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By Cailyn Nagle

As 2023 begins, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the successes and opportunities that 2022 presented. 

It was a big year for open educational resources (OER)—from OpenStax becoming the fourth largest publisher of textbooks to OER outpacing traditional materials in quality assessments. There were significant anniversaries and events worth celebrating. While we were thrilled by some exciting ideas and progress, there were also moments that made us raise our eyebrows and say, “No thank you.” 

As with all Michelson 20MM Foundation initiatives, Spark Grants are a cornerstone of our OER program. Through Spark Grants, we support capacity building, research, and projects meant to quickly build ramps that launch our partner’s work to the next level. Projects focused on two main areas of interest: building capacity within the California Community College system for the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) degree program and better understanding the impacts of automatic textbook billing nationally. This year, we look forward to opening another cycle of funding, focused on OER.

With the pandemic accelerating the uptake of “Inclusive Access,” “Equitable Access,” and other forms of automatic textbook billing, Michelson 20MM continues to inspect the impacts of these practices. Building on previous Spark Grants such as the Automatic Billing research from US PIRG and the launch of InclusiveAccess.org, we are excited to support SPARC in continuing to build out the understanding of these practices by looking into how large publishers use the student data harvested through automatically billed digital course materials. 

With the opportunity created by Governor Newsom’s historic $115 million investment in ZTC degree pathways within the California Community Colleges (CCC) system, Michelson 20MM is focused on supporting this project across the finish line. Both Creative Commons and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U’s) capacity building initiatives support the rollout of this ambitious program by providing faculty and staff with resources and skills. 

Early this year, Creative Commons, the CCC Academic Senate’s OERI committee, Skyline College, and Michelson 20MM will team up for a bootcamp where 15 educators will earn a certification in Creative Commons licensing, a key underpinning of the open ecosystem. AAC&U first started their OER Institute two years ago, teaming participating campuses with professional development opportunities and mentors to build out OER plans for their schools. In the coming year, Michelson 20MM is proud to continue sponsoring five campuses.

In addition supporting the rollout of the ZTC program through our Spark Grant, we continue to advocate directly for a rollout of a program centering the needs of educators and students and based on best practices laid out by faculty and other OER experts. Whether we’re making our voices heard in public comments at CCC Board of Governors meetings or through opinion editorials, Michelson 20MM continues to call for a transparent, equitable, and timely implementation of the ZTC pathways.

As we embark upon a new year, we want to applaud the broad and diverse world of OER advocates, practitioners, and creators. The work of creating a more inclusive and open world is challenging, but together we can unlock doors and then leave them open behind us. 

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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