Thursday, September 18, 2014 News

New State-Level Policy Brief on OER

Open Education

A new briefing paper on state-level open educational resources policy was released yesterday by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), a non-partisan think tank that provides education policy advice to U.S. states. Entitled “Open source textbooks can help drive down the overall cost of college,” the brief provides an overview of trends in OER policy to address the rising cost of college textbooks.

The brief states, “There is growing national and international interest in OER as a way to help financially distressed states reduce costs and save students millions of dollars….While several states have used legislation to encourage the use of electronic and digital learning resources, such resources are not necessarily freely usable as OERs — and therefore can still be expensive for students.” It concludes that, “Open Educational Resources are an emerging policy option as states, postsecondary systems and institutions consider how to best develop libraries and collections of OERs.”

There are several key takeaways from the brief:

  • State leaders are increasingly interested in OER as a solution to the high cost of college textbooks, which has become an important part of the postsecondary affordability debate.
  • States including CaliforniaFloridaMinnesotaNorth Dakota and Washington have passed legislation to support the creation and use of OER through legislation.
  • Non-legislative initiatives are gaining traction in states including ArizonaMinnesotaNew YorkTexas and Virginia.
  • Important considerations for OER policy include funding, meeting faculty needs for quality and support, and offering students print options and a positive digital experience.
  • Future trends include working with K-12 schools to incorporate open textbooks into P-20 curriculum and dual enrollment programs.

SPARC is actively engaged in state-level advocacy on Open Access, most recently through AB 609 in California, which currently awaits the Governor’s signature. We are eager to explore opportunities to advance OER on the state front as well. As the ECS brief rightly points out, states are hungry for solutions to the rising cost of college textbooks, and in our view, supporting the creation, use, and improvement of OER is the most direct pathway to textbook affordability – and toward innovation in teaching and learning practices too. Read more about OER on SPARC’s page here.

Download a PDF of the briefing paper here.

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