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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Colleges Invest Big Bucks in Open Materials

In an effort to lower the cost of course materials for their students, colleges and universities are ramping up initiatives to create their own open educational resources (OER), sometimes with funding and assistance from outside organizations.

The biggest project to date, the OER Degree Initiative launched by Achieving the Dream (ATD), a network of 38 community colleges in 13 states, received a lot of attention when it was announced in June. Many of ATD’s schools had individually dabbled in creating open materials on a small scale. By collaborating, though, ATD was able to secure $9.8 million from a group of major foundations to support development of free digital courseware for entire degree programs.

In Canada, the provincial government of Saskatchewan has set aside $250,000 to help produce nine open textbooks and coursepacks for students at the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. One of the books in development—on the topic of engineering economics—is intended to supplant a traditionally published book that retailed new for $202.

It will take a year before that book is ready for class use. Saskatchewan and ATD, like others pursuing OER endeavors, are obviously counting on their initial investments to pay off over a long time, with little expenditure needed to keep the resources up to date.

California State University Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College took a slightly different route for their joint degree program in sustainable hospitality management. The two schools partnered with the Monterey County Hospitality Association to gain support from the private sector. Local companies involved in tourism have contributed funds toward course and OER development. Students enrolled in the program obtain their free materials digitally through the campus library.

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