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Making College More Affordable through Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) courses

Notes from OpenEd17 Conference

April Cunningham attended the OpenEd17 Conference in Anaheim in October.  The following are notes from the sessions she attended.  Bold text indicates resources or ideas that faculty could consider for their own practice.

Open Ed Conference Schedule 2017

General Notes

Look at the business law textbook that the presenter is co-creating with her students.

10:15 10/12 Table 4 discussion about cross disciplinary work between fashion and languages

“No-textbook courses” in information technology

Recommended Podcast Teaching in Higher Ed

Session Notes

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

9:30am Student Panel Keynote (video of the panel discussion)

Students from  Santa Ana College reflected on how textbook costs and OER affect their educational success.


10:30am Equity, Bias and OER

Panel Facilitator: Francesca Carpenter from Achieving the Dream, her work started in a position where she was working with Arabic language instructors.  She noted a lack of diversity among OER creators.

Equity in OER is often discussed as economic equity, but this session focused on freedom from bias..

Culturally relevant content.


  • Brenda prof of criminal justice
  • Monica chair of history and soc sci
  • Daphne prof of comm and theater
  • Jean librarian, launched open text project at BCC

How does OER content intersect with or exacerbate bias?

  • OER content can reiterate the bias already inherent in criminal justice if the materials are mostly fact-based rather than critical.  Theater OER are very western centered and there are very few.  The images used in the textbooks (ex: public speaking) may not reflect diversity of learners.  OER are being created in a biased environment, and OER creation has to intentionally fight against the bias that already exists in education.  OER philosophy textbooks don’t make bias worse but it doesn’t make it better.  Sometimes the striving to find OER among limited options distracts us from also striving to find content that will not alienate our students.

Does remixing from OER alienate students?

  • It takes a lot of work to prep an OER course, but once it’s created then you can invite students to contribute content and materials they’ve found, especially when the class bumps up against an issue that isn’t well covered in the materials selected by the professor.
  • Professors described their efforts to fill in the gaps and challenge the biases that have always existed in the materials we select.  The community of learners can be part of the professors’ learning and their efforts to recognize and challenge bias in the selected materials and in the pedagogies selected.  
  • Open pedagogy assignments asking students to identify where a textbook falls short in the way it addresses bias (by leaving out traditions, accomplishments, and perspectives of groups who are left out) can be used to improve the coverage of open texts that the professor intends to keep using.  Jean mentioned a faculty member who teaches literature with only works in the public domain, specifically seeking out minority authors.  Culturally sustaining pedagogy: Gloria Billings “helping students to accept and affirm their identities while challenging the inequities of higher education.”  Geneva Gay: teach to and through the strengths of students. Django Paris: culturally sustaining pedagogy to sustain pluralism as the project of schooling.  Culturally relevant pedagogy is not an add-on and should make almost everyone uncomfortable.  Epistemology of Resistance by Medina.  

What advice would you give to people who want to create equitable learning experiences using OER?

  • It takes a whole summer at least to prep a class.  Don’t try to do it in the winter between semesters.  You need time.
  • OER gives us hope.  We already recognize the deficits in proprietary and OER textbooks.  OER makes it so we can actually do something about it.
  • Speak to administrators about recognizing and rewarding the creation of OER. Push yourself to get uncomfortable with where you are and then embrace the discomfort of doing something new.  And find a community to do it with.
  • All OER trainings should always include attention to culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy.

How do we get OER and equity conversations to happen on our campuses?

  • Address people’s fear to reduce barriers to change.  Address the question “what am I going to lose if I do this?”
  • Freirian pedagogy – create a course around the assumption that students bring knowledge that the instructor does not have and create assignments and interactions that invite (demand?) that knowledge from students.  In philosophy, elicit examples from students of times that they have had the same idea that they are now learning that this philosopher had.
  • “The problem of speaking for others” by Alcoff  Philosophers look at their own experience very closely and then connect it to bigger questions and that’s what students are being invited to do in Monica’s philosophy course.


11:30am Launching an OER Degree: Interim findings regarding Z degree development (report)

For Achieving the Dream grants all of the classes have to use OER, not other free sources or library licensed materials

There may be disproportionate impact on who is enrolling in the ZTC and LTC sections because there is evidence from other sites that students who are more advantaged are more likely to find and take ZTC courses.

Odessa College has all core associates degree courses as OER this spring or spring of 2019???  These might be available on their website later and they will be available on the ATD website when they’re ready.  ATD will have/does have a library of the OER courses that come from their grant projects.  

The report includes data about academic outcomes, economic impacts, what it takes to implement a degree and sustain it, impact on institutional culture as it’s experienced by students and faculty.

OER has to become a core strategic initiative so that supports are put in place

Teaching online is a key characteristic of faculty who are willing to adopt OER.  Faculty who adopt ORE are more likely than other faculty to say that cost is in the top three criteria they consider for selecting materials.  OER curation takes at least 50% more time than for a typical course preparation and often takes twice as much or more time.  So faculty need support to reduce the time that it takes.  Supports include other instructors, Lumen, instructional designers, library/librarian, syllabus from other OER classes, student assistants

ATD will share their survey instrument that they used to gather data from faculty already using OER


1pm OER in First-Year Composition

Pima College, funded by an Achieving the Dream grant

The faculty who did this were already teaching textbook free versions of the two courses; writing 102 was created by two professors in collaboration and that made it easier to build the course

Online sections of writing 101 and 102 are all using OER, and some are teaching with OER in face to face classes.

  • They teach from one master version of the course, all sections taught by adjunct faculty have to use this, all full time faculty can use the master courses or modify them if they know how to use Desire2Learn (the LMS).  Buy-in is mostly based on faculty interest in serving economically disadvantaged students.
  • Course development started from the course outcomes, writing 101 is focused on analysis and argumentation, writing 102 focuses on using research in papers.
  • Planning was necessary to avoid duplicating texts and assignments between the two levels, since they’re so similar.
  • They created assignments, quizzes, and discussions first.  Then they found the readings.  In writing 101 students have to find their own text to analyze given criteria and they analyze examples of student essays.  In writing 102 they usually used literature but in the OER classes they use more different types of texts.  They found it challenging to find newer literature but there are authors who are choosing to share their work in the creative commons.
  • They pulled from a bunch of different places for the composition specific material.  Especially used Writing Commons  and Choosing and Using Sources
  • Becoming the voice of the course was the most work to do
  • Librarians especially helped with understanding the licenses
  • The timeline was course development starting in January and delivery for the first time in summer
  • Lumen has accepted writing 101 and it should be available soon.
  • Writing 102 is still being revised and resubmitted and will then be available through Lumen.
  • They’re still working on creating the course packet that can be printed.


1:30pm Addressing Educational Equity Through OER

Because of existing gaps and inequities in the education system, OERs don’t offer every student equitable access


  • Erika OER Fellow
  • Francesca ATD
  • Teresa k-12 teacher
  • Brady SPARC and student leader advocate for OER

Moderator’s questions:

  • What assumptions do we make about resource availability when we advocate for OER?
  • How do those assumptions play out?
  • How do those assumptions contribute to the equity gap for impacted students?

Be careful not to assume that OER is necessarily a force for strengthening equity if equity is not a conscious goal pursued diligently.

  • OER are falling short for disadvantaged students and are not accessible to all students:
  • Institutional resources are needed to achieve the potential of OER to improve equity because it takes even more time to address equity issues.  
  • Should instructors be expected to create materials and teach well at the same time???  This expectation might not be reasonable and is probably not realistic.  Achieving the Dream has data showing that a lot of OER courses are being developed by adjuncts even though they are some of the least resourced and more insecure.
  • Open pedagogy also assumes that students have access to a high level of technology and have the digital literacy that they need in order to comfortably navigate the materials.
  • Achieving the Dream has found that the degree pathways are daunting and materials in Spanish and other language learning are hard to find.  Arabic language teachers have been creating their own materials for a long time because there wasn’t a lot that was published.
  • Remedial courses and bridge programs have not been a focus of OER development.
  • Flexibility is the number one thing that can address equity and can make students feel cared for by the institution (and make OER work to achieve our larger goals)
  • Might OER get labeled as fake by publishers as news has been labeled fake by the President?  Stay true to OER and combat the forces that are trying to appropriate the movement.


3pm Rebellions are Built on Hope: Joining Forces to Support OER in a Restrictive Institutional Environment


  • Rich librarian
  • Sarah librarian and copyright
  • John instructional designer
  • Aimee instructional designer
  • Penny assoc director of library

The panelists described their institution as restrictive.  “Restrictive environment” = strong faculty protections on intellectual property, no funds for stipends for faculty, no dedicated staff for the initiatives

    • Bookstore’s exclusive right to sell textbooks was used to force the library to take down a set of instructions on how to price-shop for books that also linked to the legislatively required list of all required textbooks that had to be available 30 days before the classes started.
    • ID staff also ran into trouble with non-compete clause when they were looking for more affordable sources of learning materials.
    • At UCF the bookstore “owns” the booklist that the state law required the university to maintain an the bookstore considers the list to be their intellectual property and they don’t share it so no one can analyze it to try to help students and faculty
    • OER is in Florida’s strategic plan for online education, advocates are asking the state to write into the law some language that will override the bookstore contract that makes the booklist inaccessible
    • Business services is an ongoing barrier to ZTC development at UCF.  The university gets over a million dollars in revenue sharing from the bookstore so the university itself is pressuring the faculty not to move forward with ZTC development.
    • Created a full OER course for a course on medieval literature ENL2012, first they assessed what we was already using and did research to find alternatives, one issue was that they were having to fall back on not as great translations, so the prof translated something himself and they selected a $10 translation.  The instructional designer created accessible HTML epub (1,000 pages) from lots of stuff that had come to him in pdf format.  He also broke it down into chapters so that students didn’t have to download the whole file.  He transformed the content to meet the faculty member’s requirements and to make it accessible.
    • University general council has been trying to claim intellectual property rights over some of the work that was being done by faculty and staff to curate the materials.  So they can’t make it available as creative commons work yet.
    • American History 1877-Present AML 2020 the prof was tired of being stuck with proprietary textbook, now two faculty in the dept are using OpenStax.  OpenStax let him be able to just use the part that the course needed, since the course is only the later part of the book.  They used the content creator in OpenStax to provide just the whole file or chapter by chapter.
    • Medical Sociology SYO4400 used library licensed materials, met the requirement that the book is free and available on or before the first day of class.  DRM-free and unlimited users.
    • Sipx is considered a competitor with the campus bookstore.
    • Library found 57 books (74 faculty) that they already have that were DRM-free and allowed unlimited users (it took them two months to get the textbook list released to them so that they could analyze their collection).  Only 18 faculty teaching 24 sections started using the library’s copy because the others were using all of the publisher’s support and homework materials and just giving students the textbook was not attractive to them. 😐
    • Renegotiated contract now says that the university owns the booklist and weakened exclusivity clause by stating that the university is legally obligated to pursue all ways to achieve textbook affordability.




4pm Being True to the 5Rs

Presenter: Cody Taylor emerging technologies librarian

    • He does the nitty gritty work of producing OER
    • Used many different platforms that haven’t been sustainable
    • Currently working on a workflow for producing OER
    • They’ve been giving grants to faculty for four years and the amount of the grants varies by the complexity of the project the professors are undertaking
    • Permission to do the 5Rs does not guarantee the ability to do them.  For example, pdfs are nearly impossible to change.  We should be sharing editable file formats.
    • David Wiley Putting a cc license on a pdf is like…
    • ALMS Analysis


  • Cody recommends using Markdown to create OER, they can be converted directly to HTML and can be written in notepad or textedit, other more advanced editors are available


    • A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education
    • Markdown documents can be converted to epub, Word, pdf, HTML
    • Converting Markdown is a problem because many of the conversion tools need to accessed through a command line, though online editors are available they don’t always meet the needs of OER creators because they don’t allow equations and some only convert to pdf, and some limit style options



    • You can apply CSS to style the material in pdf and HTML
    • epub=packaged HTML
    • Create well structured documents: use headings, use alt text
    • Make source files available in parallel to the consumable format
    • Commonmark is the most common syntax




Thursday October 12

9am Maintaining OER Momentum: What Works in Adult Basic Education?

Presenters from American Institutes for Research

Results of a three-year follow up survey after workshops offered to adult ed instructors.

  • Most adult ed materials are teacher created and OER often creates barriers for students rather than helping them
  • Less than $1000 a year is spent on educating learners in adult ed ($12000 is spent per student in k-12).  The small amount of money pays instructors who have to meet demands for accountability because the funding is usually federal and there are many standard assessments that are intended to test for gains from the instruction
  • The American Institutes for Research offered two intensive training programs for adult ed instructors three years ago: STEM and ESL, supported instructors in evaluating OER and writing a lesson using OER, instructors wrote 200 reviews and created lessons, some uploaded their own OER to the commons
  • Funding ended so the professional development ended and there wasn’t funding to follow up until this year when they got new support.  So they have contacted the instructors who received training three years ago. Surveys and interviews
  • 95% of participants were still using some OER materials after three years, but not interactive stuff or simulations, 68% said that OER were somewhat available for what they wanted to do, only 27% said that they were highly available
  • 45% led other colleagues in using OER
  • 50% lacked the time to find OER, 59% lacked time to modify the OER
  • Interviews showed that instructors were taking leadership for sharing what they had learned after the training, they were having trouble sharing new things they made because they weren’t sure the materials were ready and it took extra time that they didn’t have to figure out the licensing, they needed support to feel assured that the materials were good enough and wanted a smaller vetted set of materials to select from, they needed a push from the national level so that their supervisors would feel pressured to learn what it takes to work with OER and not just say supportive things about it
  • Financial literacy and family literacy ESL materials are out there but they are sitting in silos where they were first created and there hasn’t been an organized effort to find and share them in the repositories


9:45am The’ ‘Opening’ of the Library

This session was intended to teach other faculty about how they can work with librarians to achieve goals of Open Pedagogy.  

Moving from credibility to context, moving from consumption to production (Framework)


10:15am Round Table #16 Learn First: Strategic Planning and OER

Strategic planning is focused on bringing students into the college to enroll for the first time, OER/OEP is focused on the classroom

What if we open the institution to put out what we do to the public who might want to learn something and then come to associate the college with their desire to learn?

Robin DeRosa built a whole academic program (Intersiciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University) around open pedagogy which became the third most popular major on campus, now she’s interested in how to make the institution open in order to create a new higher ed system organized around “publics”

Identify a problem in the community as a starting point for creating new assignments

If the institution invests in this model then not all faculty have to come along but if the demand doesn’t come from faculty for support for these initiatives then what future do they have???

Brainstorm publicly oriented assignments


11am Round Table #27 Copyright Questions: Incorporating 3rd Party Quotations, Illustrations, and More into OER

Presenter: Meredith Jacob Creative Commons USA

Best Practices in Fair Use for educational materials will be coming over the next three years

  • Linking is fine and is never a violation of copyright.
  • Using ideas without using direct words is fine and is never a violation of copyright.
  • Using short quotes from pretty much any source is fine, especially when you are transforming it by using it differently than the author created it to be used (ex: bio textbook chapter for an environmental studies class)
  • When creating OER, be clear in CC license statement about what’s in it that you do not own “except where other rights apply which are marked by the authors” then include a list of the stuff you included and where it came from (like in the front matter of books that shows where stuff was published before or published with permission)
  • Copyright covers only the expression, not the idea.  So that’s the line not to cross when using materials that you have become familiar with through your use of textbooks.

For example, a class that is critique of images is a transformative use of the images  College Art Association best practices in fair use


11:30am Strategies for adopting OER in a reluctant department

It took Santa Ana College’s Math Department 5 years to get one course completely offered with OER.

Faculty have to be confident in the OER either by teaching with it themselves for a whole class or hearing from someone they already trust who has used it to teach a class

They had a procedure for checking on the outcomes and success in classes using OER, so they had to analyze data at the end of the semester to see if there were any red flags before the department would consider the OER as an approved textbook for their program (they have a textbook committee that does this review).


Friday October 13

10:30am The Digital Polarization Initiative

Presenter: Mike Caulfield Washington State University @holden

Civic engagement — seeing immediate impact of what you’re doing

  • Example of trash clean-up in wildlife area: Found heavy tires in the forest: What is the fee for disposing of tires?  What is the policy environment around tire disposal that makes it seem easier to drag tires into the forest than dispose of them legally? (what is the analogy to asking students not just to fix something but also to reflect on how it got caused.  Why is this the disinformation that people want?  What is the motivation of the author?  What is the motivation of the audience?  What are the consequences of believing this and acting on it?)
  • The Miseducation of Dylan Roof video from SPLC is a good example of how skepticism can leave learners without any  guidelines for how to trust consensus-building sources and remain critical of fringe sources that suggest there is no community-based solution to social problems
  • Cynicism is the foundation of totalitarianism so assignments should train students to pull together the consensus opinion, not “get to the bottom of this misinformation,”
  • Plug into students’ identity as scholars to avoid challenging and retrenching their other identities


  • Crowd Table shows how many times something was shared on social media


  • Digital Polarization Initiative
  • Focus on process used to create the source and that should reduce the emphasis on bias-checking
  • Journalism is a process of verification, scholarly methods are a process of verification


11am On ramps, packages and widgets

Presenter: Jim Luke from the Open Learning Lab at Lansing Community College

Domain of One’s Own programs, institution serves as webhost for students and faculty so that students can develop own web identity

  • Goal: Students working in public
  • Jim is working on a digital lab manual
  • Disappointment: how many faculty lack digital literacy
  • Course hubs that can grab tagged posts from students’ own blog sites in wordpress to aggregate them, Jim’s office sets up those sites for faculty, only a few faculty can manage their own cPanel and none have their own domain names
  • Hard to institutionalize and many faculty and deans don’t understand if they’re not involved
  • Open Online Scholarly Commons is not a domain of one’s own program.  Students, faculty, and staff have a place away from the official college site to connect. vs. College hosts a place that makes it possible to create a commons
  • Each program gets its own course hubs, idea banks, identity site for the program, connected open learning activities (stuff that’s hard to do in the LMS, maybe because it’s something the prof wants to have keep going from semester to semester)
  • Using pressbooks to create an OER repository (not yet created)
  • Use an page to curate the newest posts coming from all of the sites on the domain
  • Campus-wide chat site for things like one-book one-community
  • Also have the domain be a place to push out information that’s meaningful to the community because it’s based in the community
  • Goal: Site that connects students who want to transfer into the program at the university with students already in that program
  • Malartu 501c3 trying to package up what they learn at Lansing CC to offer it to other colleges who want to get started


11:30am Convos, Comix, and Creative Pedagogues


  • Kin API evangelist??? Partner with Hack Education Audrey Waters
  • Daniel instructional designer

Goal: Digital storytelling projects

  • Github API
  • Google Sheets API
  • For telling stories using spreadsheet that turns into graphic in Github
  • Can also be used to tell stories about outcomes using data
  • Build a curriculum about domain literacy using a series of githubs, take control of your digital assets
  • Use spreadsheet to pull photos off of flickr
  • Lynda Barry is an example of digital storytelling
  • dinosaur comics using the same image each time with different dialogue in each version. Teaches students to make a spreadsheet-driven website to illustrate APIs
  • Understanding comics
  • Teh-jigz-up.github.
  • Lightweight CSS
  • Add title tags to images


Other Sessions to Follow up on

Wed 10:30am

Supporting faculty in learning, adopting, and embracing OERs

Moving beyond OER to OEP: Incorporating learner-generated content into a non-traditional textbook that responds to the learning styles of today’s students


Collaborating with students on OER advocacy


Beyond the Z-degree: A new model for OER in higher education

Using collaborative learning circles to promote OER review, adoption, course redesign, and authoring


Fake it til you make it: OER and media literacy in the classroom


10 tips for getting faculty to open up: Number 6 will shock you

Theoretical frameworks: Higher Ed, OER, and Writing


Through the valley of the shadow of creative commons: Converting a composition II class to OER (Faculty & Librarian Collaboration)

The effect of open educational resources adoption on learning in community college: A multilevel modeling approach


From seeds to flowers: Growing our garden of OER courses to fulfill the ATD grant


What did Jane think? Faculty perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of open textbooks & implications for authors & publishers


Thurs 8:30am

Leveraging open environments and individual passion to make progress outside of institutions

Assessing the impact of open pedagogy on student skills mastery and perception of relevance


OER, copyright, & faculty: Are academic librarians qualified to support this triptych?

How does OER adoption impact classroom teaching and learning?


Creating no-textbook courses in information technology



Doubling down: Boot-strapping an OER program through faculty — and student-focused initiatives at FSU


Sessions about Lumen

How student usage patterns of adaptive courseware affect learning outcomes

An approach to implementing nudging for teachers and students in OER classes

Unleashing Z monster: Maybe the future is not so scary


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