A One-Size-Fits-One Experience on tjbliss.org

I’m positively thrilled to announce that with some expert help from my friends and colleagues at the Inclusive Design Research Center (IDRC) at the Ontario College of Art and Design, my website is now equipped with Learner Options, developed as part of the Hewlett-funded Flexible Learning for Open Education (FLOE) Project. Look at the top right of this (or any) page. Now back to me. Now back to the top of the page. What do you see? That’s right: FLOE Learner Options.

If you click on the little tab that says “+ Show Display Preferences” you will get an amazing array of accessibility tools to help you better consume the content on my site. With Learner Options, you can seamlessly adjust things like text size, text style, contrast, and line spacing, among other features. What’s more, the open source community of the FLOE project is continuously expanding the Learner Options available. The project recognizes that learners are diverse and learning must be delivered as a one-size-fits-one experience to support that diversity and optimize accessibility and learning for each user.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you are interested in deploying Learner Options on your site, I am happy to connect you with the FLOE Project team, who is always more than happy and willing to help folks get Learner Options up and running on their site. In fact, the team has actually used my site as an opportunity to develop a plug-in for WordPress that will allow any WordPress user to quickly and efficiently install Learner Options. The plug-in is still under development, but should be ready for prime-time in the near future. Stay tuned!


I just learned that the WordPress Plugin for Learner Options is now available. The plugin can be downloaded from the IDRC’s Github repository at https://github.com/fluid-project/uio-wordpress-plugin/ The “readme.txt” file includes installation instructions. Now let’s all get a bit more inclusive!


My Dissertation: The Lonely Toddler Years

My dissertation turned 2 years old on February 1, 2015. Like most dissertations, mine has been mostly useful to me and me alone. I have secured two pretty great jobs since successfully completing my Ph.D. and I attribute some of this success to having completed a dissertation. I doubt anyone at either of my places of employment over these past two years has actually read my dissertation (nor do I expect them to), but the sheer fact that I completed the thing likely counted for something in the hiring calculus.

As I continue to learn more and more about the world of OER, I have reflected a bit on the work that occupied every waking hour of my life for several months not too long ago. I haven’t published my work in a journal, but I have a goal to do so by the end of 2015 (open-access, of course). The case I might make in such a publication would probably relate to the potential usefulness of my work to faculty using OER, especially to faculty using open textbooks.

The research I conducted involved a mixed-methods approach where I first gathered a large amount of qualitative (interview/survey) data from college students who were using open, digital textbooks as part of a large OER initiative. I asked these students what they thought made for good (“high quality”) digital textbooks. I analyzed this data and looked for emergent themes, searching for the main aspects of digital textbooks that mattered to students. I then used this qualitative data to construct a quantitative measurement model (this it where it gets wonky, but stay with me). In essence, I mapped out the themes in a nifty little diagram that looked like this:

Factor Model

The themes (called factors in this model) are the ovals. This diagram allowed me to construct questions (the rectangles in the model) that would map to each of the factors. Essentially, with the factors in place, I was able to construct specific questions about each theme that would allow me to test the viability and relationships of the factors in another population of students. For example, for the first theme that emerged from the qualitative data – Navigation – I wrote several questions, including this one:

  1. How useful to your learning is the search function in your digital textbook?
    1. There is no search function
    2. Not at all useful
    3. Slightly useful
    4. Moderately useful
    5. Very useful

I wrote several questions for each factor and compiled these questions into a questionnaire, which I then administered to a several hundred students who were using a digital textbook in one or more of their courses. The student responses provided data that allowed me to refine and improve the questions (or remove some altogether) and also test the accuracy and reliability of the model.

The end game in all of this was to provide empirical evidence about what students think are the important things authors should consider when constructing a digital textbook. In the context of OER, this model and the final questionnaire that derives from it provide an empirical tool that faculty can use to continually revise and adapt their open textbooks – in real time. The value of my dissertation to others then, if there be any, is in the context of Open Pedagogy (or Open Educational Practice…pick your poison for now). As Wiley defines it, Open Pedagogy includes teaching and learning activities that are only possible in the context of the 5R Permissions of OER: revise, retain, remix, redistribute, reuse. When these permissions are in force for a digital textbook, the model and questionnaire I have developed could be useful in informing faculty in their revision decisions and, presumably, support changes that improve the content in terms of student outcomes.

I would love to see my model and questionnaire used in practice, so I’m making it available for anyone to administer at any time, either by porting the Word version  into an online survey tool of choice or by administering via the Qualtrics link tied to my personal account (this option requires me to pull the data and send it out upon request, which I am happy to do, but be sure to include a unique identifier for your course so that I can find your students’ responses).

I would also love to see my model and questionnaire improved and iterated upon. I don’t do research myself anymore (that was so 2010-2012 for me), but I am posting here and on my dissertation page the quantitative data I used in my modeling work, with a CC-0 license. It’s an experiment in openness for me, and something that, on a personal level, is long overdue.

Happy birthday.

Z as in Zero: Increasing College Access and Success through Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees

**This is a cross-posting from an entry I wrote on the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation blog on Jan. 6, 2015**

The Hewlett Foundation gives nearly $8 million each year to get Open Educational Resources  (OER) into mainstream use. We believe that one of the natural consequences of widespread OER adoption will be an increase in students’ educational access and success—with the average U.S. college student now spending $1200 each year on textbooks and other course materials on top of tuition, it’s easy to see how those costs are hindering lower income students from attending college. And that’s not all: a 2014 study by the Student Public Interest Research Group showed that a majority of college students actually base course selection decisions on textbook prices and avoid courses with expensive content. Other students simply don’t purchase required textbooks or show up on the first day of class without a textbook because the cheaper used version they found online is still at the online merchant’s warehouse. Amazingly, the cost of textbooks now sometimes exceeds the cost of tuition, particularly at the community colleges that have traditionally provided a lower-cost alternative (e.g., programs at Cerritos College in California).

But there is light at the end of this dark textbook tunnel. Last year, faculty and administrators at Tidewater Community College (TCC) in Virginia accomplished something remarkable. Relying heavily on OER, TCC designed a curriculum that allows students to skip nearly $3700 in textbook costs and achieve a two-year degree in Business Administration. The “Z-Degree,” as it’s known, has had some incredible impacts. In the first year of Z-Degree implementation, TCC saw a significant increase in the percentage of students completing courses with a C or better, while simultaneously cutting the cost to graduate by 20-30%. TCC also saw a significant decrease in withdrawal rates among students enrolled in the Z-Degree. In a recent report, TCC administrators indicated that they are hopeful that other institutions will follow their lead: “Tidewater intentionally developed a model that can be reproduced. All of their curriculum materials are openly available under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and there is a wealth of additional open resources available.” Indeed, several other institutions and systems are developing or have developed their own zero-textbook-cost degrees, including the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the Virginia Community College System, the Washington State Community College System, Thomas Edison State College, and the University System of Maryland.

The zero-textbook-cost degrees at institutions like TCC and NOVA represent models that other institutions can adopt or adapt to help their own students lower the costs of higher education while increasing college access and success. Additionally, the OER used in these model degrees allow faculty to select, adapt, and/or create materials that are aligned with the learning outcomes of their courses and learning profiles of their students, giving them greater flexibility and academic freedom in course design and delivery. Importantly,  the zero-textbook-cost degree is a concept that is easily understood with relatively low barriers to implementation. A significant investment from philanthropy and government to encourage other institutions across the country to experiment with this model has the potential to start a movement. Indeed, this kind of movement has the potential to effectively solve the textbook cost and access issues faced by students  And since OER is the most practical means for establishing zero-textbook-cost degrees, it could also directly promote large-scale adoption and adaptation of OER in higher education (a goal of particular importance to the Hewlett Foundation), creating an infrastructure for improving teaching and learning through adaptable, localizable curricular materials.

I see two ways that the zero-textbook-cost degree movement could take hold on campuses: a large-scale persuasion campaign directed toward colleges to convince them to do the right thing;  or forcing colleges to create this type of degree, primarily through legislation that would mandate (and hopefully fund) their creation. Persuasion makes more sense to me. Given the important role of academic freedom on American campuses, colleges have traditionally resisted reform efforts imposed on them from the outside and often find ways to work around such changes rather than embrace them. A bottom-up approach driven by faculty and embraced by college administrators is far more likely to lead to changes that will be broadly accepted on campus and endure.

The persuasive approach could include three main components: (a) spreading the word about the zero-textbook-cost degree concept, (b) direct fiscal incentives for institutions to establish their own degrees, and (c) research about the impact of the degrees on college access and success to encourage further efforts.

Spreading the Word. Communicating about the concept by highlighting the work of institutions that have established zero-textbook-cost degrees has great potential to attract mainstream media and create an atmosphere of excitement around the idea. Many non-profit organizations have expressed interest in offering their expertise on how to share the story of the Z-degree. Support for such activities could increase the likelihood of successfully bringing the concept to scale.

Direct Incentives. The second component to this approach could involve directly incentivizing institutions to establish their own pathways for students to complete a degree without textbook costs. With funding from philanthropy and government, a grant competition could be created where institutions propose plans for establishing their own zero-textbook-cost degrees and apply for funding to support their efforts. A competitive RFP process would allow institutions to determine the approaches that work best for them in their own contexts and allow them to maintain academic freedom. The scope and potential impact of the competition would be determined by the funders and other organizations involved and the amount of funding available. An existing or newly formed non-profit could facilitate the RFP process, similar to the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Research. As zero-textbook-cost degrees are implemented across the country, research could be conducted to analyze the impact of degree establishment on student access and success, as well as on faculty pedagogical practice. Metrics related to access and success might include credit loads, withdrawal rates, persistence rates, pass rates, and actual cost savings. Establishing a research agenda and including data sharing requirements in the RFP could lead to deeper understanding of the impact of the program and lead to further expansion of the concept throughout the U.S. higher education system.

The Hewlett Foundation, in conjunction with Student PIRGS, SPARC, Creative Commons, the Open Education Consortium, and several other non-profit organizations will be convening interested parties over the next several months. We welcome your views on the details of the approach described here and any alternatives you might suggest.  If your organization is interested in joining the conversation, partnering, or simply learning more about this opportunity, please contact us at Education@hewlett.org.

Musings on OER Policy

Policy favorable to OER is a critical component of the entire open education movement. OER policies currently exist at many levels: international, national, regional, local, and institutional. You can explore various OER policies around the world on the OER Policy Map maintained by the OER Research Hub. Creative Commons also maintains a list of proposed and adopted OER policies that is well-worth your perusal. As I have traveled hither and yon these past few months meeting with Hewlett grantees and others involved and interested in OER, the policy issue has continually surfaced as an important theme. These conversations have caused me to think more deeply about the role of policy in accomplishing Hewlett’s goal of mainstreaming OER.

Dr. Vance Randall, an expert in both education policy and educating about education policy (and former advisor to Senator Orrin Hatch) argues that policy is nearly always created to a solve a particular problem or set of problems. From this perspective, the best way to understand an existing policy is to identify the problem(s) it was created to solve (not always an easy task). In advocating for OER-related policies, we should be very clear about the problem the particular policy would solve. What’s more, we should recognize that OER policy can solve different problems at different policy levels. Using the “policy/problem/solution” concept as a framework, here is my current thinking (limited as it may be) about OER policy at the international, national, and institutional levels*. For each level, I provide the problems that I think are most easily solved by OER policy, problems I think are less likely to be solved, and my current vision for a “dream” policy. I am very open to feedback about my views on OER policy and hope that others will contribute to the conversation here.

International OER Policy

Policy at the international level related to OER is most likely to be useful in solving the OER awareness problem and the sustainable OER development problem. Awareness of OER is very low throughout the world. International OER policy established by IGOs like the European Commission, UNESCO, OECD, and the World Bank can do much to help solve the awareness problem by being committed to discussing the role of OER in solving broader educational issues at member state gatherings. IGOs that provide funding to member states could also require open licensing of materials produced with those funds. Non-funding IGOs could encourage their member states to adopt national-level policies that require open licensing of all materials produced with public funding. It seems less likely to me that international OER policy can as effectively or directly solve other problems related to OER, including adoption, discoverability/interoperability, and effective Open Educational Practice (OEP) at the classroom level.

A “dream” international OER policy would require member states of each of the respective IGOs to openly license all materials produced with public funds, as a condition of membership.

National OER Policy

Depending on the nation, national OER policies may help solve the sustainable OER development problem by requiring open licensing on materials produced with public funds. National policies could also solve the OER efficacy problem by providing funding for research related to OER and OEP. In democratic, decentralized states like the US, national OER policies are less likely to be effective at tackling the adoption and discoverability/interoperability problems.

A “dream” national OER policy would require all education materials produced with public funding (including all materials produced on-the-clock by faculty and teachers at publically funded institutions and schools) to be openly licensed and shared in a national repository that requires appropriate metadata tagging to increase discoverability.

Institutional OER Policy

Institutional OER policies could help solve nearly every problem related to OER mainstreaming. Institutional OER polices could help solve the OER awareness problem by requiring faculty and teachers to receive professional development related to OER. Institutional policies could also solve the OER development problem by requiring investment in faculty and teacher time to review, adopt, and adapt existing OER (and create new open materials when there are gaps). Institutional policies could solve the adoption problem in higher education by requiring faculty to use OER by default and only use propriety materials when adequate justification exists. In K-12, institutional polices at the school district level could require curricular review boards to give priority to open content and justify use of proprietary content (I suppose regional policies at the state level could do this as well, but it is much less politically viable in the US). Institutional policies could help solve the discoverability/interoperability problems by requiring that all newly created open content carry appropriate metadata, be shared via the national repository (if  my national “dream” policy were in place), and require investment in professional development related to effective strategies for finding OER (i.e. “How to Use Google Advanced Search”). Finally, institutional OER policies could solve the OER efficacy problem by encouraging and supporting in-house research on OEP.

A “dream” institutional OER policy in higher education would require faculty to adopt openly licensed content by default, and only allow adoption of proprietary materials if justifiable. A “dream” institutional OER policy in K-12 would require curricular review boards to give priority to open content and only allow adoption of proprietary content in extreme cases (if at all).

A final word about implementation: A policy means nothing if it is not implemented with fidelity. The best “dream” policy in the world is a pile of garbage if the solution it provides is not actually implemented. We need to be spending more time on encouraging implementation of existing OER policies while we are advocating for new ones. As a rule, I believe international policies are much more difficult to implement with fidelity than national policies. I also believe that national policies are much more difficult to implement than institutional policies.

My views on policy implementation, taken together with my argument about institutional OER policies, should leave no one surprised at my current thinking on the OER Policy space: In addition to advocating for policies at the international, national, and regional levels, we should be more intensely investing our energy and advocacy in pushing for solid OER policies at the institutional level – at colleges, universities, and school districts.

I give an important reminder here that the posts on my blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This post simply represents my current, jet-lagged thinking on OER policy. I welcome and encourage feedback from the field on this issue. I absolutely reserve the right to keep an open mind and change my views. Typing this also reminds me of one of my favorite lyrics by one of the greatest bands in the world:

A man came up to me and said:

“I’d like to change your mind

“By hitting it with a rock,” he said,

“Though I am not unkind.”


Let the kindly rock throwing begin.


*I have chosen not to address regional/local policies in this post, not because I feel they are unimportant, but because I see them as an extension of national policies or a reflection of institutional policies, especially in the United States. If someone has an argument for the uniqueness of local/regional OER policies in terms of solving key OER problems, I would love to hear it. I suspect there are some good cases to be made

**Since originally writing this post, I’ve discovered this gem of an article that addresses state-level OER policy issue quite well. Definitely worth the quick read: http://publications.sreb.org/2010/10T02_Guidelines_Eff_Pol.pdf

The Doctor and the Gym

We will have made great progress on the OER front when educators and institutions make OER the default choice and feel the need to justify using closed content. Right now, the opposite is generally true: Closed content is the default and people need compelling reasons to replace it with OER. When the norms have changed, OER will be in the mainstream*.

As I have visited with folks in the OER community these past few months, people have continually highlighted two major reasons people adopt OER: (a) to save money and  (b) to improve teaching and learning. These two reasons for adopting fit naturally with the two key characteristics of OER: free use and repurposing. The characteristic of free use lends itself to the economical motivation for using OER; while the ability to revise, remix, reuse, redistribute, and retain resources provides opportunity for improved teaching and deeper learning.

As I have thought about why people choose to adopt OER, I’ve come to realize that there are important and fundamental differences between the two major motivations for adoption. A simple health metaphor helps me understand these differences and sheds some light on how we might approach persuading more people to adopt OER. When we are sick or in pain, most of us don’t need much motivation to seek help or go to the doctor. When we are otherwise healthy, however, most of us need quite a bit of external motivation to take steps to strengthen our bodies and improve our health through proper exercise and diet.

I think, in most cases, the same is true for OER adoption. In most educational settings, especially those with large numbers of at-risk students like community colleges and public K-12 schools, the economic situation is tenuous. People and systems are in financial pain and need very little extra motivation to accept an obvious remedy when it is presented. In these situations, the economic argument for OER brings welcome relief. However, in the same way that someone with a broken leg is not likely to respond well to encouragement to run laps at the gym, those feeling heavy financial pain are not likely to respond enthusiastically to exhortations to improve teaching and learning through OER. It just isn’t a compelling reason for them to adopt**.

If we want OER to become the default, we need people to use OER and to know that they are using OER. In the United States and Canada, particularly, the economic argument for OER is a compelling reason to adopt at all educational levels. Using the economic argument does not diminish OER’s potential for improving teaching and learning. Instead, it is a gateway that people want to enter so they can feel better. And when they enter this gate, evidence in the field shows that they are more likely to go to the proverbial gym and start using OER in ways that leverage the open license. To be sure, the real power of OER is in its potential to improve teaching and learning through open pedagogy. But we may never get to the point where effective use of OER is a mainstream practice until lots and lots of people are using it to meet their more basic needs.

*Credit goes to Nick Shockey of SPARC for framing the mainstreaming of OER in the context of setting defaults and shifting norms.

**I fully recognize that there are many educators who find the opportunity to use OER to improve teaching and learning a compelling reason to adopt. However, I think there are many more people who would adopt OER for economic reasons. It is entirely possible, and desirable, to focus on both motivators for adoption simultaneously. The point of this metaphor is to illuminate the need to pay attention to these diverse motivators and tailor the approach accordingly.

The Listening Tour

One of my favorite things about visiting my hometown in Utah is driving down the I-15 corridor through Salt Lake City along the beautiful Wasatch Front. While the mountain view is always stunning, I also look forward to seeing the often funny, sometimes downright clever billboards that dot the highway shoulder, for Utah has no shortage of them. One local car dealership’s billboard campaign is among my favorites. Their tag-line – “We Hear You” – is supported by a series of ever-changing billboards highlighting how well they listen to customers. My favorite among the lot depicts a single fallen tree in a forest. The caption reads: “We’d hear it.”

As I head out this morning on the first of many scheduled visits to the Hewlett grantees in the OER portfolio, I am focused on listening and learning. My predecessors at the foundation have made careful and strategic investments in the OER space, some of which I am more familiar with than others. I see this listening tour as an opportunity to dig deep and better understand the challenges and successes these grantees are experiencing in their Hewlett-funded work, as well as in their broader organizational missions. I also look forward to hearing grantees’ thoughts and perspectives on the OER field itself, and their opinions on how the OER portfolio should evolve over the next few years. In short, I want my initial (and, with any luck, continual) message to every grantee to be worthy of a clever billboard campaign: “I Hear You.”


**The opinions expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation**

Building Measurably Better Lives


Next week I will officially begin my term as the OER Program Officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It is hard for me to express my excitement and anticipation for this new experience. I am looking forward to so many things, most especially the opportunities I will have to build relationships with the many wonderful people from around the world who are engaged in the work of open education.

In preparing to interview for the position earlier this year, I scanned through the many, many successful OER projects that have been funded by my predecessors at the foundation. I was amazed at the scope and breadth of the list. As I browsed, I realized that I had personally interacted with people from several of the funded projects. This realization caused my excitement to grow even more, as I looked forward to the potential of renewing and growing my relationships with so many of my former friends and colleagues.

I think the reason the relationship factor is so appealing to me is because I have long viewed the Hewlett Foundation as much more than simply a source of funding. To those in the OER community, the Hewlett Foundation is an invaluable source of counsel, guidance, insight, networking, and direction. Money is certainly an essential resource, but it is not always the most valuable service that the Hewlett Foundation provides. To me, the Hewlett Foundation is like a parent. Through interaction with others, the foundation helps bring ideas to life, provides means to help these ideas grow and mature, and, ultimately, intends for the ideas to move out and be successful on their own in the world. Just as children would rarely think of their parents as simply their source of funding (though parents certainly serve that role for an extended term), those who receive support from Hewlett do not think of the foundation as just a fountain of cash. Instead, they look to Hewlett (and the Program Officers especially) to help them make connections, navigate the landscape, and measurably improve lives through their ideas.

I feel deeply grateful for the opportunity to play this sort of role in the open education movement. I know I have some big shoes to fill (and know I will be standing on the shoulders of giants), but I cannot wait to be fully involved again with the OER community. I cannot wait to learn and to grow together with so many great thinkers and doers from around the world. For me, this is a dream come true, an opportunity to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.”

**The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.**

Photo Credit: Ezra Katz – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parent-left_child-right_yellow-background.svg

Reflections of a Former Bureaucrat


Friday, June 6, was my last official day as the Director of Assessment and Accountability for the State Department of Education in Idaho. Over the past 18 months, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of wonderful and dedicated educators across the Gem State. I have learned much from their experience and expertise, and my understanding of public K-12 education has evolved dramatically. I have gained a deep respect for the challenges and complexities of this grand enterprise. Most especially, I have a gained an abiding admiration for those who have devoted their lives to teaching and guiding our children, despite these challenges and complexities.

You may notice that this is my first blog post since beginning work at the Department.  As an aide to an elected official, and because it has been my responsibility to oversee some of the hottest current political issues in Idaho education, I made the decision not to opine publicly via this blog. Out of respect for my former colleagues at the Department (most especially the wonderful PR staff), I will refrain from commenting on anything specific related to my work there – though all are free to browse through pages and pages of my public communication to schools throughout the state.50a2089995a26.preview-300

The only thing I will say about my time at the Department is this: I thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from Superintendent Tom Luna. I did not know Superintendent Luna before I came to Idaho last year, but I am glad I got to know him. He has been an example of kindness, integrity, humor, and leadership to me. And while there are still many throughout the state who bristle at even the mention of his name, I predict that he will eventually be recognized as one of the most successful and forward thinking educational leaders Idaho has ever seen. I’ll be candid that I do not agree with Superintendent Luna on every philosophical point. I knew that would be the case coming in. But I have discovered that that’s exactly what makes him such an effective leader: He is willing to allow even those who disagree with him to have a meaningful seat at the table. Many of the reforms he has led, including the Common Core State Standards, more fair school accountability, increased transparency in government, and expanded use of educational technology, will have lasting positive impacts on Idaho’s students and Idaho’s economy. The people of Idaho, whether they recognize it or not, have been lucky to have Superintendent Tom Luna leading the state’s public education system for the past 8 years.

As my family and I head off on new adventure, I will always be grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to rub shoulders with some of the greatest people on earth.

Way to go, Idaho!

The Past Two Months

A lot of exciting things have happened to me over the past two months. First, I successfully defended my (openly licensed) dissertation on Feb. 1. Preparation for this event occupied the majority of my time in December and January, of course. My dissertation research involved developing a model of digital textbook quality from the college student perspective and subsequently using this model to develop a measurement instrument that can be used in evaluating digital textbooks. The implications of this instrument (which I will make available for general use soon) in the OER context are large. Those developing and improving digital OER will be welcome and encouraged to use this instrument to get valid and reliable feedback from their students.

At the same time I was defending my dissertation (literally the day before), I traveled to Boise, ID to interview for the position of Director of Assessment in the State Department of Education (SDE). I was blessed to receive an offer for this position and after careful consideration decided to accept it. Less than a week after defending my dissertation, I was unloading the moving truck at our new house in Boise.The Director of Assessment position is a great fit for me because I have extensive training in educational measurement and enjoy working on educational policy issues. In addition, the senior staff at the Idaho SDE have expressed a keen interest in OER and have welcomed my expertise in this area. Given that I work next door to the Director of Content for the state, don’t be surprised to see some OER-related K-12 initiatives coming out of Idaho in the near future.

As the Director of Assessment, I look forward to leading Idaho into the next generation of K-12 assessment. In particular, I am excited to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)as the State Lead for Idaho (and possibly on some committees) and in preparing Idaho for the transition from its current statewide test to the more rigorous and technologically advanced test currently being developed by SBAC. This transition will be challenging for many reasons, but I am eager to lead out and contribute to improved assessment at the state and national levels.

Also, sometime during the week between the job offer and the move, we heard back from The Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME) that our latest OEG paper regarding student and teacher perceptions of OER will be published in the next issue. Good news indeed. Finally, I completed and submitted a draft of the OER Policy Guide I have been working on as the OER Policy Fellow at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). It should be published soon. The last deliverable for this position will be a collaborative content development guide for states who are wanting to develop OER aligned to the Common Core. I hope to have that finished by the end of April and will provide links to both documents as soon as possible.


New Research Article on User Perceptions of Open Textbooks

The latest article from the Open Education Group was published in the journal First Monday this week.

Here’s the abstract:


The Cost and Quality of Open Textbooks:
Perceptions of Community College Faculty and Students


Proponents of open educational resources (OER) claim that significant cost savings are possible when open textbooks displace traditional textbooks in the college classroom. We investigated student and faculty perceptions of OER used in a community college context. Over 125 students and 11 faculty from seven colleges responded to an online questionnaire about the cost and quality of the open textbooks used in their classrooms. Results showed that the majority of students and faculty had a positive experience using the open textbooks, appreciated the lower costs, and perceived the texts as being of high quality. The potential implications for OER initiatives at the college level seem large. If primary instructional materials can in fact be made available to students at no or very low cost, without harming learning outcomes, there appears to be a significant opportunity for disruption and innovation in higher education.

Access the full article here.

A follow-on study to the one reported in First Monday will appear in the next issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Keep your eyes peeled.