some courses can help recruit people to sign up for paid courses, suggesting that this model may enable open education programs to sustain themselves. BYU converted three existing college-level and three high-school online courses to OCW; after investing about $3500 to develop the basic technical workflow for converting the first college-level course, transforming additional college courses would cost around $284 per course. Over a six-month period, the six OCW courses garnered 20,148 visits and generated 512 paid registrations, yielding a conversion rate of 2.54% (more people signed up for the high school than college courses). Likewise, England’s Open University’s lectures have been downloaded millions of times from iTunes U, and 6,000 students signed up for a paid course after taking a free online course.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Unfortunately, experiments with economic models such as “freemium” have not yet brought much income for many open education initiatives. The long-term sustainability of many open education programs may ultimately depend upon institutions committing internal funding. To make the case for developing and sustaining an open education initiative, Walsh suggests that colleges and universities pursue a mix of these strategies: engage campus leaders to champion the program, link it to the university’s strategic goals, provide benefits for registered students, demonstrate a concrete impact in areas such as student recruiting or alumni donations, offer public value, lower costs, and enhance learning. With content increasingly available for free online, higher education institutions may find that their value comes not in providing content, but services: “educational institutions that succeed economically are likely to do so predominantly by understanding that their real potential educational value lies in their ability to provide effective support to students (whether that be in practical sessions, tutorials, individual counselling sessions, or online) and in their ability to provide intelligent assessment and critical feedback to students on their performance (ultimately leading to some form of accreditation).” As Paul Stacey argues, open education may not directly increase revenue, but it can have indirect financial benefits “because something is open it leads to a revenue opportunity that wouldn’t have existed otherwise,” such as reaching new markets, gaining market share, fostering new paid enrollments, enhancing the college’s visibility, accelerating and improving learning, or facilitating new partnerships. For example, as a result of Open University’s OpenLearn initiative, it gained 3 million new “users,” recruited 7700 “sign ups,” developed10 funded projects, fostered 30 collaborations, and transformed its image. If colleges can advance their goals through participating in an open education initiative, then they can justify investing institutional funds.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Tom Caswell et al., “Open Content and Open Educational Resources: Enabling Universal Education,” The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9, no. 1 (February 26, 2008): Article 9.1.1.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Joseph Hardin and Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams, “OCWC Global 2011: Celebrating 10 Years of OpenCourseWare” (presented at the OCWC Global 2011: Celebrating 10 years of OpenCourseWare, Cambridge MA, May 4, 2011).
Permalink for this paragraph 0  David Wiley’s iterating towards openness, http://opencontent.org/blog/; Paul Stacey’s Musings on the Ed Tech Frontier, http://edtechfrontier.com/; Tom Caswell’s Tom’s Two Cents, http://tomcaswell.com/
Permalink for this paragraph 0  See, for example, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst library’s guide to OER http://guides.library.umass.edu/content.php?pid=87648&sid=652168 and Empire State College Library’s guide, http://subjectguides.esc.edu/openlearning
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Eryn Jelesiewicz, “Temple Faculty Experiment with Alt-textbooks,” Temple University News, January 27, 2012, http://news.temple.edu/news/temple-faculty-experiment-alt-textbooks.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  UMass Amherst Library, “Taking a Bite Out of Textbook Costs”, December 1, 2011, http://www.library.umass.edu/about-the-libraries/news/press-releases-2011/taking-a-bite-out-of-textbook-costs/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Pieter Kleymeer, Molly Kleinman, and Ted Hanss, “Reaching the Heart of the University: Libraries and the Future of OER,” Preprint, September 20, 2010, http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/78006.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Several calculators that determine the benefits of adopting open textbooks are available, including Open Stax College’s (http://openstaxcollege.org/calculator) and David Wiley’s (http://opencontent.org/calculator/).
Permalink for this paragraph 1  Jennifer Spohrer, “Database of Open Educational Resources (OER),” Next Generation Learning Challenge Project, https://moodle.brynmawr.edu/mod/data/view.php?id=6557. To access the Moodle site, log in as guest.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Scott Leslie, “Open Textbook Authoring Tools Part 3 – Book Sprints,” EdTechPost, February 14, 2012, http://www.edtechpost.ca/wordpress/2012/02/14/open-textbook-authoring-tools-part-3-book-sprints/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Tony Bates, “OERs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Online Learning and Distance Education Resources, February 6, 2011, http://www.tonybates.ca/2011/02/06/oers-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Brad Wheeler, “Open Source 2010: Reflections on 2007,” EDUCAUSE Review 42, no. 1 (February 2007), http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume42/OpenSource2010Reflectionson200/158109.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Paul Stacey, “The Economics of Open,” Paul Stacey, March 4, 2012, http://edtechfrontier.com/2012/03/04/the-economics-of-open/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Harvard Extension School uses its free open courses to promote its for-credit online and evening courses: http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Joe Moon, “What Hacker Apprenticeships Tell Us About the Future of Education,” The Atlantic, January 9, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/01/what-hacker-apprenticeships-tell-us-about-the-future-of-education/251039/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  See “The Cost of Free,” http://cost-of-free.wikispaces.com/Examples+of+Free+with+Advertising
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Paul Stacey, “The Economics of Open,” Paul Stacey, March 4, 2012, http://edtechfrontier.com/2012/03/04/the-economics-of-open/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Yvette M. Chin, “Flat World Knowledge’s Disruptive Business Model: Q&A with Co-Founder Eric Frank, Part 1,” Digital Book World, June 21, 2011, http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/flat-world-knowledges-disruptive-business-model-qa-with-co-founder-eric-frank-part-1/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Flatworld Knowledge Reports Growth, Adds ‘All-Access’ Digital Pass,” PublishersWeekly.com, August 24, 2011, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/48446-flatworld-knowledge-reports-growth-adds-all-access-digital-pass.html.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Justin Johansen and David Wiley, “A Sustainable Model for OpenCourseWare Development (preprint),” Educational Technology Research and Development (May 2010), http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/IR/id/1021.