Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are celebrating national Open Education Week this week (March 1-5), as part of a statewide collaboration among colleges and universities in lowering textbook costs by expanding the use of freely available, openly-licensed Open Educational Resources (OER).
The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as “high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.” Beyond cost-savings, when used in place of traditionally copyrighted, high-cost textbooks, OER have been associated with improved course outcomes and students taking more classes, which ultimately helps them progress more quickly to graduation.
“We are excited about the statewide partnership between our public institutions," said Julie Roberts, Associate Chief Academic Officer at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and chair of the Textbook Affordability Task Force. “Tennessee Open Education crystallizes all the great work already underway across the state to provide affordable textbooks and class materials for students.”
The launch of Tennessee Open Education coincides with Open Education Week. Open Education Week is an annual global event designed to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education. To commemorate the event and celebrate the launch of Tennessee Open Education, faculty from across Tennessee will offer over a dozen presentations ranging from introductory sessions to sessions on the innovative teaching techniques enabled by the open licenses of OER materials.
On Thursday, faculty teams from Tennessee community colleges awarded grants in October to create learning materials for their courses that students can use for free will participate in an online panel discussion about their work.
“Tennessee Open Education is the perfect example of our state’s commitment to equitable access, academic quality, and student success,” said Dr. Robert M. Denn, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents and member of the Task Force. “In addition to the affordability factor, open educational resources can foster greater student engagement with the material, which we know leads to increased student learning outcomes.”
The THEC Textbook Affordability Task Force increases equity of opportunity by decreasing textbook costs for students through strategic use of technology and partnerships. The Task Force consists of representatives across Tennessee higher education, including the Tennessee Board of Regents, The University of Tennessee system, and the six locally governed universities. Since their inaugural meeting March 2020, members of the Task Force have launched a website and listserv, hosted professional development events, and secured funding for the first statewide OER repository, scheduled to launch spring 2021.
For more information and a complete schedule of Open Education Week activities, visit https://www.openeducationweek.org/. For announcements and events in Tennessee Open Education, visit https://www.tn.gov/thec/bureaus/academic-affairs-and-student-success/textbook.html or email email@example.com to join the listserv.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.