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Colleges to Drop Traditional Textbooks for Open Educational Resources

The national reform network for community colleges, Achieving the Dream (ATD), has announced that they will be taking the initiative to develop degree programs that will use open educational resources (OER). The OER Degree Initiative makes it so that programs will use openly licensed learning materials as opposed to purchasing expensive textbooks, saving their students thousands of dollars.

Currently, the cost of textbooks averages to about $1,300 for a full-time community college student. For the millions of students, the cost of textbooks alone prevents students from completing their education. The OER Degree Initiative will be implemented to save students money and improve the rate of college completion. According to a press release, “…there are enough open educational materials to replace textbooks in required courses in four two-year programs: business administration, general education, natural or general science, and social science. But only a few colleges are using those resources.”

“Through the OER Degree Initiative, these community colleges are simultaneously addressing two important challenges faced by educators and students: Not only will they provide their faculty the flexibility and academic freedom to align their open educational resources to curriculum objectives, but also, by lowering textbook costs, they will make it far more likely that their students will achieve the goal of attaining a degree,” said Barbara Chow, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For this initiative, ATD will be in charge of assisting colleges in making the OER degree an important factor in their student’s efforts for success. Upon the initial implementation, the OER courses will be available on an online platform.

The OER Degree Initiative is backed by grants from foundations totaling $9.8 million. Participating colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process “based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of selections offered,” according to a news release.

For more information, please visit the article here or the Achieving the Dream site

Free Textbooks!

There is no question about it, college textbooks are expensive. The U.S. Department of Education has announced an “Open Education” or #GoOpen initiative and ran its first “@GoOpenExchange” to get schools and educators committed to use open educational resources (OER). Institutions such as Ithaca College, The College of William & Mary and Santa Barbara City College are all pushing their schools to adopt OER. The following sources offer free quality digital content to use in your courses without worrying about the price tag.

College Open Textbooks

The College Open Textbooks Collaborative, a collection of twenty-nine educational non-profit and for-profit organizations, is affiliated with more than 200 colleges. This collaborative aims to bring awareness about open textbooks to more than 2000 community and other two-year colleges. Resources include training for instructors adopting open resources, peer reviews of open textbooks. COT offers links to free textbooks by subject, from anthropology to statistics.

Open Textbook Library

Open Textbook Library offers textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. All the books can be downloaded for no cost or printed at a low cost. This catalog is supported by the University of Minnesota Center for Open Education within the College of Education and Human Development, the library of textbooks pulls titles from multiple sources.

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Photo Credit: Open Textbook Website

Merlot II

The MERLOT project began in 1997, is the grandfather of OER, managed through the California State University System. The current catalog offers nearly 29,000 science and technology resources, 4,600 resources for math and statistics, 8,300 results for humanities and 9,400 for education. These resources are not only textbooks; you can also find case studies, assessment tools, online course modules, journal articles, quizzes, simulation and tutorials.

ORE promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks. With these helpful resources we can ensure more students have access to the textbooks they need to be successful.

For more information, click here

Blackboard Partners with ReadSpeaker

ReadSpeaker is the worldwide leader in online text to speech. In 1999, ReadSpeaker created the first-ever speech-enabling solution for websites followed by the first web-based platform for producing digital talking books. ReadSpeaker speech-enables content in 40+ languages and 100+ voices. All of ReadSpeaker’s products are web-based and work with all browsers (Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, Chrome, Lynx, etc.). Having their products be web-based allows users to avoid tedious downloads and allows users to access their products from any location.

ReadSpeaker has teamed up with Blackboard to make its text-to-speech technology more available to students around the world. Enabling text to speech is an important pillar of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Rather than reading through challenging articles, auditory learners can simply listen to the content on-demand. This not only benefits those who prefer to learn by listening, but also students that are language learners. Students with visual impairments and with certain learning disabilities will also benefit from ReadSpeaker and Blackboard’s collaboration.

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(Photo Credit: ReadSpeaker Website)

Blackboard is committed to improving accessibility to learners. Katie Blot, senior vice president of corporate strategy & industry relations at Blackboard, shared that the partnership between Blackboard and ReadSpeaker will help make learning more adaptable and accessible for educators and learners.

Text-to-Speech is opening doors to help students access higher education.

Click here to learn more.

Competency-Based Courses Opening Doors to Higher Education

Competency-Based Education are courses designed around students’ mastery in a topic rather than around the amount of time they sit through a class. With most programs, students follow a carefully designed curriculum that leads them through specific learning objectives. Students are then required to complete a series of demanding tests, writing assignments and other assessments.

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(Photo Credit: Josh McCreery)

The University of Wisconsin-Extension offers UW Flexible Option, an outreach and e-learning option that opens the door to working professionals seeking to continue their education in one. The program offers everything from certificates to bachelor’s degrees. Students that use the Flexible Option allows them to learn what they need to and save money by not taking unnecessary courses

The IT department tracks students from the day they are enrolled, release new modules as they complete competencies, and send out automated student feedback. For students, the transition to this new learning model can be overwhelming. Flexible Option offers each student an Academic Success Coach who will answer student questions, offer advice, and help students create a learning plan and timeline. Institutions partnering with IT departments can build a fully supported competency-based program that puts students in control of their education by offering courses that students can personalize at an affordable rate.

Click here to learn more

How Sal Khan Hopes to Remake Education

Khan Academy is one of the biggest education based websites that strive to help students in specific subjects. Khan Academy is an online learning provider that supplies useful videos for each subject for free. Specifically, the website is known for its STEM courses that can help a student get a better understanding of a specific topic within those classes.

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Salman Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, and started out the website by creating iconic recorded videos in his walk-in closet for a nonprofit organization with more than twenty million registered students. The videos are only a small part of his mission to remake education.

In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sal Khan was introduced as a man that first had a career as a financial analyst at a hedge fund. He made his first videos to help his cousins with their math homework. After creating more videos, he was noticed by Bill Gates, who became a backer. After creating hundreds of videos, people believed that they weren’t professional enough, however Sal has other ideas. He believes the informal attribute allows the audience to really understand what he’s doing. The main idea of his creation is to make sure that every student truly understands the material, not just memorize the formulas.

Currently Sal Khan has created a program for students from Kindergarten through eighth grade called, Khan Lab School. He even sends one of his own kids there. He has higher hopes then just this small school however. He said if he was every given the opportunity to create a college, he would want to focus on high-need areas in the world. Specifically he doesn’t want to just traditionally have a lecture based courses, but instead sending students out to research locally, specifically possibly a university or a company.

Khan believes in introducing a different form of learning and building a student’s portfolio to make them more appealing to companies. However, he doesn’t believe this idea will be readily accepted in the community due to the old traditions of learning.

For more information on this article, click here.