Earlier this year, Michelson 20MM launched a previously unplanned Michelson Spark Grant funding cycle to address the urgent needs affecting higher education due to the pandemic. One issue we felt needed a strong assist from philanthropy was support for open educational resources (OER), which are perfectly suited for the transition to remote instruction. These freely licensed materials reside in the public domain and include textbooks, courses, tests, software, and other educational tools that can elevate distance learning.

The pandemic continues unabated and schools are expected to rely on remote classes for the Spring 2021 semester. There are even discussions that online education may continue into next summer at California Community Colleges (CCC). Unfortunately, the economic turmoil students are facing has resulted in decreased enrollment at community colleges nationwide, particularly among Black students. At CCC schools, Fall enrollment has dropped 5% to 7%

With faculty adapting instructional materials for distance learning, and students facing economic hardships that make it difficult to stay enrolled, now is the time for instructors to adopt OER. Open educational resources have proven to lower the cost of instructional materials for students and boost enrollment. Since most OER are digital, they are easily accessible during the current era of pandemic instruction and beyond. Plus, the customizable nature of OER creates learning experiences that engage students even at a distance.

This spring we awarded an emergency Michelson Spark Grant to the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management (ISKME) to fund their work in helping instructors make the transition to OER. ISKME used the grant to develop a guidebook and series of webinars to support the faculty at CCC and other institutions. The guidebook was recently released and includes sections on the following topics:

  • Practical strategies for using OER to build courses in Canvas
  • Considerations for using OER to create more accessible learning experiences 
  • Considerations for using OER to create more social justice-oriented learning experiences
  • Background information on the what and why of OER, and tips for finding open materials

Instructors interested in learning more about using OER to enhance remote teaching are invited to join our upcoming webinar on Wednesday, December 2nd at 12pm PST. This session will present findings of ISKME’s research on how community colleges are utilizing OER to support the shift to remote learning in response to COVID-19. 

The webinar will also include presentations and discussions led by Jodie Steeley, Director of Distance Education & Instructional Technology at Fresno City College, followed by Fresno City faculty and student use cases demonstrating implementation of the college’s OER-supported model for emergency remote learning. Register today!


The Michelson 20MM Foundation was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. Michelson 20MM  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. Learn more at www.20mm.org. From October 22nd to November 12th we will be running a Michelson Spark Grant funding round focused on our Student Basic Needs Initiative. Learn more here.

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