Colleges and universities around the world are promoting the concept of open education this week—in an effort to expand educational opportunities for all people. At the center of this movement is the belief that education is strengthened when it is openly shared.
Open education “encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness worldwide,” according to the Open Education Global Consortium.
This type of sharing is “free of legal, financial and technical barriers,” as described by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). These resources can therefore be “fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment.”
FRCC strongly supports this work as part of our mission to enrich lives through learning. Here’s why:
Reducing Barriers to Education
Textbook costs can be an obstacle to education. That’s why FRCC faculty members are working to ease the burden of those expenses for students by helping create Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share at no cost. Many FRCC faculty members and instructors have embraced the use of OER, and are leading efforts to help students successfully complete their course of study while reducing instructional costs.
“FRCC’s OER efforts support our college’s commitment to reduce barriers to success by expanding our support for students throughout their journey with FRCC, from connection to completion,” says Jean Runyon, vice president of FRCC’s Larimer Campus.
Helping More Students Succeed
According to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, OER are “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”
High-cost textbooks make it harder for students to succeed. At the same time, it’s clear that students do better when they have access to high-quality course materials. The adoption and adaptation of OER provide students with access to free instructional materials, supporting them in reaching their educational and career goals.
Saving Our Students Money
Faculty in FRCC’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program are currently transitioning course materials to OER (thanks, in part, to a $40,500 grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education). The total potential savings—based on the number of students who have chosen ECE as their course of study—are estimated at $667,792 per year when all ECE courses utilize open textbooks and instructional materials.
“Quality early childhood caregivers and teachers are vital to our communities,” says Anne Marie Jacobson, director of FRCC’s early childhood education program. “Yet the cost of textbooks and other materials is often a barrier for our students and potential students. Transitioning our ECE classes to OER means students have one less expense to worry about so they can focus on furthering their education and careers.”
Faculty across the college are customizing OER materials to fit the specific needs of their students and the goals of their classes. At FRCC this year, 25 formal OER course adoption projects are underway—led by almost 50 faculty and adjunct instructors, and supported by an internal grant-funding program at the college. Next year, we estimate that our students will save approximately $400,000 in textbook costs because of these efforts.
“FRCC faculty are creating customized, high-quality student experiences using OER,” says FRCC President Andy Dorsey. “Our OER projects not only save students money, but they have brought faculty and instructors together to reimagine courses and create more ways to engage students in learning.”
In 2017-2018, math faculty member Kenneth M. Monks authored a custom text for our calculus sequence with the help of an FRCC president’s innovation grant. Using mini-grants that the college provides, part-time instructor Joe Darschewski is helping develop custom slides and videos to pair with the text. “Having an in-house text has not only saved our students an estimated $60,000, but has also enabled instructors to become more engaged with the materials than ever before,” Monks says.
Celebrating Open Education Week (March 1 -5)
Technology is helping to make resources like these accessible to more and more people. Open education, according to SPARC, “maximizes the power of the internet to make education more affordable, accessible and effective.”
As communities become more educated, their economies improve—leading to more successful lives and stronger futures for individuals and families. Those are the goals FRCC has been working toward for more than 50 years.
We hope you’ll join us this week in raising awareness of open education practices—and celebrating the hard work of educators around the world.
OER: Powering equity and innovation in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) has made OER a priority for the state. FRCC is a member of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources.