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Educators, students, and librarians across the country have made significant strides in public education around open educational resources and the barriers created by expensive course materials. As inflation rises across the board, students continue to make hard choices while their budgets shrink due to the high costs of higher education. It is estimated that college students in the United States spend, on average, $3B of financial aid on textbooks annually. Choosing open course materials means opening new opportunities for students.

Fueled by our commitment to advance affordable, equitable, culturally relevant, and high-quality learning experiences for postsecondary students, we put out a call for Michelson Spark Grants applications that support our 2022 focus areas:

  • Research the current gaps in understanding the scope and size of automatic textbook billing in California;
  • Support the implementation of California’s historic investment in the Zero Textbook Cost program in the California Community College system;
  • Execute public education campaigns targeting media outlets with national broad-reaching readership to educate policy makers and the broader public on course material affordability issues within higher education;
  • Analyze the collection and use of students’ data within courseware and digital textbooks;
  • Research that identifies the impacts open educational resources have on student outcomes, including retention and success.

To ensure that the proposed solutions would achieve the greatest impact in accordance with the 2022 OER Michelson Spark Grants criteria and needs of the communities served, we enlisted the help of our OER Spark Grants Community Advisors, a panel of OER community advisors who graciously guided the cycle. Following their review and recommendations, we are thrilled and proud to welcome the 2022 cohort of OER Michelson Spark Grantees!

Last year, the State of California made a historic investment in Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) degree programs within the Community College system. To help build capacity within the CCCs to anticipate the rollout of this program, The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) will support five community colleges through their Institute on Open Educational Resource, as they seek to meet the goals of the state’s investment. Specifically, AAC&U’s IOER will provide mentorship, training, and direct engagement over the course of a year as the five campuses develop and implement OER plans.

At the same time, Creative Commons (CC) will host 15 California Community College educators, librarians, and course designers for a CC bootcamp, or week-long training on copyright, open licensing, and open practices. While many educators look for ways to bring down the costs of their materials, they often lack clarity around open licenses and copyright permissions, which limit their efforts. CC Certification gives key individuals on campus the training needed to address areas of licensing confusion, and build readiness across the CCC system for the rollout of the state’s ZTC funds. With CC Certification, key individuals will become both advocates and resources for their campuses as they seek to limit barriers to OER adoption.

As campuses’ use of digital courseware and textbooks has expanded, especially with the spread of “inclusive access” style automatic textbook billing contracts, publishers are able to collect extensive amounts of student data; however, many higher education leaders and institutions lack the information necessary to ensure that student autonomy and data privacy are, in fact, upheld. As a result of this, SPARC will conduct an analysis of publisher collections and student data that will result in a set of resources specifically designed to help the higher education community protect students’ data privacy. SPARC has a membership that includes more than 200 libraries and academic organizations across North America and works for everyone to be able to “access and contribute to the knowledge that shapes our world. SPARC supports systems for research and education that are open and equitable.

We look forward to sharing more about each grantee and their project over the coming weeks!

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.

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