For many of us, the drive to effect positive change—however vague or idiosyncratic our sense of this might be—has guided our work in higher education. And while myriad reasons exist for supporting a liberal education, we often champion the pursuit of a college degree from the practical perspective that few endeavors can match it in terms of advancing a person’s economic mobility (Chetty, Friedman, Saez, Turner, & Yagan, 2017). Despite recent debates about the value of a college degree (Pew Research Center, 2017), the opportunities and financial stability awarded to those with college degrees remain apparent when they are compared to peers who have only graduated high school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). And while more Americans have a college degree than ever before (Ryan & Bauman, 2016), access to a formal, post-secondary education continues to be elusive for some. Indeed, over the last 10 years, analysts have projected that the cost of attending college would keep 2.4 million low-to-moderate income, college-qualified high school graduates from completing a college degree (Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, 2006). During that same period, college students in the United States saw expenses related to tuition and fees increase by 63 percent, school housing costs (excluding board) increase by 51 percent, and textbook prices increase by 88 percent (Bureau of Labor, 2016). Because few students can afford a college education through salary alone, 44.2 million Americans have sought financial aid via student loans. As a result, total student loan debt is now topping $1.45 trillion in the United States (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2017), and student loan delinquency rates are averaging 11.2 percent (Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2017). The burden of a student’s financial decisions extends beyond the mere individual: society will inevitably carry the weight of this debt for years to come. As a means of making college more affordable and promoting access to educational content, many of us look to open educational resources (OER) as a catalyst for positive, tangible change. Residing in the public domain or licensed in such a way that they are made free for use and repurposing by others (Hewlett Foundation, n.d.), these open teaching, learning, and research resources not only serve as alternatives to commercial educational products, they promote new relationships between academic communities and educational content. Take, for instance, the Project Management for Instructional Designers (PM4ID) (2016) project that David Wiley undertook with instructional design students at Brigham Young University. Though open project management textbooks existed, none addressed the work of instructional designers in particular. Rather than make do with a general textbook, the affordances of openly licensed content engendered Wiley’s students to work as co-authors and -editors on the content of a new, specialized open textbook that is still widely distributed and updated regularly. Thanks to OER, students became consumers and producers of increasingly valuable content while Wiley’s assignments and course materials became only more relevant to the context of his class.
Citation Type: Book