Teamwork is key to the success of this play. Given the organizational will-power and stakeholder alignment that need to come together to set aside funding expressly for OER, this approach can be a doozy. But when an institution or group of institutions can band together and allocate budget funding to support OER adoption, it’s a huge win for the campus community. This funding may be used for a variety of things:
- Professional development, mentoring & training (for faculty, librarians, instructional designers, etc.)
- Mini-grants and other incentives to encourage faculty adoption of OER
- Technology (e.g. platforms, integration)
- Learning tools to make OER a better or more effective learning experience for students
- Services and support around learning design and learning effectiveness (e.g. instructional design, learning data analysis, etc.)
- Project management to direct OER adoption
The primary advantage to this approach is that students incur zero additional course materials costs, since costs are covered by the institution. Institutions using this approach should track what happens with student outcomes such as cost savings, passing rates, retention rates, and term-over-term enrollment levels. Often OER initiatives help drive improvements in these student outcomes, and this can help campus leaders tell a compelling story about return-on-investment for budget allocated to OER. This play also gives an institution some great fodder for marketing their programs as affordable.
Student government can be a powerful ally lobbying institutional leadership for this type of funding approach because it directly impacts affordability, an issue many student leaders care about deeply.
A primary disadvantage to running this play is that sustaining ongoing funding can prove difficult when there is a lot of turnover in the executive sponsor role. Also, when budgets tighten (for whatever reason), funding for innovation-related initiatives is often at higher risk. If there is uncertainty about political support for funding for OER initiatives over the longer term, this approach becomes inherently risky, since OER supporters will have to re-fight the funding battle over and over again.
Below are a few examples where institutions and systems have pulled together to make it happen:
- Virginia Community College System. VCCS was successful in funding costs for system-wide OER efforts by pulling from the technology budgets of each of their community colleges based on institution size).
- South Texas BASOL Program. South Texas’s Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership utilizes OER and has wrapped up textbooks costs as part of tuition so that students do not incur any additional fees.
- SUNY & CUNY Systems: Under leadership from the state’s governor, the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems received significant funding for open educational resources, earmarked specifically to address affordability and making quality educational resources available to all students. Both systems are exploring how to use this “windfall” funding to create structural, sustained support for OER.
Example: Tidewater Community College Z-Degree. Tidewater is part of the Virginia Community College system, and they have used OER to create several zero-cost degree programs.
Example: South Texas BASOL Program. South Texas’s Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership is the first competency-based bachelor’s degree from a Texas public institution,