CSU Pueblo Leads the Way on Access and Affordability; Adopts Governor Polis’s Open Education Challenge

Colorado State University Pueblo has received its second grant award for the development and support of “Open Education Resources,” often referred to as “OER.” In 2019, CSU Pueblo was the recipient of a $45,000 grant from the state.

Jonathan Poritz
Jonathan Poritz

In 2020, CSU Pueblo will receive $51,000. The funding is provided by the state of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) as part of Governor Polis’s “zero textbook cost challenge.”

CSU Pueblo’s vision, “to become the people’s university of the Southwest United States by 2028,” was designed to prepare students for work in a rapidly changing world.

“CSU Pueblo is committed to measuring our success by the success of our students. Students today expect easy and affordable access to materials, innovative teaching, and learning opportunities that map to meaningful work. I cannot imagine an effort better suited to serving students than our ongoing efforts to create OER. We accept the Governor’s challenge to become a zero textbook cost campus.”

Timothy Mottet, CSU Pueblo President

At the heart of OER initiatives are issues of increasing both access and affordability, specifically around the rising cost of textbooks and other required classroom materials.

According to a study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, between 2002 and 2012, the cost of university textbooks increased more than 80%. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that textbook prices rose by 1,041% from 1997 to 2015.

“Our world is changing and our educational experience needs to change along with it,” said Kacie Adair, CSU Pueblo Associated Students’ Government President.  “As students, we believe that the use of OER in our classrooms is the first step of a longer journey to transform a traditional educational experience into something that can better serve all students,” said Adair.

“OER include textbooks, but also software, videos, test banks, and more. These sources are free, in that their cost is $0. They are also open to re-purposing by others, in that they may be modified, customized, excerpted, and mixed with other works. Last year, we spent $16,000 to support faculty and their commitment to create new open education materials. The resulting materials were used in all sections of those classes in the fall of 2019, as it is again being used in the spring of 2020. The combined savings to our student body in this first year is already more than $100,000. That is a 6.25-fold return on investment in the first year — and the cumulative return on that initial investment will double in year two, triple in year three, and so on.”

Jonathan Poritz, an Associate Professor of Mathematics and the Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at CSU Pueblo, also served as the CDHE-appointed chair of the statewide OER Council.

Poritz is a recognized international expert on cybersecurity, Creative Commons licensing, and open educational resources.

“One perspective on OER is that it’s all about the academic freedom: being locked into a commercial publisher’s book is not academic freedom; academic freedom would be like the freedom we have in scholarship to quote each other and modify each other’s work and share our work wherever and however we want—those are exactly the kinds of things open licenses allow us to do with OER but not with commercial textbooks,” said Poritz.

The Colorado OER initiative was established in 2018 in HB8-1331 with $600,000 dedicated to expand “the use of open educational resources at public institutions of higher education… creating the Colorado open educational resources council, creating a grant program to support the creation and use of open educational resources.” The bill directs CDHE, by 2021, to adopt guidelines requiring public institutions of higher education to inform students concerning those courses that use open educational resources. As part of Governor Polis’s proclamation, March 2 – March 6, 2020 was declared “Open Education Week” in Colorado.

CSU Pueblo is a member of the Open Textbook Network (OTN). According to the OTN, 44% of faculty who receive OER training and submit reviews on existing materials end up adopting OER in their classes.

“The Library, as an academic unit that crosses disciplinary boundaries, has prioritized the support of faculty members across campus who are developing open educational resources (OER),” said Rhonda Gonzales, the dean of the library at CSU Pueblo and chair of the campus OER committee. “The Library also creates online guides for faculty, maintains membership for the campus in the Open Textbook Network (OTN), and collaborates to provide professional development for faculty. OER is central to the Library’s mission to provide free access to information that supports teaching and learning across campus.”

CSU Pueblo’s current OER work engages CSU Pueblo faculty in innovative thinking around transforming teaching and learning and is expected to save students nearly $1 million in textbook costs by 2021. Upcoming projects include:

  • creating a text for an advanced engineering class
  • moving another engineering class to use open-source software tools rather than commercial software
  • adapting/customizing an introductory sociology text
  • creating materials for an Italian language course
  • creating a text for teaching future teachers of children’s literature
  • creating a text for research methods in social work
  • creating texts in exercise science, creative writing, an lab book for biology courses

To find out more about CSU Pueblo’s commitment to adoption of open educational resources, contact Dean Rhonda Gonzales at rhonda.gonzales@csupueblo.edu.

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