Open Education and Our Students

Last week I attended the annual OpenEd Conference that focuses on the work in and around developing open educational resources (OER), offering Z-classes, and crafting Z-degrees.  ACC systematically started down this open education road in the Fall 2016 semester, building on small pockets of OpenStax textbook adoptions.

In the current Fall 2018 semester ACC is offering more than 400 Z-classes with an enrollment approaching 10,000.  As this article and this report indicate,  adapting/curating/developing/remixing openly licensed, high quality course materials supports not only our students but our own interests in refreshed and engaging pedagogy.

The OpenEd conference allowed me to hear updates on both quantitative and qualitative research at particular colleges as well as a meta-analysis and summary of research on OER to date.  While the research designs are not always as rigorous as we might hope, the general results of the research point to multiple benefits for our students and for us as faculty.  The underlying message that supports open education is this:  “One’s learning limit should never hinge on one’s purchasing power.”

The OER “movement” requires support and sustainability.  OER stewards are key to supporting and expanding our ability to use academically appropriate and high quality openly licensed course materials.  Another session I attended at Open Ed discussed the CARE Framework, offering the framework as a compass to provide direction for supporting the growing OER ecosystem.

CARE:  Contribute, Attribute, Release, Empower.

To Contribute means to engage actively in finding and updating course materials under CC-BY licenses.

To Attribute means to always ensure that credit is given where credit is due.  While the beauty of OER is in their adaptability, we must still ensure attributions credit those who came before.

To Release means to craft open educational resources that can be used beyond the individual classroom.  That is, they aren’t hidden behind a learning management system or wrapped up in copyrighted materials.

To Empower means to widen the circle of participation and practice, to broaden the voices that contribute to OER and the topics that are openly licensed, and to share research findings, good practice, and recommendations for improvement.

As community college faculty, we understand and celebrate the diversity of our classrooms.  We celebrate who our students are and the assets they bring to learning.  The best work in the open education world reflects what we already know – that education is reciprocal, and that our students both learn from us and teach us.  The best elements of open education are in the reciprocity of the OER ecosystem.  And ACC will continue to support the development of additional openly licensed course materials and additional Z-degree pathways that we can share with our students, our colleagues, and the wider open education world.