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
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:
This material is adapted from original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.
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.2022 OER Grant Recipients
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.
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.
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.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.
Textbook Affordability and OER is a national movement. Below are some examples of states and institutions that are making student materials affordable:
Some organizations that provide resources for faculty who are interested in using OER:
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.
TN Open Education supports the following TBR Strategic Priorities:
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