One Step Ahead: Open Educational Resources at Foothill-De Anza
Open educational resources (OER) pervade an increasing number of areas in higher education and will continue to do so as technology advances. Emerging as a leader in this arena is Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California’s Silicon Valley. Whether it’s open textbooks, learning objects, online lectures, open courseware, or searchable articles, Foothill-De Anza is among the first to offer such options to its 44,000 students.
Foothill-De Anza has a commitment to provide easy access to quality online education to its students. Last year, it combined forces with the League for Innovation, and stakeholders from more than 20 educational institutions to establish the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) at a July 2007 meeting.
CCCOER membership is voluntary, and for those who need to learn OER basics, its website provides the perfect starting point by offering free tutorials and training. Member colleges participate in the OER survey, share their experiences with OER, review online resources, and encourage colleagues and other community colleges to participate. The consortium now has more than 73 members in seven states and Canada.
The group’s mission is to develop new learning resources and to repurpose current open educational resources as open textbooks. With a $530,000 grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and a great deal of planning and support from CCCOER, Foothill-De Anza initiated its Community College Open Textbook Project in April 2008. The Hewlett Foundation has been an advocate of OER and a large part of the movement, which began in 2001.
According to Judy Baker, Director of CCCOER, the use of OER “fosters pedagogical innovation and relevance that avoids teaching from the textbook; broadens use of alternatives to textbooks while maintaining instructional quality; and lowers the cost of course materials.” However, drawbacks such as inconsistent quality and review standards, lack of Section 508 ADA accessibility, and failure to meeting SCORM or curriculum requirements leave room for improvement. A challenge for implementing open resources is faculty awareness and support.
With these issues in mind, project collaborators began examining ways to evaluate, and later develop open textbooks that would engage students and faculty, fit the community college curriculum, and survive over time. Project focus is on supporting use of open textbooks that are suited for the most highly attended community college courses and that are accessible and culturally relevant for a diverse population of students.
In addition to reviewing CCCOER’s current resources, faculty and staff from numerous higher education institutions also are evaluating OER from Connexions, Flat World Knowledge, and University of California College Prep Online. Other partners in the Community College Open Textbook Project include the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, the High Tech Center Training Unit of the California Community Colleges, Creative Commons, and the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.
The outcome of this careful analysis will be a new website scheduled to launch fall 2008. To fill the need for a one-stop, community college faculty OER website, the new site will offer quick access to fully assessed and approved materials for community college faculty. Teachers can use this resource to learn ways to adapt open and online textbooks and distribute them to their students and to network with other OER advocates. Also starting this fall, a number of faculty will incorporate the use of the vetted open textbooks. This trial run will provide the opportunity for student input and will be followed by assessment and enhancements.
Judy Baker will lead an upcoming OER training for faculty from three community college districts near Sacramento and will discuss CCCOER’s success and implementation at numerous conferences including the League’s Conference for Information Technology this October.
For more information on the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) or the Community College Open Textbook Project at Foothill-De Anza, contact Judy Baker at (650) 949-7749.