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One of the larger concerns from the tremendous growth of the open educational resources (OER) movement over the past decade is that learnings and resources are often siloed across institutions and systems of higher education. If a learning occurs or a resource is developed at one school, there is often no guarantee that a school within the same state will have access to it. This situation can unfortunately often lead to duplicative efforts or stunted outcomes when it comes to OER. With these challenges in mind, the Michelson 20MM Foundation has awarded a Spark Grant to California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) to advance work that breaks down OER learning silos across the state.

In recent years, CSUCI has emerged as a national leader in textbook affordability through its “OpenCI” initiative. Since launching in 2016, OpenCI has benefited more than 44,000 enrollments, saved students over $5 million dollars, and introduced the first three zero-textbook-cost undergraduate majors (aka, “Z-Majors”) in the entire California State University (CSU) system. Our grant will support them in creating the California Alliance for Open Education (CAopenEd).

A Concerted Effort 

CAopenEd will enable OpenCI’s unprecedented success to extend beyond CSUCI’s campus by creating a statewide resource and training center to support OER’s use and the creation of additional Z-Major pathways, as well as collaborative research efforts to explore OER/Z-Majors’ impact on student success. CAopenEd will be a resource to OER advocates throughout the CSU, University of California, and California Community College systems. Our hope by seeding this project is to continue to see positive OER growth across all three systems of higher education in California. Once established, CAopenEd aims to enhance OER pedagogy, increase its number of Z-Majors in the state, and positively influence the state’s OER policy and practices. 

This grant builds on Michelson 20MM’s efforts to ensure OER advocates from across California are working in a cohesive manner. To that end, we played a supporting role in launching the Cal OER Conference, which earlier this month was the first conference focused on OER organized by the three systems of public higher education in California. 

“California continues to be a leader in the OER space,” said Phillip Kim, CEO of the Michelson 20MM Foundation. “As OER thought leadership advances across various areas of our state, there needs to be a concerted effort to facilitate collaboration so that OER grows in an effective manner across our public higher education ecosystem. We are pleased to support CSUCI as they develop CAopenEd for that exact purpose.”

CAopenEd will help connect resources, provide support, and gather research data to address and expand upon innovative approaches to OER across California’s entire higher education system.

Establishing a Working Model

The CAopenEd project will launch with a new website, which will serve as an interactive space for cross-campus collaboration and resource sharing. The team will then look to create faculty development materials, with an emphasis on general education courses and Z-Major pathways. More specifically, these materials will include (1) customizable templates, (2) step-by-step process guides, and (3) sample promotional materials for developing, implementing, and sustaining Z-Major pathways at other campuses throughout California and beyond. The goal is to provide resources so that schools throughout the state can effectively build OER programs at their institutions based on CSUCI’s proven model.

CAopenEd will also support collaborative research to offer empirically-informed best practices on OER pedagogy, university policies/procedures, and statewide legislative decisions. CAopenEd will assemble a small research team of faculty within California with expertise in statistics and data analysis to thoroughly examine existing data through the lens of student outcomes, as opposed to cost savings analyses typically shared in relation to these efforts. Although the initial analysis will be of CSU data, the broader goal is to identify a data analysis model for measuring the impact of low-cost/no cost courses on student outcomes and then share it externally for institutions across the state to begin running their own local data analyses. In subsequent years, CAopenEd plans to assemble teams to replicate the method for the CC and UC systems, hopefully resulting in a comprehensive assessment of the impact that low/no-cost options have for students across California’s public institutions of higher education.

“We are excited to work closely with the CSU Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) efforts and make important connections with UC and CCC system OER initiatives to collaborate, ideally creating long-term impact for student success and affordability across California,” said Jaime Hannans, associate professor of nursing at CSUCI.

Once CAopenEd is established, CSUCI hopes to further expand its reach with potential long-term plans, including (1) Z-Major certifications, (2) faculty fellowships, (3) award programs, (4) digital badges, (5) periodic white papers, and (6) research consortiums. This 5- to 10-year timeline highlights CAopenEd’s capacity for exponential growth and impact in the OER space within California and beyond.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.