What is Open Education?

Open education "...is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the web in particular provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge."(1)

Why should we care about Open Educational Resources (OER)?

There are several reasons to be interested in OER – the cost of textbooks is merely one.

  • There are a lot of challenges in the world and open sharing of problems, data and ideas is a good thing. …the more eyes on a problem, the greater chance for a solution.
    • "A central pillar of the academic community is its commitment to the free flow of information and ideas. This commitment to sharing is essential to scholarly discovery and innovation. It is also central to helping learners engage, absorb, and apply knowledge in order to advance personally and academically. Finally, this commitment to openness provides the foundation for leveraging resources, both within and among institutions, to strengthen the creation, transmission, and preservation of knowledge." - Educause Values: Openness
    • It’s just that networked, digital technologies and digital content make it easier and faster to share than ever before. This new environment requires we think about what it means to share digital content within our system and around the world.

  • Open, global content provides Faculty with more content choices when building learning spaces.

  • Cost – the cost of sharing digital materials (once created) has fallen to almost $0 … as such, some believe we have an ethical and moral obligation to share digital educational material.
    • It's a social justice issue: everyone has the right to access global knowledge, not just the privileged few who can afford to self finance their higher education: http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read-the-declaration
    • for example, the folks that run http://www.oerafrica.org/ are leveraging open educational resources to build academic programs at African Colleges and Universities.
    • Textbooks Costs (see below)

  • When people share their digital stuff, their professional networks grow and strengthen…. in other words, when we cooperate and share, we all win.

From the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium:

  • Global benefits
    • Advances knowledge by unlocking information for the benefit of all
    • Provides open access to high-quality educational content to educators and learners for whom the materials can make the most difference
    • Provides a model demonstrating the value of openness
  • Institutional benefits
    • Builds global awareness of your institution's unique educational approach and curriculum
    • Improves recruitment by helping the right students find the right programs at your institution
    • Provides a resource for your students, faculty and alumni that supports learning and collaboration
  • Faculty benefits
    • Builds awareness of your unique contributions to your field
    • Fosters connections with colleagues around the world
    • Preserves a record of teaching innovations and allows others to build upon them


While OER initiatives are often in partnership with others, and open licensing benefits many, we do these projects primarily for our system, for our State.

OER projects will be sustainable for Washington's Community and Technical Colleges because using others' content and sharing our content across the system is good for our colleges, our faculty and our students.

Sustainable investments need to be for local projects - for local reasons. That is, do what you were going to do anyway ... just do it digitally, and then put CC BY licensing on it and share it with others. The global sharing piece doesn't have to be expensive ... post it in Connexions and do some quick blog, twitter and listserv advertising through your network - and, if the content is quality and useful, word will spread.

Open Educational Resources

David Wiley opened the 2009 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology with a thought provoking keynote presentation on open education.

Copyright and Creative Commons

It Is About Time: Getting Our Values Around Copyright Right (Educause 2009 Conference) (click here to see the video) – start at time index 27:55
In this talk, Lawrence Lessig reviews the progress of the "open access" movement in education. He makes a call for educators to finally resolve this issue in a way that enables the potential of technology for education.

Textbook Costs

  • Full time tuition in our system is roughly $3000. Textbooks for a full time student are roughly $1000.
  • 2005 GAO report: College textbook prices have risen at twice the rate of annual inflation over the last two decades.
    • GAO estimates that books and supplies cost 26 percent of tuition and fees for first-time, full-time students at four-year public institutions and 72 percent at two-year public institutions.
  • 2007 Department of Education "Turn the Page" report studying the affordability of textbooks.
    • "Textbook expenses are not affordable from students of low and moderate income families." (p.9) - see charts on page 8
  • The College Board reported that for the 2007 through 2008 academic years each student spent an estimated $805 to $1,229 on college books and supplies…
  • Students ran a national campaign called "Make Textbooks Affordable." (2008 report)
  • The gross margin on new college textbooks is currently 22.7 percent according to the National Association of College Stores

Global OER Open Repositories

One way to get higher education excited about OER is to see what other people are sharing. This often helps us see the value in sharing and spurs a desire for us to share our digital resources for others to use. These are a few of the over 400 global OER repositories of open content.

  • Connexions is a global repository hosted by Rice University. Anyone may view or contribute.
  • List of free and open textbooks that may be suitable for use in community college courses.
  • CK-12 provides free, online up-to-date, standards-aligned, science, technology, engineering and mathematics content to K-12 students.
  • EveryStockPhoto.com - Search engine that can be used to find free images on the web.
  • Library of Congress' photostream on Flikr
  • FREE.ed.gov offers more than 1,500 federally supported teaching and learning resources are included from dozens of federal agencies.
  • MIT for High School features MIT OpenCourseWare materials that are most useful for high school students and teachers.
  • Incompetech is a collection of Creative Commons licensed music.
  • OER Commons is a place to find and share open educational resources.
  • iTunes U is a collection of audio and video content from higher education faculty around the world that can be freely used for educational purposes.
  • OCW Finder helps people find free online courses.
  • Khan Academy provides 800+ YouTube tutorials covering math, science, and finance problems.
  • Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources from pre-school to post secondary education.
  • MERLOT is a peer-reviewed searchable collection of online learning materials.
  • Search by Creative Commons provides a convenient way to access search engines that include CC licensed materials.
  • Webcast.Berkeley is a collection of podcasts and webcasts from the University of California Berkeley. (Yale offers the same.)
  • Wikimedia Commons is a media repository for public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). On September 2, 2009 the number of files on Wikimedia Commons passed 5,000,000.
  • YouTube EDU is a collection of videos and channels from higher education institutions.

Other OER Resources

Webinar: Perspectives on Open Textbooks from Two WA Faculty Authors (11-18-09)
  • Part 1: “Open Textbooks from an Author's Perspective”
    • Abstract: What motivates someone to write an open textbook? How much of the editorial and production process is within reach of an individual? How is the experience different from writing a traditional textbook? What is different about teaching from an open textbook? I will answer these questions with examples from my experiences writing and publishing a mathematics textbook, "A First Course in Linear Algebra."
    • Bio: Robert Beezer is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. He joined the faculty there in 1984 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Besides advocating for open textbooks, he is also a developer for Sage, a comprehensive open-source program for mathematics.
  • Part 2: “Another Perspective on Authoring an Open Textbook” (30 min)
    • Abstract: I'll discuss my journey of writing an open textbook "Math in Society," including my motivation, how existing open textbooks guided my decisions, using my students as guinea pigs, and my experience with the bookstore. I'll share some general thoughts on openness and collaboration in textbooks that need consistency and accuracy, and some thoughts about license selection.
    • Bio: David Lippman is a professor of mathematics at Pierce College Ft Steilacoom, a community college in Lakewood, WA, where he has been teaching since 2000. He is best known in the Washington community college math circle as the guy who created WAMAP.org (aka IMathAS), a free, open-source online course management and math assessment system.