Recognizing open education

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Tennessee launches initiative to expand access to textbooks and other classroom resources.

This is Open Education Week, an annual global event to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education – particularly, open educational resources (OER).

Tennessee’s colleges and universities are recognizing the week by launching Tennessee Open Education, a statewide higher education collaboration that “crystallizes all the great work already underway across the state to provide affordable textbooks and class materials for students,” said Julie Roberts, associate chief academic officer at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and chair of the Textbook Affordability Task Force.

The THEC convened the Tennessee Textbook Affordability Task Force last spring to increase 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.

Tennessee students enrolled in public institutions spent an average of $1,400 on course materials in the 2018-2019 academic year, and in fall 2019, the average cost of materials for community college students was about $120 per course.  That creates barriers for and contributes to decisions not to purchase required materials, to drop and withdraw from courses, and to avoid certain majors altogether.

From physical textbook lending and library reserve programs to course materials comprised of library-licensed collections and subscriptions, faculty across the state are working to save students money by aligning their course learning outcomes with thousands of library-housed e-books, videos, and online scholarly journals.

To 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. For example, 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 on Thursday.

“Tennessee Open Education is the perfect example of our state’s commitment to equitable access, academic quality, and student success,” said Robert M. Denn, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents and task force member. “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.”

Is your college celebrating Open Education Week? Sound off on LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.