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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Virginia Law Mandates OER Guidelines

Virginia is for open educational resources, or at least state legislators there think so.

The governor recently signed into law an amendment directing all public colleges and universities to develop guidelines for adopting and using open educational resources (OER) for their courses. The measure allows institutions to include low-cost commercially published materials in the guidelines, along with free and open materials.

While other states, such as Florida, have passed bills calling on their public institutions to take concrete steps toward reducing the cost of course materials for students, Virginia’s new law is apparently the first to emphasize OER to this degree. Virginia law already requires faculty to be aware of the retail prices of the course materials they choose and encourages them to select used editions when feasible.

Some university systems and individual institutions have set up programs to provide grants to professors for the creation of OER. The Virginia bill doesn’t include any funding for resource development, leaving it up to the schools to figure out how to motivate faculty.

The state’s Department of Planning and Budget, in its impact statement on the law, acknowledged, “It is unknown how many faculty members of Virginia’s public institutions of higher education would embrace the use of open educational resources and low-cost commercially published materials in their courses.”

The law takes effect July 1.

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