In June, the White House called for suggestions from the public for its third Open Government National Action Plan, to be released later this year. The purpose of this plan is to increase transparency in government as well as support open research and learning tools, which were identified as areas for development in the first two National Action Plans. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international group of academic research libraries, has responded to this call with a letter advocating for increased support for the development of open educational resources. The Boston Library Consortium, of which Northeastern University is a member, has added its name as a signatory of this letter. We are proud to voice our support for open educational resources! Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible learning objects that support teaching and learning at all levels – from kindergarten through higher education. Because they are openly licensed, educators can customize OERs or create mashups of different resources to provide their students with the material that best meets their teaching objectives. OERs include textbooks, audio and video materials, tests, software, interactive modules, and much more. Many are peer-reviewed either before or after being publicly released, so teachers can be assured of their quality. OERs benefit students as well as educators—they serve as free alternatives to costly traditional textbooks. A recent NBC News story about the astronomical increase in textbook prices (more than triple the cost of inflation since 1977) quotes an incoming Northeastern first-year student on the struggle to afford college textbooks. OERs would help him and thousands of others get a high-quality education at a more affordable price. The Open Education Group, which conducts an ongoing review of empirical research on the use of OERs, reports that studies show students and educators using OERs are satisfied with the quality of these resources and that learning outcomes are equivalent to or better than those in classrooms using traditional resources. Instructors and students, are you interested in learning more about open educational resources? Check out my guide to OERs and textbook alternatives, and please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.
open educational resources
Exciting news! New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced recently that “more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use—including in scholarly publications in any media—without permission from the Museum and without a fee. The number of available images will increase as new digital files are added on a regular basis.” The Met calls this initiative Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC). When searching their online image collection, look for the OASC icon, which designates images that are part of this initiative. These images may be used for non-commercial purposes, including school assignments, presentations, scholarly publishing, or personal projects. (Read more about the OASC policy in the FAQ.) This decision by the Met follows a very welcome recent movement among galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (the so-called GLAM organizations) to make more of their digital image content freely available when possible. This benefits the organizations by increasing public awareness of and generating publicity for their collections. And of course it benefits all of us to have greater access to cultural content worldwide! Here are some links to more such programs:
- The J. Paul Getty Trust’s Open Content Program (read about it here)
- The National Gallery of Art’s NGA Images (read about it here)
- Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum’s Rijksstudio (read about it here)
Today’s News@Northeastern featured a “3Qs” interview with our Dean of Libraries, Will Wakeling. The focus was open access to research, and Will specifically highlighted Open Educational Resources (OERs). Development of OERs involves remixing resources that are openly available in order to create learning materials that don’t cost students anything. The average college student paid $700 a year on textbooks in the 2009-2010 school year; given that the price of college textbooks is said to be increasing at four times the rate of inflation, that amount is likely higher today. So, it’s no surprise that the need for affordable course materials is becoming critical. Legislation such as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act has placed limits on textbook publishers, but prices are still high. MIT was a pioneer in the OER field with their Open CourseWare system, which debuted in 2002. It offered anybody, anywhere, the opportunity to access MIT course materials for free – a radical concept at the time. Since then many other institutions around the world have also established OCW programs, as well as an international consortium. That consortium is now sponsoring the first global Open Education Week, “to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.” Events are taking place around the world this week – many being hosted as online webinars. I encourage you to check out their schedule of events! How do you think Northeastern can play a role in the development and adoption of OERs? Leave your thoughts in the comments section…