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TN Open Education


Tennessee Launches TN Open Education

Tennessee is leading the nation in college access and student success initiatives through its suite of Drive to 55 programs, such as TN Promise and TN Reconnect. However, textbook costs continue to be a barrier to student learning and equitable access. 

As part of a statewide, broad-based response to this challenge, the THEC Textbook Affordability for Student Success Task Force started TN Open Education, a statewide movement to expand the development and use of open educational resources (OER).

Textbook costs are forcing many of our students to make decisions that compromise their academic success. Major studies show that 66.6% of students do not purchase the required textbook. Because of this:

37.6% earn a poor grade

19.8% fail a course

47.6% take fewer courses

45.5% do not register for a course

26.1% drop a course

20.7% withdraw from courses

Impact of Textbook Costs on Students

Open Educational Resources (OER)


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines Open Educational Resources (OER) as “…teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

A useful way to appreciate the value of OER is to understand what you, the user of openly licensed content, are allowed to do with it. These permissions are granted in advance, and are legally established through Public Domain or Creative Commons copyrights:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

This material is adapted from original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Open Educational Resources Grant Program

The TBR OER Grant program provides opportunities for teams of faculty, librarians, instructional designers and other professional staff to transform courses currently using commercially-published textbooks to courses using open educational resources and other more affordable materials.

The primary purpose of this grant program is to increase equity in access to quality, low cost, and inclusive educational materials through open education resources in order to increase success rates and improve educational outcomes for traditionally underserved students.

TBR’s Offices of Academic Affairs and Organizational Effectiveness are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Open Educational Resources Grant. Awards have been made totaling $477,624.00 for 19 faculty-led teams at 11 colleges and universities to create open educational resources (OER) for their courses. 72 faculty members, librarians, instructional designers, and other professional staff will collaborate and innovate within and across campuses to transform their courses with support from the OER Grant Program. 

File 2022 OER Grant Recipients


TN Open Education Partners with ATD for Student Success

The TBR Community Colleges are part of the Achieving the Dream Network, a national reform movement for student success, created in 2004 to help community colleges close academic achievement gaps for low-income and minority students and assist all students achieve their goals of academic success and economic opportunity.

TN Open Education is designed to address some of the same barriers to access, quality, and success that defines the ATD mission. Modeled after the Achieving the Dream (ATD) OER Degree Initiative, TBR is pursuing an zero-textbook-cost degree (z-degree), which coupled with TN Promise and TN Reconnect, would greatly reduce the cost of attendance at TBR colleges. TN Open Education is not only about affordability, but prioritizes faculty/student engagement and pedagogical innovation. 

Research and Resources

TBR’s Office of Policy and Strategy developed a model for assessing the DEI pilot and scale-up. This assessment utilized surveys and information from TBR’s student information system, including student enrollment and course data. Additionally, the Policy and Strategy team engaged campus Institutional Research and Effectiveness offices to coordinate the assessment with existing processes as the IR offices have the infrastructure and expertise to deploy surveys, track the assessment of student learning outcomes, and communicate with faculty about the assessment process. This assessment also incorporated data from Follett (TBR’s bookstore contractor) about the adoption, costs, and utilization of textbooks and course materials.

  • A mixed methods approach used both quantitative data and qualitative elements. 
  • Process evaluations sought to identify any problems associated with technology integration, faculty development, or print/digital alignment. 
  • Surveys of faculty and student experiences and perceptions were structured to elicit feedback and unanticipated outcomes.

Spica, E. (2020). PERC Report: 2019 Tennessee Community College Student Course Materials Survey. Knoxville, TN: Postsecondary Education Research Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Griffiths, R., Mislevy, J., Wang, S., Ball, A., Shear, L., Desrochers, D. (2020). OER at Scale: The Academic and Economic Outcomes of Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

PDF icon Colvard, N., Watson, E., Park, H (2018). The impact of open educational resources on various student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.

TBR’s Accessibility Guiding Principle

The Tennessee Board of Regents seeks to provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to use instructional materials and technologies that allow them to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as persons without disabilities in an equally effective and equally integrated manner and with substantially equivalent ease of use. 

The TN Open Education is working to reduce the financial and access barriers often associated with textbooks, resulting in increased quality and functionality of the student experience for those working towards obtaining their educational goals. The accessibility of these digital materials is a critical element in the success of our students in that it magnifies TN Open Education's purpose in reducing barriers for all students. 

Accessibility Initiative

TN Open Education supports the following TBR Strategic Priorities: 

  • Access – TBR institutions will optimize gateways to higher learning through the effective use of technology. 
  • Student Success –The TBR System will explore, develop, and apply new technologies and technology-based delivery methods to enhance teaching, research, service, and student achievement.
  • Quality – TBR will provide high quality academic programs, faculty, services, and facilities at all levels and will sustain academic rigor with a commitment to continuous quality improvement processes to help students succeed.
  • Resourcefulness & Efficiency – TBR will achieve its mission through innovation and judicious use of resources. 

TBR is a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Textbook Affordability Task Force

For more information about TN Open Education, please contact:

Robert M. Denn, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs