The California Community College System Office has selected the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources to receive a Technology Focus Award for 2008. Formal recognition will be given at the Board of Governors meeting on January 12, 2009 in Sacramento, CA.
“Focus Awards are selected on the basis of scope and complexity of the endeavor, technological innovation, benefit to the institution and key constituents, and demonstration of excellence and professionalism.” ~ Chancellor’s Office
Award Nomination Submission
The high cost of textbooks present a barrier to college for students. Many solutions to this problem have been proposed and even legislated but no one solution will be adequate to fully address the issue. And, in the absence of meaningful solutions by colleges, some students are resorting to behaviors that undermine academic integrity (e.g., see The Chronicle article “Textbook Piracy Grows Online“).
The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) was established by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in July 2007 and is made up of 33 community colleges in California and another 49 colleges in Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Washington and Ontario, Canada. The primary goal of the CCCOER is to identify, create and/or repurpose existing OER as open textbooks and make them available for use by community college students and faculty.
The CCCOER website (http://cccoer.wordpress.com) provides resources about open textbooks, training, and campus advocacy. Additionally, the CCCOER developed an online training course titled “Introduction to OER” (freely available at Rice University’s Connexions) and conducted training workshops on the same topic at professional conferences and colleges. Also, the CCCOER worked closely with Connexions to make a free open textbook, Collaborative Statistics, available online. The CCCOER acted as a liaison between community college faculty and Connexions as well as hosted student focus groups to test the open textbook site.
From 2007 through 2008, Foothill-De Anza Community College District conducted a nationwide survey of 1,203 faculty. The study findings indicate a large gap between those willing to use open educational resources (OER) in their classes (91%), and those actively using OER (34%). Community College Open Textbook Project (CCOTP) was launched in April 2008 to address this gap in this study. The dual challenges of locating and inspiring use of fully vetted, high quality OER and open textbooks targeted for use by community college students and faculty contribute to this gap. In March 2008, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded a one-year $530,000 grant to Foothill-DeAnza and the CCCOER to plan and pilot the CCOTP.
CCOTP’s goal is to identify and study sustainable models for promoting the development and use of open textbooks at community colleges. The goal of the CCCOER and its CCOTP is to create an open textbook development model that meets the needs of community college students through the identification, organization production, and use of open textbooks that fulfill the academic requirements of California’s community college system and other educational systems, nationwide. The CCOTP website provides community college faculty with a trusted, convenient, and quick way to locate peer-reviewed open textbooks for use in their courses. It also offers open textbooks authors a way to indicate to educators that their learning content meets specific minimum standards for quality, cultural relevance, reuse, and accessibility.
The main challenges were raising the awareness and knowledge of faculty, administrators, and staff about open textbooks and open educational resources, especially when the use of expensive publishers’ textbooks is deeply ingrained as normative in institutional processes. Existing processes at many community colleges assume that all faculty prefer to adopt publishers’ bundled textbooks which means that those who seek alternatives are not well supported by the institution. By gaining administrators’ buy-in to the CCCOER, institutional support for use of open textbooks is more likely. An outcome of the CCCOER and CCOT Project is increased awareness of viable alternatives to publishers’ expensive textbooks. As the use of open textbooks become more normative and legitimized, it will be easier to establish articulation agreements that honor transfer of courses that use open textbooks.
When educators pool their expertise to create a culture of shared knowledge with open educational resources and open textbooks, everyone benefits. Faculty and students benefit from the CCCOER and its CCOT Project because they are provided with free training opportunities and information to make their own decisions about adoption of open textbooks and use of OER. The CCOT Project affords faculty the opportunity to reclaim greater control over their curriculum by making it convenient to explore feasible alternatives to high-cost publishers’ textbooks. Additionally, with the use of open textbooks, faculty are able to customize the content to best suit the regional or local needs of their students rather than adjust their own instruction to match publishers’ textbooks. Students who take courses with open textbooks benefit from the lower cost of learning materials, thereby giving them greater flexibility with their education budgets.
The CCOT Project contributes to an efficient use of resources at college, district, region and system levels by providing a trusted clearinghouse where community college faculty, staff, and administrators can find information related to open textbooks. This saves all the stakeholders the time and effort of culling through an ever-increasing list of websites that make questionable claims about providing high-quality free learning content.
Often publishers’ textbooks are inappropriate for use in community college courses because they contain far more information than is actually needed and/or they contain generic information that lacks regional, local, or cultural relevance to the diversity of community college student populations. Faculty who have become familiar and comfortable with the idea of using open textbooks as a result of the CCOT Project have the option of customizing the learning materials to best suit their own teaching style and any unique needs of their students. This means that students are only using parts of a textbook that are relevant to their own studies.
Prior to the formation of the CCCOER in 2007, and launch of CCOTP in 2008, community college educators had little voice in the OER community, or participation in the OER movement. The CCCOER provides a coordinated and effective means for community colleges to have a presence in the OER movement. By pooling together, interested community colleges now have the clout to help shape the direction and dialogue around open educational resources and open textbook issues.