Reflections on OER at Salt Lake Community College

Photo by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash

I thought I would take this year’s open education week to briefly reflect on what we’ve accomplished with the OER initiative at Salt Lake Community College. Six years ago, we started with a small grant called Project Kaleidoscope. (Thanks David Wiley and Kim Thanos!) Brenda Gardner and Cesar Melo in our Math department took the plunge and piloted MyOpenMath with Lumen Learning. Around the same time, our lead geoscience faculty member Adam Dastrup began furiously authoring open content for his geography courses as part of a TAACCCT grant. And before OER was cool and the initiative officially started, then political science faculty (now our Associate Provost) David Hubert authored open textbooks for his courses.

Since then we’ve grown. And by grown, I mean that OER has moved from the margin to the center at SLCC. Our core general education of writing, math, and American institutions is primarily OER. This means that an SLCC transfer student really cannot avoid OER. Our best estimate is that transfer students now experience at least two open courses in their time at SLCC.

Open SLCC by the numbers

This academic year, we offered over 700 OER-based sections each semester. And we surpassed our goal of saving students 5 million in 5 years. In our sixth year, we just surpassed 9 million in student savings. We are the third largest adopter of OpenStax textbooks in the country. We have successfully scaled OER at SLCC, and it’s worth taking a moment during this open education week to celebrate our success.

Top adopters of openstax

I had the good fortune of happening on this work during the right time. Faculty were beginning to understand OER and recognize its value. I also benefit, our geography professor Adam Dastrup will be happy to know, from place. I live about 45 minutes from David Wiley in Utah, the place we cleverly called in our last statewide OER conference “The State of OER.” I have benefited from David’s knowledge and friendship.

More than geography, SLCC has been lucky in having great people. We have faculty and staff dedicated to the community college goal of open access education. At SLCC, we see open education as an extension of our mission and, more importantly, a part of the community college movement. (I have said before that community colleges were the original OERs.)

OER isn’t universal at SLCC. But it has become a norm. Most faculty at the college now at least consider OER when it comes to adopting learning resources. Even in those areas where OER isn’t adopted, the initiative has made us all more sensitive to price. We are also beginning to witness faculty engaging in open pedagogy. Our most recent example is the student co-created Biology lab manual

We still have our work cut out for us. My office needs to work on improving support for open content authoring at the college. We will be offering more structured engagement on open textbook projects. There will be more help with editing, peer review, and publication. We also need to do a better job of getting some of our work out there in the broader OER community. Our new library landing page of SLCC faculty-authored OER projects is a start.

But my main goal with this brief post is to pause and appreciate what we have accomplished — and, yes, brag a little bit on behalf of our institution. My colleagues deserve a lot of credit for really doing the work open education. I believe we have collectively built something special here at Salt Lake Community College. We are doing OER on a large scale by involving faculty (and increasingly students) in the necessary work of creating open courses.