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free to learn

Authors Hal Plotkin

License CC-BY-3.0

free to learn
 An Open Educational Resources Policy Development
Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials
                   by Hal Plotkin

The author would like to acknowledge those whose help and leadership have been
instrumental to the production of this paper. First and foremost are Marshall (Mike)
Smith and Catherine (Cathy) Casserly, whose combined vision and tenacity at the
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave life to the global, fast-growing Open
Educational Resources movement. Many years from now, historians will look back
at this period as the time when a handful of innovative leaders began to transform
education and higher education in particular, from a system that weeded people out to
one that lifts people up. The first chapter in that yet to be written history book will be
all about Mike and Cathy.

I’m also grateful to the many other inspired and inspiring leaders of the Open
Educational Resources movement I have encountered over the years, all of whom
share a common sense that ours can and thus must be the first generation that begins
to more fully develop all of our shared human capital, not only to be fair to all, but also
to maximize our full potential as a human family. The remarkable leaders who occupy
the frontlines of this noble and important movement include Hal Abelson, Nicole
Allen, Kwasi Asare, Judy Baker, Richard Baraniuk, Martin Bean, Ahrash Bissell, Carl
Brown, Steve Carson, Tom Caswell, Karen Cator, Barbara Chow, Lucifer Chu, Susan
D’Antoni, Mary Lou Forward, Erhardt Graeff, Cable Green, Melissa Hagemann, Mara
Hancock, Barbara Illowsky, Joi Ito, Sally Johnstone, Martha Kanter, Neeru Khosla,
W. Joseph King, Vijay Kumar, Larry Lessig, Douglas Levin, Michael Linksvayer, Gary
Lopez, Anne Margulies, Gary Matkin, Judy Miner, Lisa Petrides, Carolina Rossini,
Richard Rowe, Vikram Savkar, Jim Shelton, Simon Shum, Candice Thiel, Joel
Thierstein, Vic Vuchic, Phoenix Wang, David Wiley, and Esther Wojcicki.

Free to Learn by Hal Plotkin is published by Creative Commons. October, 2010.

Creative Commons, 171 Second St, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94105 USA

Except where otherwise noted, content of this document is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Free to Learn was produced as a result of a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation. A living version of this document, which you may iteratively improve, can
be found at

This manuscript was edited by David Kindler (, who also contributed
his original research and reporting. Design by Eileen Wagner of Wagner/Donovan
Design (

Acknowledgements........................................................................ ii


A Short History of OER...................................................................3

Why So Little Attention from Higher
Education Officials?....................................................................... 4

Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning
through Resource Sharing and Collaboration..........................5

Ensuring Quality.............................................................................. 6

Different Types of OER Meet Different Needs ....................... 8

Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities.................................................... 18

Passing a Pro-OER Board Level Policy:
Initiating the Higher Education
Governance Conversation............................................................30

Conclusion....................................................................................... 31

Clickable Index of OER Resources.............................................32

                                                                                                       Free to Learn iii

                      Open Educational Resources (OER) offer higher education
                     governance leaders a cost-efficient method of improving the
                   quality of teaching and learning while at the same time reducing
                   costs imposed on students related to the purchase of expensive
                    commercial textbooks and learning materials. Leading scholars
                   around the world are already participating in the OER movement
                    even without support from most higher education institutions,
                     including community colleges. Higher education governance
                     officials, particularly boards of trustees and senior academic
                    governance leaders, have a tremendous opportunity to harness
                               the advantages of OER for their institutions.

iv Free to Learn

       “OER creates an unprecedented opportunity to bring continuously improving, high-quality courses
within reach of more community college students, including at schools that might not otherwise be able
       to offer those courses.”  Marshall (Mike) Smith, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning,         founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management
and research resources that reside in the public domain or       in Education. “It’s the process itself, how the materials are
have been released under an intellectual property license        created, used, adapted and improved that creates a whole new
that permits sharing, accessing, repurposing —including for      set of possibilities.”
commercial purposes —and collaborating with others. Ripe
for future development, OER are already gaining in scope         While OER have been singled out by innovative scholars and
and quality and are supported by an increasingly robust          some local and national government officials, and possess the
community that includes many of the most distinguished           potential to support significant improvements in access and
scholars and educators around the globe. Academic policy         success in higher education, remarkably few higher education
makers and government officials at all levels, national,         governance officials are aware of, or are taking institutional
state and local, have a unique—and still largely untapped—       advantage of, the usefulness, cost-savings, and quality of
opportunity to improve learning outcomes, reduce costs, and      these resources. The information and advice in this Guide
improve the quality of teaching by making modest additional      aims to address that problem and focuses primarily on OER
investments in OER. Doing so will also have significant          within the context of higher education, and in particular, at
multiplier effects as the quantity of free, high-quality open    community colleges, where their utility is so clearly evident.
learning materials steadily increases and the most relevant
materials become easier to find.                                 The use of OER allows more rapid transfer of high-impact
                                                                 practices in pedagogy while also reducing a growing financial
A single missing ingredient is preventing the most promising     barrier to access in the form of increasingly costly textbooks
outcomes associated with OER from benefiting a wider             and other instructional materials, such as password-
audience of students and schools: more active support and        protected online content. Unlike traditional textbooks, OER
leadership from higher education governance officials.           are available free online and can be printed, viewed or used
Without that leadership involvement the opportunities            on demand. In addition, some innovative newly formed,
presented by the still mostly grassroots OER movement will       startup education publishers also release their resources
not be effectively harnessed and the OER movement will           under open licenses that allow for updating, customization,
continue to operate primarily on the periphery of the higher     and personalization of content online, making teaching
education establishment rather than closer to its core where     and learning more effective and efficient. Frequently, these
its impact would be truly transformative.                        resources can be ordered as print-on-demand textbooks
                                                                 or media files, usually at prices far lower than traditional
OER include items such as free textbooks, courses, course        textbooks. OER are particularly useful at educational
materials, streaming audio/video of classroom lectures, tests,   institutions such as community colleges where students, or
software and any other tools, materials or techniques used       the schools themselves, lack the financial resources required
to transmit knowledge that have an impact on teaching and        to enable the most rapid learning and progress possible.
learning that are freely available for use. But OER are not
just free learning materials and resources. OER is also the      Early evidence indicates that OER fosters student success.
underlying open, creative, collaborative process itself, one     Students who used one of the first high-quality OER ever
that enables continuous rapid improvements in the quality of     developed, a math course created by Carnegie Mellon
both teaching and learning.                                      University’s Open Learning Initiative, learned more quickly
                                                                 and at much lower costs, according to a carefully conducted
“The real promise of OER is not just the free high-quality       double-blind study.1 In this case, students derived benefit
learning materials and textbooks,” says Lisa Petrides, Ph.D.,    from the inclusion of learning paths that were created by a

                                                                                                             Free to Learn 1

highly skilled team of cognitive scientists in addition to the
open nature of the course itself, which brought success within    Q: What can Higher Education Governance
reach of all students at no cost to them.                         Officials do to take advantage of the tremendous
                                                                  value of OER?
What’s more, rapidly evolving, highly sophisticated
collaborative OER production and use methodologies are            A: The simple answer is to summon the will and
generating more high-quality OER each day. These materials        enact a governing policy that institutionalizes
can be applied to a growing number of courses and course          support for these activities.
levels. When these materials are further developed and used
within an appropriate supportive policy framework they are
likely to enable even more rapid and increasingly dramatic,
measurable improvements in both the quality and speed of
teaching and learning. They also substantially reduce, and
in some cases even eliminate entirely, costs for learning
materials imposed on students.

The present lack of higher education governance involvement
in the OER movement is primarily a generational issue.
Despite their many skills and talents, the vast majority
of today’s higher education governance officials have no
experience assisting or supporting the development and
use of OER. Typically, many of the most senior officials,
including boards of trustees and collegiate foundation
development officers, have had little or no exposure to OER,
in contrast with their personal involvement in other campus-
based activities with which they are more familiar. Despite
documented widespread interest among both faculty and
students, many senior higher education governance officials
may not even know what OER are, or may confuse OER with
less useful materials, such as “online textbooks” or, more
generally, “stuff you can find on the Internet.”

To date, only a handful of higher education boards of trustees,
regents and senior academic officers have conducted public
hearings, held meetings or offered seminars that focus
attention on the institutional opportunities associated with
OER, or on how their schools might benefit by participating
in the OER movement in a more systematic fashion. This
Guide seeks to change that by helping higher education
governance officials better understand Open Educational
Resources and their benefits to students, faculty and
institutions of higher learning. This paper offers an overview
of OER, examines the latest developments in the field and         1 The Open Learning Initiative: Measuring the Effectiveness of the OLI Statistics
                                                                  Course in Accelerating Student Learning Marsha Lovett, Oded Meyer, and Candace Thille,
explores policy implications for those charged with governing     Carnegie Mellon University, 2008:
higher education.                                       

2 Free to Learn
A Short History of the OER Movement

If you have not heard of OER before this, you are not alone. The OER movement
is only a decade old and has received scant attention in the popular commercial
press and media. The movement began in earnest in 2001 after Massachusetts
Institute of Technology President Charles Vest announced that MIT would establish
a groundbreaking and unprecedented new program, OpenCourseWare, based on a
proposal from members of MIT’s faculty. The goal of the OpenCourseWare project,
Vest explained, was to make all of the learning materials used by MIT’s faculty in
the school’s 1,800 courses available via the Internet where it could be used and
repurposed as desired by others without charge.

“OpenCourseWare looks counter-intuitive in a market driven world,” Vest
observed at the time. “It goes against the grain of current material values. But
it really is consistent with what I believe is the best about MIT. It expresses our
belief in the way education can be advanced—by constantly widening access to
information and by inspiring others to participate.”

Inspire others to participate it has. Scholars at more than 250 colleges and
universities, a majority of them outside the United States, have joined forces or
participated in the OER movement in some manner. In most cases, though, their
participation has occurred primarily from the bottom up. Very few educational
institutions, particularly in the United States, have devoted meaningful material
resources to this effort.

At the same time, hundreds, perhaps thousands of professors, instructors and
teachers have already been individually investing in the goal of greater access
by rapidly integrating OER into their pedagogy, typically in an ad-hoc fashion
and in most cases with little or no support from their parent institutions. Often
working after hours without compensation for their efforts, many of the most
effective and forward-thinking instructors are already using the Internet, and
practices and materials associated with the OER movement, to share lesson plans,
course outlines, teaching methods and materials, articles, essays, texts, exams,
illustrations, exercises and are even streaming videos of their in-class lectures.

In the process, these instructors have begun to open the doors to higher education
wider than ever. They are bringing a diversity of more affordable, high-quality
learning experiences within reach of growing numbers of students, many of whom
are financially or geographically disadvantaged. In the process, many of these
instructors are also discovering new and better ways to teach and cultivate learning as
they take a “virtual” look over the shoulders of others who teach the same subjects.

                                                                                          Free to Learn 3
                  Why So Little Attention from Higher
                  Education Officials?

                  Three main factors appear to account for most of the current lack of higher
                  education governance attention to OER: cultural, chronological and systemic.

                  On the cultural side, OER have not been a part of pre-existing educational practices
                  within the often tradition-bound higher education enterprise; on occasion, the
                  reliance on sound, proven and reliable past practices can sometimes make it
                  difficult for promising new teaching methods to gain momentum. Constrained by
                  past practices, many instructors operate in environments that leave little room
                  for innovations, except at the individual classroom level, and provide even less
                  support for any attempts to expand successful classroom innovations to a larger
                  scale. The brightest and most dazzling teachers can light up a classroom but,
                  unpreserved, that illumination is then usually lost forever, except in the minds and
                  memories of a few fortunate student witnesses.

                  On the chronological side, it is fair to note that a majority of collegiate board
                  members and senior academic officers holding positions of authority today, those
                  who could lend material support to these activities, assumed those leadership
                  posts well before the relatively recent advent of the opportunities associated with
                  OER. Like many Internet-related skills, knowledge and expertise about OER
                  within higher education institutions today is often inversely proportional to rank.
                  In this case, higher education’s foot soldiers, teachers and learners, frequently
                  know much more about OER than the generals who command the system.

                  Finally, the initial lack of OER that met the requirements of the Americans with
                  Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act (FRA) also slowed down
                  adoption of OER by higher education institutions, in particular, public schools such
                  as community colleges that lacked the resources needed to remedy violations of
                  these laws as required when challenged. This systemic obstacle is being removed,
                  however, thanks to more recent efforts focused on the creation and use of OER that
                  meets the requirements of these laws, which in turn permits the use and continuous
                  improvement of these materials within public educational institutions without fear
                  of costly legal challenges related to the rights of disabled students.

                  Optimum progress, however, depends on more rapid appreciation of OER-
                  related opportunities by collegiate governance officials. Faculty, students and
                  educational institutions will all benefit by developing a shared understanding of
                  the possibilities and promise associated with OER. That shared knowledge will
                  accelerate adoption and creation of new content.

                  This Guide strives to encourage and enable collegiate governance officials to more
                  rapidly comprehend and capitalize on this dramatic new opportunity to modernize
                  and improve the educational institutions they govern, to better serve faculty
                  and students, and through them to enhance our society, culture and economy,
                  whose future prospects depend largely on the success of our national educational

4 Free to Learn
                       Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning through
                       Resource Sharing and Collaboration

In most cases today, the quality of education, when education      Instructors, students and self-learners who use OER can
is available at all, is usually a function of the particular       replace “flat” educational experiences, where opportunity is
circumstances and conditions in an individual classroom or         a function of what one instructor or school can offer, with a
school. This has sometimes been called the “silo” model of         constantly evolving multidimensional educational process
education because educators and learners are often unaware         brought to life by dynamic teams of subject area experts.
of, or cut off from, better teaching methods and techniques        Coupled with the transparency it creates, the growth of the
used elsewhere. If a student is fortunate, she may have access     OER movement promises to steadily enhance the quality of
to a school and instructors whose curriculum and teaching          teaching and learning over time as the material is updated,
methods enable the maximum degree of learning in the               improved, built upon and adapted for specific user groups.
shortest possible time. The vast majority of eager learners
do not have that opportunity. Many do not have access to           “The dramatic expansion of OER has created great new
excellent teachers or the most current and effective learning      opportunities for improving teaching and learning.
materials, including texts, videos, illustrations and practice     By providing access for all and contributing to a global
tools. Some may need extra assistance to learn key concepts.       commons, OER holds the promise of equalizing the
                                                                   opportunity for learning across the globe,” said Marshall
OER address issues of quality and access and enable                (Mike) Smith, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Foundation for the
continuous improvements in teaching and learning as                Advancement of Teaching.
respected higher education institutions create and share
a wide variety of high-quality educational resources free
of charge. OER enable teachers and learners to access the
best educational resources that are available to meet their
specific needs. In the process, a new collaborative model
that builds cooperating communities of teachers and
learners is augmenting the old “silo” model of education.

By drawing on the work of their peers, instructors who take
advantage of OER can provide multiple representations of
concepts that present a subject from different perspectives
and angles. Because these materials are free, students and
self-learners can repeat their exposure to different lessons
as many times as needed, including lessons about the same
subject offered by different instructors, in order to facilitate
a deep understanding of the material. OER tools can also be
used to form virtual study groups, which accelerate learning.
Tests can be used as assessment devices that point students
to specific material, including text, lecture presentations and
practice tools that fill identified gaps in their knowledge. OER
also give instructors access to materials and teaching methods
used by others who teach similar classes, prerequisites and
higher-level courses, which supports the more rapid transfer
of high-impact teaching methods than would otherwise
occur. A single course drawing on OER can contain high-
quality learning materials developed by dozens of different
educators. Conversely, when courses are open, as at MIT,
instructors can reference what students are studying in other
classes to reinforce the connections and enhance learning.

                                                                                                             Free to Learn 5
                      Ensuring Quality

There are currently two primary methods employed to ensure       according to download logs, include lectures, readings,
the quality of OER. The first replicates traditional academic    lecture handouts and syllabi.
practices by using a carefully vetted, top-down authoring
system in which an institution places educational learning       Tufts recently conducted an OCW Intercept Survey, a
resources that carry its brand into an open format for free      web-based, pop-up survey instrument, which yielded 641
use, re-mixing or adaptation by others. In this instance, the    respondents for an 8.9% response rate. Tufts then sent
institutions are responsible for the quality of the materials.   a follow-up web-based survey instrument to volunteers,
The second methodology relies on the same basic procedures       generating 42 respondents for a 20.3% response rate yielding
used in the open source software community. In this model,       28 unique user profiles. Taken together, these user logs and
an unlimited number of authors collaborate on the creation of    survey data indicate that among users of the site, over half are
OER. Both of these primary OER production methodologies          self-learners, nearly one-fourth have their doctoral degree
stimulate new forms of knowledge sharing.                        and just under 20% cite medicine or health sciences and
                                                                 technology as their primary interest. On average, visitors
The differences between these two approaches reflect a           to the Tufts’ site spend more than 30 minutes per visit
divergence in philosophy between those who believe a             reading and reviewing course materials. Nearly 40% of users
centralized and carefully controlled authoring system ensures    download materials during their sessions. Surveyed site users
quality and others who maintain that quality is best enhanced    who were faculty members indicate that Tufts OCW positively
by an open process that invites contributions from as many       affects their teaching practices by providing additional
people as possible. Those who prefer the branded approach,       teaching materials, by enabling them to integrate Tufts
where an institution guarantees quality, contend there is no     materials into their courses, by increasing their knowledge
practical substitute for reliance on known authorities whose     levels in certain areas and impact how course materials are
credentials are certified. On the other hand, those who prefer   developed by emphasizing instructional technology. All told,
the more open OER production methodology maintain that           nearly 300,000 unique users accessed the Tufts OCW website
the best way to ensure quality is to share and spread the        within its first 15 months of operation.
responsibility for creating and maintaining quality among
a greater number of contributors. Those holding this view        Another recent study on the reaction of faculty members
often cite open source software programmer Eric Raymond’s        participating in the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) project,
observation, published in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, that     conducted by Preston Parker at Utah State University, yielded
“…with enough eyes, all [computer programming] bugs              a similarly positive review. Parker used three sources of data
are shallow…” The same can be said of shoddy or uneven           for his study: (1) five years’ worth of archived emails from the
scholarship or teaching, which endures and sometimes even        instructors at MIT to the school’s OCW project administrators
thrives only when isolated from outside scrutiny. The healthy    that discussed the benefits they had received by participating
contest between these two models of OER production and           in the project, (2) the responses from three previous annual
improvement replicates the current division in the global        instructor surveys, and (3) interviews with the instructors
software industry, where both schools of thought—top down        themselves.
and bottom up—have made valuable contributions.
                                                                 Parker notes in an abstract of his findings, “The results
The benefits provided by OER to faculty and students have        show that there are many tangible benefits to MIT
been documented in two recent studies conducted by               instructors participating in MITOCW. They feel they have
researchers at Tufts University and Utah State University,       more recognition academically because their work is
respectively. Tufts’ OpenCourseWare site has been available      out there to be viewed and used. They feel connections
online since June 2005. The site contains 22 courses from        have been made with other instructors that may not have
six Tufts schools focusing on the health sciences and            if it were not for MITOCW. The instructors were better
international affairs. The most popular course materials,        able to understand what other colleagues were doing.

6 Free to Learn
                                                                                                              Ensuring Quality

These connections have resulted in better publishing             In addition, other studies are currently underway to assess
opportunities and grant proposal efforts. Instructors            the quality of OER vs. traditional commercial educational
also feel that students who sign up for their classes are        materials in terms of learning outcomes and student success.
more prepared for the course. It is also convenient for the      The early data from these studies indicates a clear advantage
instructors to have the materials available and online for       for certain forms of OER. Data and conclusions from these
current and past students.”                                      studies will be integrated into future versions of this paper.

     The MIT Dilemma: Too Much Information

     MIT’s bold decision to release vetted, high-quality        Seeking to increase the utility of these materials, some
     learning materials for free public use and repurposing     advocates are now organizing OER into repositories,
     led many scholars at other institutions to similar acts    essentially online OER libraries that are often grouped
     of scholastic generosity. This avalanche of learning       by subject matter or level of instruction. Several teams
     materials created one of the OER movement’s first          of skilled and motivated programmers and academic
     major problems: the inability of many potential users      experts are also developing new tools, including
     of these free learning materials to easily and quickly     software programs and websites, that can be used
     determine which resources best fit their needs, as         to collaboratively create OER, assemble discreet
     well as ensuring that the materials of interest to them    OER chunks or modules into more complete and
     could be legally used, reproduced or adapted. As a         comprehensive works and to more easily publish, as
     result, despite the increasingly frequent availability     well as print, OER using interoperable formats that
     of better, cheaper, more robust and dynamic learning       make the material more functional. These efforts
     materials, the typical college and university instructor   include formatting the materials so they can be
     continues to rely today, often with little enthusiasm,     accessed with a variety of digital devices ranging
     on conventional commercial learning materials,             from computers to cell phones to EBook readers, and/
     including old fashioned textbooks, which do not pose       or printed in hard copy for those without access to
     similar adoption hurdles.                                  the Internet.

     A number of related efforts are taking root that           In just the few short years since MIT got this ball
     are aimed at helping higher education instructors          rolling, there has been a flood of activity on the
     overcome the obstacles to the adoption of OER. These       OER supply side, as hundreds of thousands of high-
     companion efforts include the increasing popularity of     quality learning material items have been placed
     the public, standardized suite of intellectual property    at the disposal of the public for their free use and
     (IP) licenses and tools developed by the non-profit        repurposing. Making sure that faculty and students
     Creative Commons, which can easily be appended             derive the maximum potential benefit from the
     to any printed or online document or media. These          availability of these free, high-quality academic
     human-, lawyer-, and machine-readable IP licenses and      resources, particularly at financially hard-pressed
     tools allow scholars, instructors and authors to mark      public institutions, is the responsibility of higher
     their creative works with the specific freedoms their      education governance officials and policy makers.
     creator wants it to carry relative to use by others. As
     such, scholars, instructors and authors can now share
     their works on clear terms acceptable to them, which
     range from giving up all rights to the preservation of
     commercial exclusivity when desired.

                                                                                                            Free to Learn 7
                        Different Types of OER Meet Different Needs

The wide array of Open Educational Resources is creating          OER Learning Objects
an entirely new eco-system for higher education. The free,        Learning objects are “any digital resource that can be reused
online digital components of this new eco-system that are         to support learning.”2 Examples of learning objects include a
already available and in growing use range from individual        definition of a word or concept, an illustration, an interactive
items such as an annotated diagram of an isosceles triangle       diagram, a simulation of a chemistry experiment and a wide
to entire courses complete with streaming audio/videos of         array of other online tools and exercises that help students
in-class lectures. There are even entirely new types of courses   understand a particular point or principle.
that rely on advances in the cognitive sciences to create
individualized learning paths that can better ensure and          Learning objects can be thought of as a set of educational
measure student comprehension.                                    raw materials that can be used in different ways. Instructors
                                                                  can integrate learning objects into curriculum, bundle them
Individual OER with little or no interlocking pedagogical         into courses or use them in combination with other learning
structure are often called “learning objects.” Learning objects   objects to create more complete or comprehensive sets of
can be used individually, or combined in a variety of ways        learning materials. Learning objects also help instructors
including creating readers and textbooks. Semi-structured         discover different ways to convey information and teach
OER learning materials, such as encyclopedia and digitized        specific concepts or ideas. Students and self-learners can
library collections, are often most useful as reference           use learning objects to brush up on a topic, find information
materials.                                                        in formats that fit their individual learning styles or to verify
                                                                  their comprehension of material.
Highly structured OER, which include textbooks and
even complete courses can be used “as-is”, modified to fit
particular needs or styles of learning, or serve as a model
for course updates or new course creation. Because these
resources are free and open, they can be combined, adapted,
modified and reconfigured as needed and allowed by Creative
Commons licenses. The following examples illustrate the
complementary nature and utility of different types of OER,
all of which are now readily available on the Internet. The
examples are presented in the following order:

  • unstructured OER that focuses on a single topic or idea;
  • OER with more structure, such as materials grouped by
    subject area; and
  • fully structured OER, such as complete courses.

As emerging technologies create new tools and ways of
organizing and sharing data, the variety of OER and platforms
for delivering them will change as well. Similarly, as students
adopt new technologies such as texting, social networking
and portable devices, new opportunities for providing OER in
familiar formats will develop.                                    Learning Object - An example of a learning object
                                                                  contributed by Connexions founder Richard Baraniuk.
The following representative but not exhaustive list of OER       Richard Baraniuk, “Angle between vectors: Inner Products,”
examples provide a snapshot of the increasing depth, quality      Connexions, July 6, 2004,
and versatility of the free, high-quality OER that are now
available.                                                        2. David A. Wiley and Erin K. Edwards, “Online Self-Organizing Social Systems: The
                                                                  Decentralized Future of Online Learning,” Quarterly Review of Distance Education, vol. 3, no. 1
                                                                  (2002): 33–46.

8 Free to Learn
                                                                                       The Scope of Open Education Resources

One of the earliest and best-known examples of a learning         2010 that videos from the Khan Academy library are watched
object repository is Rice University’s Connexions, an online      on average 70,000 times per day. Bill Gates has spoken
“content commons” which currently contains thousands of           publicly about using Khan’s videos to tutor his own children.
small chunks of knowledge. Hundreds of more complete sets         Khan intends to create what he calls, “the world’s first free,
of learning materials, ranging from textbooks to complete         world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything—
courses, have been built using these materials.                   for free.”

By creating, building and collaboratively using learning          Similar undertakings include the Public Library of Science
objects, Connexions “conveys the interconnected nature of         (PLoS), which publishes cutting-edge professional journals
knowledge across different disciplines, courses and curricula,    in the fields of biology and medicine, and the Library of
moving away from a centralized, solitary, publishing and          Congress’ Serial and Government Publications Division
learning process to one based on connecting people into           program, which is digitizing 30 million pages from
global learning communities that share knowledge,” says           newspapers covering the period from 1836 to 1922. All of
the site’s founder, Rice University Professor of Engineering      these materials are available for free use and repurposing for
Richard Baraniuk. As of July 2010, Connexions receives            educational and other purposes.
between 1 million and 1.6 million visitors per month from
most of the world’s countries to its site at The
variation depends on the academic month of the year. The
majority of visitors are students who find the site through
Google and other search engines. Connexions recently
announced that all of its content is now available in the EPUB
format used by most smart phones and e-readers worldwide.

Other examples of learning object repositories include the
Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management’s (ISKME)
OER Commons, MERLOT, the Maricopa Learning Exchange
and the SMETE Digital Library Collection, which is supported
by the National Science Foundation.

OER Digitized Library Collections
Digitized Library Collections are another fast-growing form
of OER. These collections feature reference and source
materials that would typically be found in a library, including   Title: Women employees performing various jobs from the
                                                                  Women in the Workforce collection
books, consumer and trade catalogs, magazines, professional
journals and other periodicals, posters, photographs and          Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library. University of
manuscripts. Instructors can integrate these materials into       California, Berkeley
their courses. Students and instructors alike can also use
                                                                  From Calisphere
them for research.                                                tf1s2006wc/

Khan Academy represents a unique type of OER collection,
educational tutoring videos. Khan Academy founder, Salman
Khan began videotaping math tutoring sessions to help
younger relatives with their homework. That effort has grown
into a library of more than 1,600 individual videos covering
the majority of K-12th grade math. CNN reported in August of

                                                                                                               Free to Learn 9
 The Scope of Open Education Resources

OER Encyclopedia                                                   Open Textbooks
Encyclopedias are reference materials that contain                 Open textbooks can be traditional textbooks that have been
authoritative definitions and/or descriptions of a variety of      made available online or new works created by talented
topics, which are usually presented in alphabetical order.         faculty who wish to share their knowledge. One of the most
Educators, students and self-learners use encyclopedias to         successful open textbooks is “Collaborative Statistics” written
conduct research and verify information. The best known and        by Barbara Illowsky, a faculty member at De Anza Community
most widely used open encyclopedia, Wikipedia, currently           College in Cupertino, California and Susan Dean. In use for
features more than 16 million articles in more than 270            more than 15 years, the authors worked with partners to buy
languages (3.4 million in English). The entries in Wikipedia,      the rights from the publisher to make it openly accessible.
which are generally but not universally reliable, are created
and maintained by teams of volunteer experts who police            The Community College Open Textbook Collaborative, a
entries on the site and remove erroneous material in a             leading force in the field, describes the requirements of
consensus-driven process. By contrast, the open and free           an open text book as: free, or very nearly free; easy to use,
Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy relies on           get and pass around; editable so instructors can customize
invited subject area experts to create entries, which are then     content; printable; and accessible so it works with adaptive
peer-reviewed before being placed online.                          technologies that serve the needs of disabled students,
                                                                   including those with learning disabilities. The Collaborative
OER Online Archives                                                website now links to more than 545 open textbooks, as well as
Online archives are collections of material available in a         peer reviews of nearly 100 of these books, and has obtained
digital format. In most cases, these searchable archives           accessibility assessments on many.
provide no services other than storing and enabling the
retrieval of the digitized material, including snapshots of
the content on different websites at different times. Online
archives are an example of a useful supplement to OER
even in cases where they may be owned or controlled by
proprietary vendors. Online archives can also include copies
of materials that were published by websites that are no
longer in operation, as well as digital versions of audio and
video recordings. Instructors, students and self-learners use
these materials for research purposes and can integrate them
into formal or informal educational programs.

The Internet Archive ( presently offers
the most complete set of free online archives available. It
contains thousands of study guides, course lectures and other
academic resources, more than one million texts, audio
recordings, live music recordings and tens of thousands of
images, including movies, videos and animations as well as
a “wayback machine” that displays the contents of websites         Collaborative Statistics by
which have been changed, deleted or which are no longer            Barbara Illowsky, Ph.D., Susan Dean
in operation, many of which carry intellectual property
licenses that allow the free use of their content by others. The
Alexandria Archive, which focuses primarily on archeology, is
an example of a more subject specific OER archive.

10 Free to Learn
                                                                                       The Scope of Open Education Resources

OER Courseware                                                    OER Courses
Courseware are instructional materials used to teach a            Dozens of high-quality, fully-structured, subject-specific
specific course. Examples include lecture notes, texts,           courses are currently available as OER. They encompass a
reading lists, course assignments, syllabi, study materials,      wide range of academic levels and disciplines, including
problem sets, exams, illustrations and, in some cases,            advanced placement, community college and undergraduate
streaming videos of in-class lectures. The free distribution of   college level courses in subjects such as biology, statistics and
courseware enables instructors to see how colleagues in the       computer programming. Like traditional bricks and mortar
same discipline structure and teach similar courses.              education, most OER courses produced to date have been
                                                                  created by a single instructor.
Instructors exposed to courseware can improve their teaching
and learning outcomes by examining the sequence in which          The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE)
material is presented, the resources and techniques used          is a leading player in the OER movement. MITE provides
to convey information and the tools used to assess learning       more than 35 Advanced Placement, pre-collegiate and
outcomes. Courseware gives new teachers a set of educational      collegiate level courses in its growing, media-rich National
blueprints they can use to build their own courses and to         Repository of Online Courses (NROC) and also offers
improve their pedagogy. Students can use courseware to            Hippocampus, a free learning resource designed to augment
augment their education. Other learners, including workers        traditional textbooks.
seeking to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date, can
use courseware to guide their studies.                            Now working with dozens of high schools and community
                                                                  colleges, MITE offers member institutions access to their
MIT’s pioneering OpenCourseWare (OCW) project was the             cost-saving NROC courses, with membership fees waived for
first major effort by an American academic institution to         institutions unable to pay. The NROC currently features free,
release courseware as OER. The effort now involves all 32         high-quality courses in math, history, physics, geology and
of the school’s academic departments. “Through MITOCW,            environmental science.
educators and students everywhere can benefit from the
academic activities of our faculty and join a global learning     OER Courses with Embedded Cognitive
community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly          Science Techniques
and freely for the benefit of all,” MIT’s current President,      At Carnegie Mellon University, OER are developed by
Susan Hockfield, said in 1996. The site had generated more        teams composed of learning scientists, faculty content
than 103 million visits by October 2010 with visitors evenly      experts and software engineers in order to make best use of
split between students and educators.                             multidisciplinary knowledge for designing effective open
                                                                  learning environments. Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning
More than 250 universities around the world have joined           Initiative (OLI) courses use intelligent tutoring systems,
MIT in releasing the courseware used at their schools for         virtual labs, simulations, and frequent opportunities for
free use by others. Participants include Tufts University,        assessment and feedback to produce the kind of dynamic,
Utah State University, Johns Hopkins University School of         flexible, and responsive OER that fosters robust learning.
Public Health, the Universities of Tokyo and Osaka, France’s      As learners work through the OLI courses, the OLI system
École Polytechnique, and the Beijing Jiaotong, and Nanjing        collects data about what students are doing and learning.
Universities. Most of these participating undergraduate and       The system uses that data to give immediate feedback and
graduate schools are also members of the OpenCourseWare           support to the learners. Instructors using the OLI courses
Consortium, a U.S.-based non-profit corporation that helps        can access timely information on where their students are
member institutions collaborate to maintain, improve and          struggling and what their students are learning so that they
extend the reach of OER.                                          can use that information in planning their class time. The
                                                                  OLI development teams use the system-generated student
                                                                  performance data to continuously improve the courses.

                                                                                                              Free to Learn 11
 The Scope of Open Education Resources

    Interview with Mary Lou Forward,
    OpenCourseWare Consortium

    The OpenCourseWare Consortium was created in                group of citizens access to learning without the need
    2005 by MIT and several other open courseware               to expand facilities. Universities can offer targeted
    organizations hoping to create a large body of open         tutoring and a system of assessment to demonstrate
    educational content that would advance education and        that off campus students meet university standards.
    empower people around the globe. The Consortium
    now has 250 members worldwide, with 13,000 courses          OCW allows universities in Africa to assemble
    available. MIT is the largest provider, having put all of   knowledge inexpensively and efficiently and allow
    its courseware online. The majority of open courseware      great numbers of citizens to access it. The community
    (OCW) comes from other Consortium members who               college mandate is very similar. Community colleges
    have offered from 10 to 150 courses each, depending         often serve those students without a tradition of
    on the size of their institution.                           higher education, older students, or those interested in
                                                                professions not offered at 4-year institution. Forward
    Consortium Executive Director Mary Lou Forward              believes that the same concepts apply. “You don’t
    explains that the impetus for offering OCW usually          have to expand actual physical facilities to expand
    comes from one or two educators at an institution           your enrollment and reach.”
    who see knowledge sharing as the basis for education.
    At first, most institutions resist because providing        “Similarly, the community college focus on teaching
    content for free feels like giving away the farm.           and not research means that a lot of cool stuff comes
    “Eventually,” Forward says, “school leaders begin to        out of them,” says Forward. “OER can enable more
    see the marketing value and then produce more and           innovation in teaching by creating a cost effective
    more courses, creating a proof of concept within            way for faculty to tap into other people’s design and
    their institution. Once they start, leaders begin to see    thinking about courses. Faculty do not have to take a
    the benefits.”                                              sabbatical just to write curriculum. They can design a
                                                                course in a month and then offer it. OER is a very good
    Forward believes that transparency, as exhibited by         way for a community college to expand its offerings.”
    sharing coursework, drives trust, which appeals to
    students who are increasingly attracted to openness.        Forward sees an important role for community
    Specialty courses in particular can attract students to     colleges as innovators, if a few issues can be addressed.
    institutions with advanced knowledge of a subject.          “Faculty need to even more fully embrace OER as a
                                                                vehicle for improving their teaching, and not think of
    There are reservations among smaller, non first-tier        it as cheating or slacking,” she says. “We also need
    universities who worry that their materials might           to get to the place where teachers actually get extra
    look inferior. “These schools have to remember,” says       credit for developing and improving curriculum.”
    Forward, “that review produces better course materials.
    They need to release their expectation that a course        The other big issue is keeping up with students. “Social
    has to be polished and perfect. Perfect is the enemy        networking fads may come and go, but students are
    of sharing, and openness leads to improvement.”             not going to stop hacking and pulling information
                                                                they want from wherever they can find it,” says
    The most explosive growth in OCW adoption has been          Forward. “Institutions who recognize this and respond
    outside of the United States. In Africa, for instance,      will become the most attractive to the best students
    most countries have only a few large universities           because they are in tune and represent the future.
    and some technical colleges. OCW allows higher              OCW is one clear signal to students that a school is
    education systems to offer educational outreach             moving ahead and not trapped in old textbooks and
    opportunities designed to credential knowledge              old ways of teaching.”
    gained, rather than successful completion of a series
    of courses and processes. Free and widely available         OpenCourseWare Consortium
    OCW materials make it possible to give a much larger

12 Free to Learn
                                                                                       The Scope of Open Education Resources

Together with community colleges, OLI has launched a new          Fortunately, those problems are being very effectively
collaborative model of evidence-based OER development and         addressed thanks to increasingly popular online tools that
evaluation. The Community College Open Learning Initiative        streamline the management of IP issues in an OER-friendly
(CC-OLI) brings together teams of faculty subject matter          way. The most important such tool is developed by Creative
experts from multiple community colleges across the country       Commons, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco,
with OLI to develop, adapt and evaluate four key gatekeeper       California, which has also created a global network of affiliate
courses. The target is to increase successful completion rates    organizations to ensure tool validity and adoption worldwide.
in the classes using the CC-OLI courses by 25%.                   The Creative Commons website offers a menu of IP licenses
                                                                  that can be electronically appended to intellectual properties
Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative courses cannot         free of charge. Creators of intellectual properties such as
be used in all situations, particularly in public schools where   learning objects, courses, courseware, or lectures can select
the original version may not meet the requirements of the         the IP licensing terms they want to apply to their works from
Americans with Disabilities Act. The OLI team is currently        a list on the Creative Commons website, which then generates
focused on updating the learning environments to comply           the requested machine-readable IP license.
with ADA requirements. Nevertheless, they do provide an
outstanding model of the way OER could positively transform       At present, the most commonly used Creative Commons
and improve teaching and learning.                                licenses grant permission in advance to enable others to use
                                                                  their materials free of charge for at least non-commercial
In most cases, full courses released as OER are complete,         purposes, to adapt the materials as desired, and to provide
standalone products with a specific set of pre-defined            written credit to the original creators of the materials.
learning outcomes. Many institutions of higher education can      Creative Commons licenses have been affixed to hundreds
make better use of these courses today as a way to augment        of millions of web pages and other documents. As use of
or replace the most common large-lecture format classes.          Creative Commons licenses grows, doubts about which
Likewise, students and self-learners can use these courses to     learning materials can be legally used and under what terms
deepen or reinforce their knowledge of specific subjects.         are rapidly subsiding.

Online Tools Support and Empower the                              Open Learning Management Systems. Open Learning
OER Community                                                     Management Systems (OLMSs) are a derivative of what are
In addition to the different types of OER content listed above,   sometimes called Course Management Systems (CMSs)
there is also a growing set of online tools that are making       or Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). These software
it easier than ever to find, use, create and distribute OER.      products typically include systems for publishing, organizing
These tools can be divided into three categories: Intellectual    and displaying learning materials online. These systems
Property Management, Open Learning Management Systems,            standardize the presentation of digital or electronic
and Distribution and Dissemination Services, which include        educational materials and streamline the process of creating
tools that support the development of OER communities.            online or distance learning courses. They provide a ready
                                                                  structure to organize and continually improve OER that is
Intellectual Property Management. Concerns about                  independent of any commercial software vendor.
intellectual property (IP) issues related to copyright were and
remain one of the most significant obstacles facing the OER       There are several commercial course management systems
community. Many potential users of OER are reluctant to do        currently available. None of these systems has proven to be
so because they fear they may be making unauthorized uses of      an ideal match for the requirements of the OER community,
material that may be copyrighted owned or controlled by others.   which benefits from the maximum degree of flexibility and
The mere fact that materials can be found on the Internet does    customizability at the lowest possible cost.
not ensure that they can be used legally or at no cost.

                                                                                                            Free to Learn 13
 The Scope of Open Education Resources

     Nature Publishing Group’s Science OER

    An important, though rarely discussed, barrier to         highly regarded by science faculty since its launch.
    uptake of OER by colleges is the perception by            More than 15,000 faculty members are currently
    potential adopters of the unclear provenance of many      registered as steady users of the genetics library, with
    openly available learning objects. Administrators and     as many as 1,000 using the resources in their courses
    faculty who trust the track record of well-known          largely or wholly in place of traditional textbooks.
    textbook publishing brands can be hesitant to build       More than 150,000 students download the learning
    curriculum around collections of material that are        materials in any given month.
    not directly vetted by a clearly designated presiding
    organization or institution.                              The early success of this program highlights the
                                                              potentially transformative impact that could result
    Nature Publishing Group, publishers of the highly         from the involvement of major commercial publishers
    regarded Nature magazine, decided in 2009 to make         in the OER movement. Although per unit margins for
    a sustained effort to overcome this barrier in life and   printed versions may decline under this model, volume
    physical science disciplines by publishing its own OER,   could explode in a much larger global market.
    called Scitable ( Scitable,
    which launched with courseware in genetics and is
    at present expanding across other life and physical
    sciences, was developed by staff editors at Nature
    Publishing Group, working in concert with Editorial
    Boards drawn from teaching and research faculty
    from a range of U.S. colleges and universities and
    a carefully vetted team of peer reviewers, scientific
    writers, illustrators, and media specialists.

    Scitable’s content, though not currently available
    under a Creative Commons license, is distributed
    at no cost to all end users. Costs of development
    and distribution of the content through the robust
    Scitable website are partially covered by Nature
    Publishing Group, as an organizational commitment
    to the mission of democratizing access to science
    education, and partially by a number of corporate
    underwriters,   including   prominent    U.S-based
    biopharma and technology companies.

    As a result of the structured design approach and
    rigorous peer-review process used in development of
    the content, as well as the immediate credibility that
    the association with Nature brought to the initiative,
    Scitable’s teaching and learning materials have been

14 Free to Learn
                                                                                     The Scope of Open Education Resources

Higher education governance officials who are responsible         Other related efforts include online repositories and portals
for approving financial contracts with commercial course          that contain OER include MERLOT, the Open Content
management vendors are well advised to seek administrative        Alliance, DiscoverEd, the Development Gateway Foundation’s
guidance on possible non-commercial alternatives. Both the        OER Topic Page and the eGranary Digital Library Project,
community source SAKAI project, the open source Moodle            which brings digital resources to remote communities that
project, and ETUDES, which stands for “Easy to Use Distance       lack Internet connections.
Education Software,” are providing increasing numbers of higher
education institutions with more useful course management
systems without the added costs of commercial software.

Distribution and Dissemination. Recently, there has been
dramatic progress in developing new online tools that help
potential users locate the specific OER that best meets their
individual needs. These efforts are still in their formative
stages. Nonetheless, some of these “OER-finding” tools
are already more useful than general interest search tools.
OER-specific search tools have been designed to reduce or
eliminate extraneous or irrelevant material, allowing quicker
access to learning materials.

Two efforts deserve special mention when it comes to locating
OER appropriate for undergraduate work, and particularly
community college students: and

OERcommons enables users to find high quality, prescreened
OER based on individual search criteria.
has created a single stop location on the Internet where users
can search for OER, share evaluations and recommendations
about what they find and monitor the availability and use of
OER within their specific grade level or subject discipline.
The site uses techniques associated with “social networking”
to form and nurture peer groups whose shared experiences
increase the utility of the site and accelerate learning.

Connexions has an extensive and easily searchable database
of small chunks of knowledge, called “modules,” and
hundreds of complete sets of learning materials including
open textbooks and complete courses built using these and
other open materials.

                                                                                                           Free to Learn 15
 The Scope of Open Education Resources

    Interview with OER Pioneer: Catherine Casserly
    Cathy Casserly has supported and helped to guide the field of Open Educational Resources since its inception.
    As director of the Open Educational Resources Initiative at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, she guided
    more than $100 million in support to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of knowledge sharing worldwide.
    She has been instrumental in encouraging many fledgling organizations in the sector, and sits on the boards of
    Startl and Creative Commons. Casserly is currently Vice President, Innovation and Open Networks | Senior Partner
    at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching where she is working on a new developmental
    mathematics pathway for community colleges and leading Carnegie’s involvement in OER.

    Q: How would you describe the current state of the Open             Policy can accelerate or impede the adoption, and
    Educational Resources field?                                   creation, of OER. We have seen recent success by OER
    A: It is amazing how the OER field has grown from an ex-       advocates in encouraging the use of open licenses for all
    periment to a worldwide movement in just over a decade.        publicly funded material. There must also be some poli-
    What once seemed like an absurd idea to many—freely            cy shift to create incentives for faculty and teachers to
    sharing knowledge so that others can reuse, repurpose          contribute openly–licensed courses and materials. With
    and redistribute it—is beginning to seem intuitive to larg-    respect to research, a better understanding and demon-
    er numbers of people and institutions.                         stration of how OER improves the efficacy of teaching and
         We are in a transitional stage between the point          learning is needed to advance adoption and use.
    when early adopters made their commitment to OER                    Lastly, the field needs greater understanding
    and when we accomplish acceptance by what Everett              of the revenue generating models that can be built
    Rogers referred to as the “early majority.” In the next        around OER while ensuring the widest distribution
    several years, it is easy to imagine OER making that full      without impeding quality. Moving to scale will require
    transition from a movement on the fringe to a sector fully     collaboration with commercial educational content
    embraced by the educational mainstream.                        providers and college bookstore managers, as well
         There is good evidence that this transition is well un-   as with public and private funding sources that can
    derway. While initially seeded by The William and Flora        support maintenance and updating of these resources
    Hewlett Foundation, the field is now supported by many,        and supporting technologies.
    including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Open
    Society Institute, Shuttleworth Foundation, Wikimedia          Q: What are some of the promising developments on the
    Foundation, UNESCO and the U.S. Department of Educa-           horizon?
    tion. Education Secretary Duncan and President Obama                While there are too many to mention, it is hard to
    are now speaking about the value of OER in relation to         ignore the attention that the Federal government is
    their initiatives on increasing college graduation rates.      beginning to pay to OER and its role in advancing college
    The field of OER is clearly going to be a significant com-     graduation rates. Several states have also made huge
    ponent of the educational future.                              moves that point toward the future. One example is the
                                                                   recent policy decision by the Washington State Board for
    Q: What challenges does the OER movement face                  Community & Technical Colleges requiring open licensing
    in completing that transition and becoming more                on all publicly funded materials. There is also significant
    widespread and mainstream?                                     work going on in California to provide K-12 open source
          There are several significant challenges ahead.          textbooks that is exciting because of the level of support
    First, the field must learn how to balance the rapidly         from the Governor.
    growing organic system that encourages the free flow of              The most encouraging news is not related to any
    information with the norms of accountability and quality       single initiative, but the way thousands of smaller
    required for widespread adoption and institutional             initiatives like NextGen Learning, 20 Million Minds, Peer 2
    acceptance. There are issues related to supplying content      Peer University (P2PU) and Khan Academy are springing
    to meet increasing demand. For now, increasing access to       up to organize, reuse, repurpose and develop new
    existing mainstream content is a short-term solution, but      content. In the true nature of OER, the spirit of innovation
    in the long term, the capacity to create new OER content       and desire to share knowledge is distributed across the
    must increase.                                                 country and throughout the world.

16 Free to Learn
                                                                                The Scope of Open Education Resources

Open Course Library
The community college general education curriculum is remarkably similar across institutions,
states and even countries. There also appears to be a high degree of correlation as to which are
the most highly enrolled courses. These similarities beg the question of why there is not a shared
and constantly improving curriculum openly available to all community colleges.

The organizers of the Open Course Library believe that there should be and are actively working
across state and international lines to build one.

According to Cable Green, Director of eLearning & Open Education for the Washington State Board
for Community & Technical Colleges, “We were trying to figure out how our system could join the
global open education movement with a substantive project. We ended up partnering with the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Washington State Legislature to build a modular and
openly licensed (Creative Commons CC BY license) general education curriculum. We are starting
with an initial 44 courses which we plan to have ready fall 2011, and then to add an additional 37 for
a total of 81 courses in the library,” added Green. “If our primary goal as a public higher education
community is to provide a quality education for the largest number of learners, then we are going
to have to take advantage of OER and move away from a ‘not invented here’ mindset to a ‘proudly
borrowed from’ point of view.”

The open course library project caught the attention of multiple states and countries who offer
the same highest enrolled general curriculum. A consortium of international post-secondary
institutions is currently collecting enrollments from systems, states, and countries to determine its
top common, highest enrolled 50 courses. They will be mapping that list against all existing open
textbooks and open courseware to identify gaps in coverage.

Green explains, “We are building a matrix that shows, for example, the millions of global enrollments
in Psychology 101, and links to all of the Psychology 101 open textbooks and open courseware.
Where there are gaps in the open courseware / textbook matrix (e.g., we collectively can’t find
a high quality “Psychology 101” textbook), we will collectively submit a grant for private and/or
public funding to create and maintain the needed content and openly license it so anyone can use
and modify it freely.”

“There is a big incentive for state legislatures, who regularly spend millions on student financial
aid that is used to purchase expensive textbooks, to invest in creating openly licensed textbooks
and curriculum that students can use for free and that other colleges will constantly add to and
improve,” continues Green.

“The most important thing about OER isn’t that it is less costly, though it is, but that it encourages
and gives educators legal permission to take content and make it better,” says Green. “That is
how we can actually achieve continuous improvement in the quality and currency of instructional
materials, student achievement, and meet the increasing global demand for a post-secondary

Open Course Library Wiki:

Open Course Library Social Networking:

                                                                                                         Free to Learn 17
                       Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                       Challenges and Opportunities

The initial progress in creating OER content has generated a       students should be honored and rewarded by the institutions
large pool of accessible high-quality learning materials and       where it occurs or, at a minimum, be considered in faculty
successfully demonstrated new models of knowledge sharing.         tenure and promotion on the same basis as participation
Two major challenges and opportunities remain. The first           in more traditional for-profit publishing pursuits.
revolves around the need to sustain the ongoing production         Unfortunately, at most higher education institutions selfless
and release of OER by the instructors and institutions             work by faculty members who produce OER is more typically
currently producing these materials, as well as encouraging        ignored by the deans and department heads that should, for
similar contributions by others. This may involve building         the greater good, be rewarding and encouraging this work.
and improving tools that make the OER production process
more efficient, and developing strategies that encourage the       The OER movement will not reach the critical mass required
wider educational community to participate.                        to achieve its full potential without increased support
                                                                   from existing educational institutions, including through
The second is accelerating adaptations of OER for specific         conventional budgeting and collegiate philanthropic
applications and groups of learners. To achieve widespread         channels. The governance policy in support of OER enacted
adoption, OER materials must continue becoming more                by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District
useful in a greater variety of educational contexts. Progress in   Governing Board of Trustees, which appears later in this
both of these areas is essential in order to move OER into the     document, is one model for addressing this need.
mainstream of the global education system. Advances here will
encourage the creation of additional high-quality OER content,     Incentives that encourage faculty to develop and share
which will stimulate more use and still greater demand.            OER adaptations would also be useful. That may include
                                                                   providing faculty release time for their production, positive
Despite dramatic recent progress, the production and use           consideration of these activities during tenure review and
of OER is still not recognized as integral to the operations of    promotion processes, and the cultivation of institutional
most educational institutions, including many with active          cultures that elevate the professional stature of contributors
OER programs. Instead, scholars at a handful of academic           to the OER movement.
institutions have created the majority of the certifiably
high-quality OER that presently exists, relying on substantial     Institutional support would be especially beneficial in
outside philanthropic support.                                     developing digitized collections of academic materials whose
                                                                   copyrights have expired, including textbooks, the creation
In a similar vein, only a tiny fraction of scholars, teachers      of more interactive learning tools and increased support for
and instructors in the United States and elsewhere currently       the creation and release of additional multimedia learning
receive any incentives, compensation or tangible rewards           resources including, most notably, videos of in-class lectures,
from the schools that employ them to produce, adapt, use or        presentations and demonstrations. Early evidence indicates
improve OER. In fact, faculty participation in the promising       that video is a highly preferred OER delivery method.
new world of OER can in some cases limit their ability to          The OER field would benefit greatly from the creation of
obtain institutional recognition or promotions linked to more      additional raw video material (i.e. authoritative footage) as
traditional activities valued in promotion and tenure review       well as related recommendation engines and more robust
processes, such as commercial publication of their work.           techniques for archiving, retrieval and the affordable and
                                                                   cost-efficient distribution of high bandwidth video files
Nonetheless, educators who produce OER typically do so to          without degradation as use increases.
make a positive difference in the world or to create learning
materials for their own purposes, which they then share.
Often, instructors use their own time, resources, technology
and equipment. This type of faculty dedication and service to

18 Free to Learn
                                                                                Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                Challenges and Opportunities

Interview with Judy Baker Ph.D.,
Community College Consortium for
Open Educational Resources
        “Failing to support faculty who are developing innovative teaching and using innovative content
ensures that nothing but traditional methods will flourish. In a cost-conscious and rapidly
                changing educational environment, failing to embrace low-cost open content and support
innovative teaching is the surest path to obsolescence.”  Dr. Judy Baker, Dean of Foothill College Global Access

The Community College Consortium for Open Educa-               Regaining this control and providing fresh educational
tional Resources (CCCOER) was created at Foothill-De           experiences is critical to the future of community colleg-
Anza Community College District to develop and pro-            es, Baker believes. “In the same way that newspapers and
mote the use of OER in community college courses. It is        the music industry slumbered while the times changed,
as a joint effort with the OER Center for California, and      the community college world is faced with a direct chal-
the League for Innovation in the Community College.            lenge,” says Baker. “At a time when you can just down-
                                                               load the instruction that you want, why do students need
CCCOER has grown both domestically and internationally         an expensive college experience when all they need is
since its founding in 2007, with more than 200 commu-          the content?”
nity colleges as members. With grants from The William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the CCCOER launched the          In tough financial times, this dynamic becomes more se-
Community College Open Textbook Collaborative a year           vere. “Many students can’t afford the luxury of college
later to identify and inspire the use of peer-reviewed, ac-    and textbooks,” continues Baker. Institutions that rec-
cessible, and culturally-relevant open textbooks targeted      ognize this can create a less-costly student experience
for use by community college students and faculty.             by using free OER known as open textbooks. In just one
                                                               community college course, CCCOER estimates that open
Working together to raise awareness of alternatives            textbooks save De Anza College students more than
to expensive, commercially developed and published             $70,000 in textbook costs each quarter. “Community
textbooks on campus, CCCOER and the Collaborative              colleges that advocate for lowering the cost to students
are developing and disseminating sustainable models            for textbooks are increasing access to higher education,”
to promote creation and use of open textbooks within           she adds.
a robust web-based participatory learning community
of pioneering faculty, students, and academic partners.        The Higher Education Opportunity Act has also made an
The Collaborative website now links to more than 545           impact. Campus bookstores are now required to publish
open textbooks as well as peer reviews of nearly 100           the price and ISBN number for all textbooks for cours-
of these books, and has obtained accessibility assess-         es. This disclosure creates knowledge of actual text-
ments on many.                                                 book costs. Once students learn costs of textbooks for a
                                                               course, they can choose a particular professor based on
Dr. Judy Baker, Dean of Foothill College Global Access, is     the actual cost of taking their class. “We are developing
well aware of the opportunities for increasing adoption of     a good relationship with campus bookstore managers.
OER, as well as the areas where improvement is needed.         They are actively trying to get in front of OER, instead of
She is excited about how open licensing for educational        being like newspapers and becoming the victims,” Baker
content provides a means for people to share, remix and        adds. “They know that less expensive and free course
improve the content, and for faculty to take greater control   materials are coming and they are looking to participate
over localizing the content and making it relevant. In her     in that transition rather than disappear.”
words, “OER and open textbooks are a catalyst for faculty
to regain ownership over the curriculum they teach.”           (Cont. pg. 20)

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Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities

                                                          There is also an ongoing need to test, develop and refine new
 (Cont. from pg. 19)
                                                          types of public and private partnerships between the OER
                                                          community and commercial entities in the area of content
 There are challenges. Since institutions do not save     creation that enable both groups to achieve their goals while
 anything, the price incentive is most attractive to      respecting their differing requirements in terms of openness
 students. Teachers can be reluctant to change from a     and profitability. An early example currently in development
 publisher’s textbook, not only because they are con-     by a commercial firm involves the creation of an advertiser-
 vinced it is best for their students, but also because   supported search tool for OER video. Likewise, an innovative
 textbooks are the easiest option and because every       and fast-growing new academic publisher, Flat World
 change requires extra labor and, what’s more, they’ll    Knowledge, Inc., is experimenting with hybrid approaches
 no longer receive a free instructor copy.                that make learning materials available free online and charge
                                                          for printed versions while sharing revenues with authors
 The biggest threat to the widespread adoption of
                                                          more generously than previous industry practices.
 OER, however, might actually be faculty promotion
 committees. “The people who serve on those com-
 mittees are entrenched in using standard textbooks,”     The OER movement also needs better, more timely and
 says Baker. “They are judging new faculty who are        cost-efficient methods to convey information about
 using innovative content and concluding that they        quality and course-level applicability to end-users of OER,
 aren’t doing it right because they are doing it dif-     including derivative OER. These methods may include
 ferently.” According to Baker, Boards of Higher Edu-     recommendation engines, search systems augmented with
 cation need to take a stand in support of OER and        quality-related components, open learner and educator
 taking risks in faculty tenure decisions.                surveys, automated quality assessment tools, certifications
                                                          by discipline-specific professional societies and
 “Failing to support faculty who are developing           organizations, new types of OER-oriented social networking
 innovative teaching and using innovative content
                                                          systems and other strategies yet to be identified. At the same
 ensures that nothing but traditional methods will
                                                          time, there is also a need to further develop, refine and
 flourish,” concludes Baker. “In a cost-conscious
 and rapidly changing educational environment,
                                                          streamline the two primary methods of creating OER—top-
 failing to embrace low-cost open content and             down and bottom-up—to better ensure the quality of the
 support innovative teaching is the surest path to        materials and increase the pace of their production.
                                                          The two most common methods of ensuring the quality of
 Community College Consortium on Open                     OER mentioned previously have ardent champions. One,
 Educational Resources -        epitomized by MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Carnegie Mellon
 Community College Open Textbook Collaborative            University’s Open Learning Initiative, relies on a centralized
 –                        system that puts control and responsibility for the quality
                                                          of the materials in the hands of known academic experts.
 Open Educational Resources Center for California
                                                          Rice University’s Connexions project and the open, online
                                                          encyclopedia Wikipedia demonstrate the other primary
                                                          method of ensuring quality, which involves the creation of
                                                          self-regulating, volunteer contributors who are responsible
                                                          for the quality and reliability of the content.

                                                          Both of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages.
                                                          The bottom-up, grassroots method of ensuring the quality
                                                          of OER is typically less costly and produces material more
                                                          quickly, but quality can be random and inconsistent. The top-
                                                          down centralized model produces material that is generally of

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                                                                                  Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                  Challenges and Opportunities

very high quality but does so more slowly and at considerably       beginning to take on this role. As the production and use
higher cost. Over time, the best results are likely to be           of OER continues to grow it seems likely the materials will
produced in the fast-evolving continuum that draws on the           have an impact on developments within individual fields
strengths of each of these models.                                  of study that may compel more of these organizations to get
                                                                    involved. Developing strategies that more swiftly integrate
Professional and learned societies and subject-specific             professional and learned societies and subject-specific
scholarly organizations may also have an important role             scholarly organizations into OER quality control procedures
to play in assessing and certifying the quality of OER in           is another area where progress can be made. This is also
the future. Currently, a handful of professional societies,         true for groups involved in monitoring and maintaining the
including the National Science Teachers Association, are            quality of instruction in community colleges.

 Open Licensing in Washington State

  The Washington State Board for Community & Technical              “It became clear that our highest enrolled courses were not
  Colleges (SBCTC) recently adopted an open licensing policy        our, or anybody else’s, competitive advantage,” continued
  for all of the competitive grants they administer.                Green. “Most community and technical colleges teach the
                                                                    same high enrollment courses. Instead, we decided to find
  The policy states, “All digital software, educational resources   ways to share our most common courses within our system
  and knowledge produced through competitive grants,                and with the world, so we are not spending precious
  offered through and/or managed by the SBCTC, will carry           resources recreating the wheel.”
  a Creative Commons Attribution License.” This policy
  will allow Washington community colleges to realize the           “Our system’s success was to adopt a new policy that will
  educational impact from the substantial investments the           make a big difference, and to make that change structural,”
  state, the federal government, and foundations have made          notes Green. “Our new open policy will simply become part
  (and will continue to make) in digital educational resources.     of our boilerplate grant template. By opening up digital
                                                                    educational materials created with public and private
  According to Cable Green, Director of eLearning & Open            dollars, we are making the most of those investments. And
  Education for SBCTC, “Our new open policy is a direct result      because openly licensed content can be reviewed and
  of a strategic technology planning process begun several          modified by others, open resources have the potential to
  years ago to get all 34 Washington community and technical        get better over time.”
  colleges on common technology platforms.” When Open
  Educational Resources (OER) and open licensing came up
  as part of that conversation, it made perfect sense. “We
  looked at the global OER movement and said: we can share
  our digital content on our shared technology platforms.
  Further, we will cultivate the culture and practice of using
  and contributing to open educational resources.”

                                                                                                              Free to Learn 21
Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities                          Case Study

Open Educational Resources Case Study:                               time for faculty so they can find, organize or prepare OER,
                                                                     awards and recognition for the best sets of open learning
The Foothill-De Anza Community
                                                                     materials, and tutorials that help faculty members identify
College District                                                     useful openly licensed resources in their fields.

When the Governing Board of Trustees at Foothill-De                  The overall goal of FHDA’s policy was to foster the
Anza Community College District (FHDA) began actively                cultivation of open learning materials suitable for use by
pursuing the enactment of a formal OER policy in the spring          community college students: materials that could continue
of 2004, their first official step was to invite faculty and staff   to evolve and whose existence created collaborations
involvement in the development of the policy. Aware of likely        between instructors who teach the same subjects. One
concerns among faculty and the limited understanding of              expectation was that as these materials matured, the quality
OER and its potential impact in the classroom, supporters            of teaching and learning would improve and fewer students
took steps to answer basic questions and to stimulate an open        would be held back because they could not afford to pay for
and welcoming conversation on the topic.                             necessary instructional materials or textbooks. Likewise,
                                                                     FHDA also worked to ensure that professors and academic
To address concerns among faculty, faculty groups were               leaders who organized these materials got the credit and
repeatedly reassured that they would not lose rights to their        recognition they deserved for being skillful stewards of
publications and that using OER was optional. The new                the best and most useful sets of open learning materials in
policy that was eventually developed strongly encourages             their fields.
the adoption of OER to increase access to education for all
students, but does not mandate its use. (Please see Q&A with         Editors Note about use of the term “public domain:”
Former Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Dr. Martha J. Kanter              The following materials demonstrate how the governing board at
on page 23 for a more complete description of this particular        one community college district successfully engaged its campus
policy development process.)                                         community in the OER movement. Some of the language in the
                                                                     following section is outdated as it reflects the dominant terminology
This combination of openness to new ideas and administrative         regarding free and openly available materials at the time these
willingness to address concerns as frequently and immediately        documents were produced during this particular policy development
as they arose led to a policy that was universally endorsed by       process, which began informally in 2003, with the development of
faculty, staff and student groups prior to its approval by the       a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) document (see page 26). The
board in late 2005. The Policy on Public Domain Learning             field has subsequently moved away from the term “public domain”
Materials, the first of its kind in the nation, provided the         in favor of terms such as “open,” “openly-licensed” and “OER.”
foundation for much of the related progress and activity that        “Public domain” refers more narrowly to materials which have no
has followed, including FHDA’s now system-wide national              copyright restrictions. Within the OER space there are now numerous
leadership of the OER movement with community colleges.              ways that materials can be made freely available, with the use of
                                                                     standardized Creative Commons intellectual property licenses now
FHDA’s policy instructs senior college administrators to look        the predominant such mechanism.
for ways to encourage faculty members to organize and use
open content in place of commercial textbooks. The policy
leaves the specifics about implementation strategies in the          How did Foothill-De Anza Take a Lead in OER?
hands of academic administrators, but requires annual                Step 1 Board of Trustees Indicated Interest
progress reports be made to FHDA’s board.                            Step 2 Administrator’s Surveyed Faculty
                                                                     Step 3 Faculty Concerns and Champions Identified
The package of incentives and related programs to                    Step 4. Board Policy Negotiated with Faculty
accomplish the objectives outlined by this policy continue to        Step 5 Board Enacts Policy with Full Faculty Support
evolve, but they already include professional development            Step 6 Q
                                                                             uality of Teaching and Learning Improves as Costs
                                                                            to Students Shrink

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                                                                                Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                Challenges and Opportunities

One Policy Maker’s Perspective                                    Question:
Conversation with Dr. Martha J. Kanter                            You urged your board not to immediately adopt the policy
                                                                  on public domain learning materials which they were
Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza                                considering at the suggestion of one interested trustee.
Community College District                                        Instead, you asked the board to delay that process for a few
(2003 to 2009).                                                   months while you used something you called an “inquiry-
                                                                  based research strategy” to refine and improve the policy
At Foothill-De Anza, Dr. Martha J. Kanter, and her colleague,     before it was finally approved with support from all campus
Dr. Judy Miner, then Vice President of Instruction at De-Anza     constituencies. How did that work?
College worked closely with the 7-member Board of Trustees,
which includes two student members, to develop Board Policy
6141: Public Domain Learning Materials. Board Policy 6141         The way we applied inquiry-based research in this case was
was the first community college board policy in the nation to     by asking our institutional research director Bob Barr and
promote the creation and use of Open Educational Resources.       his staff at our colleges to help us engage our faculty on the
The Policy statement was unanimously approved by Foothill-        subject. They designed the first “public domain survey” that
De Anza’s Board of Trustees, with full faculty support, on        was distributed to our full and part-time faculty in order to
December 6, 2004.                                                 gauge faculty interest in and knowledge about OER. We wanted
                                                                  to know if we could begin with a cadre of faculty who were
This Q&A describes the development and passage                    already highly engaged, what the barriers were and how they
of that policy.                                                   viewed creating and/or using OER in their classes. We also
                                                                  wanted to assess if any were already using or producing OER
Question:                                                         and to initiate a broad campus-wide discussion. It was also a
How did you react when your board of trustees passed its          way for us to identify the champions, the early adopters—the
policy supporting the use of Open Educational Resources           faculty leaders who were interested in such a policy and its
(OER)?                                                            implementation.

Answer:                                                           Question:
I was thrilled to acknowledge unanimous board approval to         Was there anything that surprised you in the results of that
mark the passage of the first community college OER policy        survey?
in the United States. Our goal was to develop a policy that
would inspire our faculty and staff to create and use open        Answer:
educational resources to benefit community college students,      Oh, yes. Two things. First, the large number of faculty who
the 44,000 students served at Foothill College and De Anza        were already using or who had already developed OER was a
College as well as thousands of others across California and      big surprise. The numbers were much higher than expected.
our nation. I remembered that, more than a decade earlier,        One hundred and nineteen faculty returned our survey. We
when I was a young college president in the early 1990s,          learned that 80% were interested in using OER in their classes
De Anza prepared a proposal submitted to a foundation to          and 31% were already doing so. We identified faculty across
leverage cable television as an open educational resource for     many academic disciplines (e.g., math, language arts, visual
delivering college classes worldwide to help students learn       arts, history, chemistry, etc.) that were already using or had
English as a Second Language. This was before the Internet—       already developed OER materials for their students. Second,
the dark ages! We didn’t call it OER back then. We couldn’t       the concern for quality was evident.
get funding for it. But it was the same basic idea—to use              The survey also reported that many faculty thought it
technology to encourage the creativity of our faculty in new      would be difficult to organize good high-quality public domain
ways to increase student learning and success. As a result,       learning materials in their fields, but it was clear that many
how could I not put my energies into realizing the potential of   were interested and wanted to learn more. Our goal was to
such a policy?

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Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities                       Case Study

discuss the findings widely and begin a public conversation       rights and responsibilities of our faculty in determining the
about how to create and use sustainable OER academic              best content and pedagogies for our students.
resources for our students. We also wanted to investigate ways         Our inquiry-based research approach helped us identify
to incorporate the discussion of OER into professional growth     how we could support faculty in ways that would be welcomed
opportunities for faculty and staff.                              by them. Our goal was to identify and help the champions,
                                                                  just as we did in every other academic area that was
Question:                                                         important, not to expect that everyone becomes a champion,
Measuring and then making public the level of faculty interest    but to find those who had that interest, those who might
in OER helped get the policy passed. Did you learn anything       already be using OER, and support them as leads in their
else from that process?                                           departments, divisions, campus wide and at the state and
                                                                  national level as some of them are now doing.
We learned that faculty were very interested in understanding     Question:
the growing field of OER and how they could appropriately         What advice would you give to chancellors and college
use it for teaching and learning. They raised concerns about      presidents who might be interested in generating support
quality, ownership, and related intellectual property issues as   for public domain learning materials and open educational
well as ways to locate OER content in their disciplines.          resources at their schools?
    We learned that pathways to creating and using OER
are not easily available; there wasn’t much information           Answer:
about training or reliable OER repositories and experts. We       The starting point is the faculty, supported by excited,
uncovered a great deal of interest and that was encouraging.      web-enabled deans and vice presidents. You really have to
That’s why we decided to create some clear pathways for           engage your faculty and find ways to get the OER discussion
faculty and staff. For example, Foothill College’s dean of        started. You will find faculty leaders right away. Let them
Global Access, Dr. Judy Baker, created an “open” (free)           loose to share what they know. Support them to have the
professional development course to help faculty learn about,      conversations, review the draft policies and procedures,
find and use OER.                                                 share OER sites and curriculum, attend conferences and
    We must encourage and support faculty to explore and use      engage in OER professional development through sabbaticals,
OER for their classes. Toward this end, we prepared a state       growth awards and other available resources. You really have
budget change proposal to support OER development and use,        to reach out to your faculty to bring this type of policy to your
and asked one of our distinguished state legislators, Assembly    board of trustees. Learning materials are inherently a faculty
Member Ira Ruskin, to author what became Assembly Bill            issue so it is all about identifying the faculty leaders who want
2261 for this purpose.                                            to increase quality and reduce the cost of a college education
                                                                  for their students.
Question:                                                              We did two surveys: the 2006 survey of Foothill and De
There has been no real faculty opposition to the policy on        Anza faculty; and a 2007 survey of more than 1,000 faculty
public domain learning materials at Foothill-De Anza. To          from California and selected community colleges in the
what do you attribute that?                                       United States. The findings from both surveys were similar,
                                                                  though in the 2007 survey, more than 90% were interested
                                                                  in creating and using OER in their classes. This can probably
We were very clear to stress that faculty determine what
                                                                  be attributed to prominent media attention to the textbook
learning materials they wanted to use and that they were
                                                                  crisis, the leadership of the William and Flora Hewlett
invited to participate. We were not interested in coercing
                                                                  Foundation in promoting OER nationally and internationally,
faculty; we explicitly used the word “encourage” in our board
                                                                  and more informed faculty leaders available to discuss its
policy. As a result, we were working collaboratively with our
                                                                  merits and pitfalls.
academic senates and our faculty union to ensure that the
                                                                       OER is clearly an area of great faculty interest and
creation and use of OER is complimentary with the traditional
                                                                  excitement. It’s about what is happening in their classrooms,

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                                                                                     Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                     Challenges and Opportunities

        “OER is clearly an area of great faculty interest and excitement. It’s about what is happening in
their classrooms, in their courses, with their students. Senior community college administrators have
              a great opportunity to open the door to this conversation and then to help the faculty
        champions move the conversation to action.” Dr. Martha J. Kanter Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza
                                                                    Community College District (2003 to 2009)

in their courses, with their students. Senior community              Model Board Policy Enacted December 2005
college administrators have a great opportunity to open              Foothill-De Anza Community College District Policy on Public
the door to this conversation and then to help the faculty           Domain Learning Materials*
champions move the conversation to action.
                                                                     The Foothill-De Anza Community College District encourages the
Question:                                                            creation, use, and ongoing maintenance of public domain-based
What advice would you give to other boards of trustees that          learning materials* in accordance with established curriculum
want to adopt policies that support public domain learning           standards for educational purposes of the district.
materials and open educational resources?
                                                                     The goals of this policy are to provide students with high
Answer:                                                              quality learning materials that reside in the public domain to
Having an OER policy is very important. However, you can’t           augment and/or replace costly textbooks, to create sustainable
create the policy without faculty support. You need the faculty      academic resources for students, faculty and staff, and to provide
buy-in up-front. Getting a discussion started about the policy       opportunities for professional growth of district employees involved
is one great way to begin. That’s how we started at Foothill-De      in these activities.
Anza—with college and district-wide discussions about the
policy, what it meant, why it was being proposed and whom            The Chancellor will provide periodic reports, not less than
it might affect. That discussion led to our faculty survey and       annually, to the Board that detail the progress made toward
to the collaboration responsible for the final language in the       accomplishing the goals delineated by this policy.
policy, which everyone supported. Our faculty senate and
union leaders were invited to work on the wording with us as         *Please see the note on page 22 regarding the use of the term
we progressed.                                                       “public domain.”
     Community college trustees have a responsibility to lead
in developing policies for their districts. To do this, they must
work through the administrators and faculty, to respect the
various roles, but to keep pushing for results. Change never
comes easily. You have to be focused and consistent. But as
one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, “The future
belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

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Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities                        Case Study

FAQs                                                              works that are not subject to intellectual property rights.
This FAQ (frequently asked questions) was originally              Public domain-based learning materials may or may not also
developed by a board member at Foothill-De Anza                   contain other supporting materials, such as related tests,
Community College in 2003 to address faculty questions and        other learning assessment tools and study guides.
concerns at the beginning of the process that led to the 2005
enactment of Foothill-De Anza’s groundbreaking governance         What are the permissible uses of public domain
policy in support of what are now known as “open educational      materials?
resources.” It has been updated and modified slightly from its    The permissible uses of public domain and openly-licensed
original form.                                                    materials vary. Public domain materials may be used as
                                                                  desired. As noted above, in some cases the original owners
While prepared specifically for FHDA’s effort to develop a        of openly licensed materials have imposed restrictions that
policy, this FAQ offers helpful responses to easily anticipated   permit free personal use but do not allow any commercial
questions.                                                        uses. In other instances, such as with materials whose
                                                                  copyrights have expired or where commercial rights have
What is “Public Domain”?                                          been voluntarily given up, there are no restrictions on the
“Public domain” is a legal phrase that describes intellectual     reuse and repurposing of the materials.
works that are not subject to intellectual property rights.       Many of these innovative educators and authors are using
The dawn of the Internet has made it much easier to               free, standardized intellectual property licenses provided
discover, archive, combine and re-purpose this material.          by Creative Commons. These materials are not in the public
Public domain material includes hundreds of thousands of          domain. Instead, the licenses provided by Creative Commons,
works whose copyrights have expired or not been renewed,          which are electronically attached to each document, establish
including books, articles, maps, scientific papers, films,        the ownership of those materials and enable their authors to
plays, songs, etc. Many of literature’s best-known works are      define the conditions under which they can be used by others.
in the public domain, as are many of the most significant         One of the goals of Creative Commons is to create a commons
early scientific papers and manuscripts.                          of intellectual property that is available for everyone to use
For a variety of reasons, authors of intellectual property are    under pre-defined conditions.
also increasingly making their works available to the public
free of charge using standardized intellectual property           What is Creative Commons?
licenses produced by Creative Commons or by placing them          Creative Commons ( is a 501(c)(3)
directly into the public domain. The best known example of        nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for
this trend may be the OpenCourseWare program initiated            people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent
by MIT President Charles Vest that encouraged MIT faculty         with the rules of copyright. CC provides free licenses and
members to license the material they use in their classes so it   other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the
can be used by the public at no cost. This includes textbooks     creator wants it to carry. CC licenses are expressed in three
and/or their equivalents in some cases, as well as streaming      different formats. The first is a human-readable deed that
audio/video of class lectures in others. The amount of such       simplifies the terms of each license into a few universal
academic materials available online has recently exploded,        icons and non-technical language. The second is the lawyer-
with more being added each day.                                   readable terms of the license itself, which have been vetted by
                                                                  a global team of legal experts. The final layer is the machine-
What are public domain-based learning materials?                  readable code that enables search and discovery.
“Public Domain-Based Learning Materials” include materials
derived from existing public domain resources. Examples
include an introductory geometry textbook, a basic physics
textbook, chemistry textbook, and anthologies of great
literature, philosophy, dramatic, and/or any other artistic

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                                                                                 Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                 Challenges and Opportunities

What is the role of faculty in deciding how or when to use         your discipline that costs under $15. Volume sales of these
or develop public-domain or Creative Commons-licensed              materials to students around the world could generate
learning materials?                                                considerable sums as this new model begins to compete with
Decisions about publishing and textbook selection are              current proprietary textbook publishing methods.
and must remain, fundamentally, choices of the faculty.
A university or community college district can provide             What sort of incentives do you envision creating for
encouragement, training, support and incentives that help          faculty members who might be interested in developing
faculty members continue to implement whatever learning            or maintaining public domain-based learning materials as
methodologies they deem best suited to their particular            substitutes for costly textbooks?
situation. Once successful programs are in place that facilitate   The Board of Trustees sets policies and goals for our
the development and use of public domain and Creative              district and usually does not address the specific methods
Commons-licensed learning materials faculty will gain an           that are used to achieve those goals. That’s one reason the
additional set of options.                                         participation of faculty members at this stage is so essential.
                                                                   Once our Board of Trustees approves this policy, the
What is the primary goal of this proposed new policy? Is it        Chancellor and her staff will consult with district faculty and
to reduce the costs of textbooks? To get faculty members to        staff to develop the specific incentive and support programs
organize freely available public domain materials for use in       needed to accomplish this objective. These incentives might,
their classes? To create incentives for faculty to place their     for example, include sabbatical study to develop public
own publications into the public domain? To encourage              domain materials, reassigned time, grant support or stipend
faculty use of Creative Commons licenses? To improve the           support for involved faculty, technical support in locating,
quality of teaching and learning? Or to encourage new ways         developing and maintaining public domain-based and
of publishing and sharing scholarly work?                          Creative Commons-licensed online materials, marketing
All of the above. One overall goal and motivation of this new      support for those materials once assembled, and any other
policy, however, is to reduce the costs of textbooks while         business services that may be needed. Additional suggestions
maintaining high academic standards. Not every faculty             for workable incentives are welcome and solicited.
member will want to participate in this activity, nor will every
faculty member want to do so in the exact same way. The goal       How will any revenues derived from the publication of
is to create a flexible policy along with a variety of options     public domain and Creative Commons licensed learning
that will serve the needs of any faculty member who wants to       materials be divided between the faculty authors and the
help create or use a new generation of high-quality, low-cost      district?
learning materials. Repurposing existing public domain or          In most early cases, faculty members are voluntarily forgoing
Creative Commons licensed material is one excellent new way        royalties in the interest of achieving the widest possible
to accomplish this objective, but it is not the only way.          circulation of the materials. It’s also possible the district
                                                                   may act as a publisher or, alternatively, it may enter into an
How can the use of public domain and Creative Commons              agreement with a third party to provide those services. In some
licensed materials reduce the costs imposed on students            cases, the district and faculty may need to work out suitable
and at the same time create a new revenue stream for               revenue-sharing arrangements that take into account the
faculty members and for our district?                              faculty member’s ownership of their own intellectual property
There are many ways that this could be accomplished. A             while also acknowledging the district’s role in supporting the
faculty member or group of faculty members could, for              creation, maintenance and distribution of these works. Models
example, make a new public domain-based textbook available         to sustain these efforts are needed, along with pilot projects.
online for free use while offering a different printer ready
file (one that is formatted properly for printing) for sale
at a modest cost, say $5 to $15 a copy. Imagine how many
students and schools around the world might be interested
in a current, up-to-date high quality college level text in

                                                                                                             Free to Learn 27
Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
Challenges and Opportunities                         Case Study

What benefits will a faculty member receive in exchange            Do all academic disciplines lend themselves equally
for sharing — with the district — royalty rights to any public     to the production of new public domain or Creative
domain or Creative Commons-licensed materials they may             Commons-licensed learning materials?
organize or produce?                                               No. In some disciplines (economics comes to mind)
The answer to this question will have to be negotiated over        generating useful public domain learning materials will be
time to the satisfaction of the faculty. Presently, however,       more difficult than in other areas where there is already a
no work-for-hire arrangements are contemplated. Faculty            greater abundance of available public domain and Creative
will retain full ownership rights over any Creative Commons        Commons licensed resources, such as in the hard sciences
licensed materials they may produce. Potentially, and if           (math, chemistry, physics), language arts and creative arts.
desired, faculty members could enter into annual or multi-         There is no academic discipline, however, where motivated
year scholarly publishing contracts with the District in           faculty members would be unable to make a significant new
exchange for what we hope will be a growing menu of enabling       contribution to their fields by organizing and maintaining
services designed to support the production and distribution       currently existing public domain and Creative Commons-
of high-quality public domain and Creative Commons-                licensed materials.
licensed academic learning materials. Faculty members are
always free to pursue other publishing avenues. This policy        What if standard textbooks are really the best materials
is designed to give faculty members one new option, not take       that can be used to teach my class? What if I am
away or preclude any options they currently enjoy.                 convinced that my students’ best interests would not
                                                                   be served by relying on public domain or Creative
What happens if a faculty member does not want to                  Commons-licensed materials?
participate in the creation or use of public domain-based          Faculty members should make whatever decisions they feel
learning materials?                                                are in the best interests of their students. One factor that
Absolutely nothing. On the other hand, one way faculty             many instructors consider is the cost of the materials they
members will distinguish themselves in the future is by            require their students to purchase, which can determine
becoming known as a steward of the best set of public domain       how accessible their class is to the diverse groups served
and/or Creative Commons-licensed learning materials in             by a community college. At a minimum, it is reasonable to
their discipline. As such, faculty members who participate         hope that all faculty members will be interested in reviewing
will create new opportunities for their own professional           current information about the public domain and Creative
advancement and development and enhance their academic             Commons-based materials available for use in their classes
reputations. Faculty members are under no obligation to take       and that this information will be considered when making
advantage of this opportunity.                                     textbook and learning material selections.

Will faculty members need to know a lot about                      If the movement toward the creation of new public
technology or computer programming to participate?                 domain and Creative Commons-based learning materials
No. Ideally, as we proceed, our district will seek or locate the   constitutes a new “revolution” in higher education—won’t
funding it needs to develop technical support services so that     everyone soon be doing it? If so, why should the Foothill-
interested and involved faculty members can devote their           De Anza Community College District bother to get
primary attention to the task of identifying and organizing        involved? What will make our effort in this area succeed?
public domain-based materials that are suitable for their          Revolutions don’t happen all by themselves. They are led.
subject areas.                                                     The Foothill-De Anza Community College District has long
                                                                   been a leader in developing new ways to bring high-quality
                                                                   educational opportunities to ever-larger and more diverse
                                                                   segments of our population. This proposed new policy
                                                                   continues that tradition. Like some other previous innovative
                                                                   efforts, it may fail—in which case much will be learned.

28 Free to Learn
                                                                                  Moving OER into the Educational Mainstream:
                                                                                  Challenges and Opportunities

Additionally, scholars at other higher education institutions      advantage of new opportunities created by recent advances in
may, in the end, win the competition to create the best new        technology. One of the ways the Foothill-De Anza Community
sets of public domain or Creative Commons-based learning           College District has traditionally won support from the
materials suitable for community college students—and              local community is by pioneering new ways to make higher
create the best new set of support services and conditions         education more accessible and affordable. By enacting a new
that lead to their creation. Either way, though, local residents   policy to create incentives for the faculty to use and produce
will benefit directly from any steps our district takes that       public domain and Creative Commons-based learning
hasten the development of more affordable, high-quality            materials we will be containing that tradition.
learning materials. The Foothill-De Anza Community College
District’s proximity to Silicon Valley also provides significant   Where will the district come up with the money to
advantages that make the successful development of next-           do this?
generation learning materials more likely here than in many        Many leading foundations are now focusing on this area.
other areas.                                                       Top foundation leaders recognize the opportunity they have
                                                                   to fund the creation of a new set of affordable educational
How will this project get started?                                 resources as a smart long-term investment. Generally
The Board will rely on the Chancellor and her staff to develop     speaking, programs of this sort are often preferred over
a program in consultation with the Academic Senate that            efforts that meet a one-time need. As such, funding to create
advances these goals, which may include a test or pilot effort     public domain and Creative Commons-based learning
that involves the most interested faculty members.                 materials is growing rapidly, with most of that money going to
                                                                   the groups, organizations and institutions that are leading the
Can faculty members at Foothill or De Anza work in                 way. Precise funding mechanisms remain to be determined,
teams or with colleagues at other institutions to create           but the district is likely to pursue a combination of public,
these materials (i.e., shared authorship)?                         private and philanthropic support.
That certainly is one option.
                                                                   What can I do as a faculty member at Foothill or De Anza
What are the goals in terms of the final cost to end users         to help get this policy enacted?
(that is, students) for these materials?                           You can offer your support by suggesting any changes or ideas
One overall goal is to reduce the costs currently imposed on       that may be useful. District trustees will also be more inclined
students by required textbook purchases. Given the potential       to move forward with this idea once it has received the formal
economies of scale, it’s conceivable that substantial revenues     support of the Academic Senate on both campuses.
could be generated by high quality, low-cost printable
textbook substitutes. Personally, I would expect to see free
access to these materials online and the cost per printed
volume limited to $15 or less.

Is this an appropriate way to be spending the district’s
resources during a time of very tight budgets?
In recent months, interest among policy makers and the
general public in public domain and Creative Commons-
based learning materials has been exploding, in large
measure, precisely because of tight education budgets. Many
members of the public are asking hard questions about
whether public institutions of higher education are using
the resources at their disposal in the most efficient ways
possible to serve the public interest. That includes taking

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                       Passing a Pro-OER Board Level Policy: Initiating the Higher
                       Education Governance Conversation

The tremendous promise of Open Educational Resources
for advancing the mission of higher education is clear.            Role of Community Colleges
Innovation in teaching and learning based on the use of OER
seems certain. The desire of students to seek knowledge            Community Colleges in the United States serve
from the most accessible and open sources and the most             approximately 7 million students each year. Typically,
convenient technologies is being demonstrated daily. What          these colleges feature common course offerings. They
actions do higher education governance officials need to take      also face unique challenges related to their need to serve
in order to capitalize on these dynamics, safeguard the quality    higher education’s most diverse student population. As
of the education they provide, and preserve the relevance and      such, these institutions are uniquely positioned among
vitality of their institutions?                                    institutions of higher education to both take advantage of
                                                                   OER opportunities and to become pioneers in teaching
The simple answer is to summon the will and enact a                through the creative use of OER. With growing national
governing policy that institutionalizes support for these          interest in increasing access to higher education, there
activities. Despite the many advantages offered by OER,            are enormous opportunities for community colleges
just a handful of colleges and universities in the United          that expand their reach. Incorporating OER courseware
States currently have formal policies or programs in place         is a relatively inexpensive way for a community college
that take advantage of this new opportunity. In short, there       to increase the number of its offerings, continuously
is a huge gap between what is and what is possible. This           improve course offerings, collaborate with other
policy gap gives collegiate and university governing boards a      educational institutions at low cost, and enter new
unique opportunity to enhance both the reputations and the         educational arenas.
competitiveness of their schools.
                                                                   In times of economic hardships, developing a reputation
The initial remarkably promising development of OER has taken      for affordability through the widespread adoption of free
place with very little support from the higher education policy    and inexpensive OER could also be a tremendous market
makers who have formal responsibility for overseeing most          advantage. In addition, community colleges who commit
colleges and universities in the United States. Higher education   to supporting and incentivizing the creation of new OER
policy leaders, boards, chancellors and presidents are typically   will establish themselves as leaders among their peers
preoccupied with more traditional academic governance              and spread their brand name across the educational
concerns, including the ever-present need for institutional        landscape.
fundraising. The distinguished scholars who are leading the OER
movement universally agree they will accomplish much more
when increased numbers of higher education policy makers
understand and recognize the importance of OER and take the
steps necessary to provide more direct and sustained support to
faculty who wish to participate in the OER movement, including
through established collegiate philanthropic campaigns, few
if any of which have ever focused on OER despite its clear
relationship to academic success.

30 Free to Learn

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

                  The OER movement has come a long way in a very short time. Rather quickly, it
                  has developed an impressive and useful collection of free high-quality educational
                  content and supporting open source tools that are beginning to break down
                  longstanding barriers to the access of knowledge around the world. All this
                  has been accomplished in less than a decade with a relatively small amount of
                  financial support, far less than the average large city in the United States spends on
                  education in a single year. Nonetheless, the success and sustainability of the OER
                  movement is by no means assured. Fundamental challenges remain.

                  The long-term prospect of viability for the OER movement remains where it
                  has always been: firmly in the hands of the education community itself. If OER
                  are integrated into the mainstream of the global education system through the
                  application of supportive higher education governance policies, the movement will
                  continue to grow in ways that create an ever-improving set of high-quality learning
                  resources freely available to all.

                  On the other hand, this promising young movement could die on the vine if it
                  fails to meet the needs of its intended users in a practical manner. Either way, the
                  outcome will have a profound impact on education, opportunity and the global
                  economy for decades to come. It is difficult to think of any other field that would
                  benefit more in the years ahead from the concerted efforts of enlightened and
                  altruistic educators and governance officials who want to give the next generation
                  the best possible chance to achieve its full potential.

                  A few short years ago, when Nelson Mandela observed that “education is the
                  most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” he could not possibly
                  have imagined that humanity would soon be in the position to create and build
                  an entirely new, free set of high-quality educational resources that could rapidly
                  be brought within reach of most of the planet. The only remaining question is
                  which institutions will step forward to drive delivery of this promise and, in so
                  doing, distinguish themselves by taking the door that limits access to educational
                  opportunity off its hinges once and for all. Expanding the freedom to learn is the
                  best possible protection of freedom itself.

                  Hal Plotkin is the former president of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District
                  Governing Board of Trustees.

                                                                                                           Free to Learn 31
 Open Education Resources

  An Introduction to Open Educational References
  Open Educational Resources come in many shapes                    • SMETE Digital Library Collection
  and sizes. This partial list of sources introduces the            The SMETE collection focuses on resources in applied
  scope of OER and the organizations cultivating its                science and math, engineering, computer science/
  increasingly vital role in opening higher education up            information and technology.
  to the greatest number of people worldwide.              

  Learning Objects                                                  • Open Content Alliance
  Learning objects are educational raw materials of                 A collaborative effort building an archive of multilingual
  varying degrees of complexity that can be used                    digitized text and multimedia material.
  combined with other learning objects to create more     
  complete or comprehensive sets of learning materials.
                                                                    • eGranary Digital Library Project
  • Connexions                                                      Called the “Internet in a Box,” the project provides millions
  Run by Rice University, Connexions describes itself as “a         of digital educational resources to institutions lacking
  place to view and share educational material made of small        adequate Internet access.
  knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as
  courses, books, reports, etc.” All content is now available for
  download as the EPUB file used by most smart phones and           Digitized Library Collections Resources
  e-readers worldwide.                              Digitized Library Collections feature reference and source
                                                                    materials that would typically be found in a library that
  • OER Commons                                                     instructors can integrate into their courses.
  ISKME created OER Commons to build a knowledge base
  around the use and reuse of open educational resources            • Khan Academy
  (OER). As a network for teaching and learning materials,          A library of more than 1,600 video tutorials covering most
  the web site allows social bookmarking, tagging, rating,          of the K-12 math curriculum and an increasing number of
  and reviewing of more than 24,000 items from 120 content          other subjects.

  • MERLOT                                                          • Public Library of Science
  Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and                 PLOS is run by a non-profit organization of scientists
  Online Teaching (MERLOT) is a project of California State         and physicians working to make the world’s medical and
  University and offers peer reviewed online teaching and           scientific literature open and accessible.
  learning materials.                                     
                                                                    • Library of Congress Newspaper and Current
  • Maricopa Learning Exchange                                      Periodical Reading Room
  A site run by Maricopa Community Colleges for their               Chronicling America is a project of the National Digital
  students, the Learning Exchange offers “ideas, examples,          Newspaper Program, which is a partnership between the
  and resources that support student learning.”                     National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the                           Library of Congress (LC). Their website provides access to
                                                                    information about historic newspapers and select digitized
                                                                    newspaper pages.

32 Free to Learn
                                                                                          Open Education Resources

O R n y        pe i                                        Open Tex       k
OER encyclopedias can be open and edited by                Open textbooks are either traditional textbooks that
volunteers such as Wikipedia, or invited subject area      have been made available online or new works created
experts such as Stanford’s Plato.                          for sharing.

• Wikipedia                                                •  ommunity ollege Open Textbook ollaborative
Wikipedia is the undisputed champion of user-driven         he CCO C site has links to more than 545 open
collaborative encyclopedias with, according to their       textbooks and the open textbook community.
website, nearly 78 million visitors monthly, and more
than 91,000 active contributors working on more than
16,000,000 articles in more than 270 languages.            • WikiEducator                                          WikiEducator has links to free and open textbook
• Encyclopedia of Life                            extbooks
 he Encyclopedia of ife aims to become an online
reference and database on all 1.9 million species          • On the Horizon – 20 Million Minds
currently known to science with the goal of building a     A new initiative promises the professional production
better understanding of life on Earth.                     of 25 open textbooks, specifically targeting the highest                                        enrolled community college courses. Funded by 20
                                                           Million Minds and Maxfield Foundation, the project
• Stanford niversity Encyclopedia of Philosophy            aims to produce complete textbooks with the same
 his encyclopedia has both editorial and advisory          supplemental content as commercially available texts,
boards ensuring quality of submissions, potentially        including teacher editions, assessments and study
qualifying it as a scholarly dynamic reference work.       guides. All content will carry a Creative Commons CC-                                 license and be released on an online platform allowing
                                                           remixing down to individual sentences, as well as print
O R On ine A hive                                          on demand services. Organizers expect the first five
Online archives are collections of digital materials. he   textbooks focusing on S EM to be available in early 2012.
nternet Archive may be the most extensive, hosting
movies, text, audio and a collection of websites.          O RC u e
                                                           • MITE - ational Repository of Online ourses
• Internet Archive                                         ( RO )                                              he Monterey nstitute for echnology and Education
                                                           (M E) is another leading player in the OER movement.
• The Alexandria Archive Institute                          ts ROC is a growing library of online course
 he Alexandria Archive nstitutes has created a free,       content assessed to meet standards for scholarship,
open access resource for the electronic publication of     instructional value, and presentational impact.
primary field research from archaeology and related

                                                                                                  F     t        n 33
 Open Education Resources

  OER Courseware                                            On the Horizon
  Courseware are instructional materials used to teach a    • Next Generation Learning
  specific course including lecture notes, texts, reading   A new initiative being supported by the Gates and
  lists, course assignments, syllabi, study materials,      Hewlett Foundations and involving EDUCAUSE, The
  problem sets, exams, illustrations and streaming videos   League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, The
  of in-class lectures.                                     International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and
                                                            the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is
  • MIT OpenCourseWare                                      “seeking to dramatically improve college readiness and
  MIT OpenCourseWare is the web-based publication of        college completion in the U.S. through the applied use
  the content of 2000 MIT courses.                          of technology and digital media.”
                                                            The Next Generation Learning initiative is focusing on
  • Open Courseware Consortium                              both secondary and post-secondary education and
  The Open Courseware Consortium is a collaborative         seeking to utilize Open Core Courseware, Web 2.0
  effort of more than 250 universities around the world.    approaches, blended learning and learning analytics to                             “transform learning in America.”
  • Open Learning Initiative
  Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative     Online Tools That Support and Empower
  courses are more highly developed cognitively-informed    the OER Community
  courses featuring intuitive tools custom developed for    A variety of tools is making it easier than ever to find,
  each topic.                                               use, create and distribute OER
                                                            Intellectual Property Management
  A similar new CMU initiative specifically for community   • Creative Commons
  colleges.                                                 The Creative Commons website offers a menu of           standard IP licenses that offer creators options about
  research/158                                              how their materials can be used by others. These IP
                                                            licenses can be electronically appended to intellectual
  • National Repository of Online Courses                   properties free of charge.
  The National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) is a
  library of online course content targeting students and
  faculty in higher education, high school and Advanced     Open Learning Management Systems
  Placement.                                                • SAKAI                    SAKAI is an open-source collaboration and courseware
                                                            management platform that allows institutions to modify
  • Hippocampus                                             the software to meet their own needs.
  A project of the Monterey Institute of Technology,
  Hippocampus provides high-quality multimedia content
  for high school and college students on general           • ETUDES
  education topics.                                         Based on SAKAI, ETUDES offers turn-key, fully-                               managed course and learning management solutions
                                                            and an array or training and support options for higher
                                                            education institutions

34 Free to Learn
                                                              Open Education Resources

Moodle is a free software package used to create online
courses and teaching websites.

Distribution and Dissemination
Several OER-specific search tools have been designed
to reduce or eliminate extraneous or irrelevant material,
allowing quicker access to learning materials.

• OER Commons
OERcommons enables users to find high quality,
prescreened OER based on individual search criteria.

• DiscoverEd
DiscoverEd is a prototype search engine developed by
Creative Commons which utilizes distributed curation
and structured data to improve search and discovery for
educational resources on the web.

Hybrid Commercial/OER Partnerships
A new type of OER being offered by commercial
enterprises extends commercial content to include OER
produced as stand-alone or supplemental content.

• Scitable
Nature Publishing Group, publishers of the highly
regarded Nature magazine, decided in 2009 to make
a sustained effort to overcome questions about the
reliability of free materials found on the Internet in life
and physical science disciplines by publishing its own
OER, called Scitable.

• Flat World Knowledge
Flat World Knowledge, Inc. is experimenting with hybrid
approaches that make learning materials available free
online while charging for printed versions and sharing
revenues more generously with authors than previous
industry practices.

                                                                     Free to Learn 35