In our own backyard

Currently, Creative Commons USA is run out of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the American University Washington College of Law. Our small team of IP experts and organizers work with a host of institutions and organizations around the country, but today, we want to highlight some amazing work happening in our own backyard – right here at American University.

Below is an update from David Rose, Program Director of Open American:

Launched in the Summer of 2015, the Open American program has saved American University students nearly $400,000 to date. Based out of the Center for Teaching, Research & Learning (CTRL), Open American fosters the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in place of commercial texts to save students money while also advancing effective and innovative pedagogical practices.

18 AU faculty members have already adopted an open textbook or a collection of other open resources. With 21 new adoptions expected next year, in addition to the continual accrual of textbook savings from current adopters, the Open American program expects to surpass $1 million in student savings sometime in 2020.

While student savings is often the most talked about advantage of OER, pedagogical innovation continues to come out of the Open American program as well. For example, Professor John Willoughby paired his use of a free OER text with a course redesign to include in-class, TA-facilitated, active-learning sessions, giving students in his very large lecture class increased opportunity to practice applying economic principles. Professor Sorangel Rodriguez-Velazques used her OER grant to develop highly customized course materials, creating a comprehensive, digital Chemistry of Cooking textbook.

Earlier this year, AU joined the Open Textbook Network (OTN), an active community of over 600 campuses across the country (that’s about 15% of higher education!) that promote access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks. Based at the University of Minnesota, the OTN hosts a library of open textbooks that are peer reviewed and available for free use. As an OTN member, AU will continue to promote greater awareness and use of open teaching materials, and to offer professional development activities.

Most recently, Open American has started to expand beyond the walls of CTRL. Completely independently, the AU Library recently launched an open access publishing fund which has been a convenient avenue to build camaraderie and mutual goals between CTRL and the library. An all-things-open libguide is in the works, as are joint presentation at departmental meetings.

The Open American program has also started working with U.S. PIRG, a student-run and funded public interest group that has made textbook affordability one of their top initiatives. If you found yourself on main campus this fall, you might have come across them on the quad one Wednesday afternoon, successfully collecting hundreds of signatures from students and faculty alike who all made commitments to lower the cost of textbooks and other course materials.

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