Nearly ten years ago the Michelson 20MM Foundation was founded to tackle the broken publisher model. Textbooks prices were soaring and our education system was at an inflection point when it came to the high cost of instructional materials. Students and faculty needed an alternative to traditional overpriced publisher textbooks. With that goal in mind we awarded over $1 million to OpenStax, a new nonprofit publisher founded by Dr. Richard Baraniuk and based out of Rice University, to develop a library of freely available publisher grade openly licensed textbooks. 

Since our seed funding, OpenStax has grown to be the leading nonprofit publisher of open educational resources (OER). Today it boasts 42 titles and more than $1 billion in student savings since publishing their first open textbook in 2012. In just under a decade of operation, OpenStax has massively impacted teaching and learning, serving more than 14 million students worldwide. 

We are at yet another inflection point in the OER community as the Open Education Conference – after 16 years in existence – has redesigned itself through a community-driven planning process, guided by a steering committee and organizing partnership that includes: OpenStax, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), Colorado Department of Higher Education-OER Council, and the University System of Maryland Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation

With COVID-19 upending higher education, Michelson 20MM could not be more proud to have sponsored this year’s Open Education Conference to further proliferate the adoption of OER and drive down the cost of attendance for our students.  The conference took place virtually from November 9th to 13th. With the drastic “revisions” and “remixing” the conference underwent due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the new community-owned event model, we felt strongly that supporting the open education community was more important than ever. As such we were proud to be joining forces with other leaders in the movement to “reimagine open education.” 

To further community engagement we awarded registration scholarships to select students, faculty, and non-profit education advocates that stand to benefit from attending this premier gathering. We wanted to ensure that these members of the community have the opportunity to share their knowledge and connect with others. Over the course of the conference the Michelson Open Ed Scholarship recipients took over out Twitter account to share out the learnings they gained. In addition, we will be giving them another platform to share their attendee experience via our blog as we will be highlighting their conference reflections over the coming weeks. Scholarship recipients include:

April Akins- OER Librarian at Lander University, Greenwood, SC, USA

Alison Cole- Academic Librarian & Assistant Professor at Felician University, Rutherford, NJ, USA

Maria Guzman- Art History Faculty at College of Alameda, Oakland, CA, USA

Alyssa Loera- Digital Services & Technology Librarian at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Francis Mashalla- Instructional Designer at The Open University of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Michael Porter- Web Services at Lawson State Community College, Birmingham, AL, USA

Miryana Valenzuela- Student at Los Angeles Valley College, Valley Glen, CA, USA

Kayode Yussuf- Tech Lead at Creative Commons Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria

We were also proud to have two session’s at this year’s conference featuring the work of our Michelson Spark Grantees. U.S. PIRG’s research and outcomes were presented at Automatic Textbook Billing: An Offer Students Can’t Refuse? and the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education shared the resources they recently released at OER for Online and Emergency Remote Learning in Community Colleges. These sessions on the second day of the conference were viewed by over 200 attendees. We look forward to sharing more from this year’s conference over the next few weeks!

The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. Learn more at