The expansion of open educational resources (OER) in higher education has led to a rush of commercial companies looking to provide OER-related services. Many if not most of these companies have brought products to market based on loose assumptions about what OER actually are and few have taken the time to learn and apply principles of the open education community that underlie the increase in OER use. Our group at Macmillan Learning strives to be different.
Like other commercial publishers new to open education, we first understood OER only in terms of open textbooks and other resources that were disrupting the business of our commercial titles. But unlike most companies, our desire to learn from the people advancing open education, through conference attendance, campus visits, countless phone calls, and some “constructive” criticism on Twitter, led us to realize that the mission of open education complemented Macmillan Learning’s own mission to improve lives through learning. This was evident to me at my first Open Education conference and has carried through as teams at Macmillan and Intellus Learning focus on bringing OER-awareness to our company and incorporate principles of open education into our activities and services.
Engaging with people and learning from them often results in correcting course, and correcting course is easier when there are guide posts to follow. It should start by taking a “do no harm approach” to avoid openwashing; it is carried forward with the 5Rs of open licensing (retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute) that provide a structure to the promise of openly licensed content; and last fall, the offering of the CARE Framework provided an outline on not only how we can provide material and support services but how we orient ourselves to the open education community. The introduction of the CARE Framework has proven valuable context to mature our organization’s understanding of open education.
We understand the CARE Framework is not a set of criteria to check-off, but the beginning of a conversation. The conversation starts with access, but how we improve learning through the use of OER immediately follows. Pre-packaged free alternatives to commercial products will not suffice. Agency, empowerment, and validation are needed, too. To that end, the value of the Intellus Learning platform exists in the insights it provides on licensing and accessibility, its value in reducing information gaps and increasing efficiency in the discovery and usage of OER.
Most OER-related services provided by commercial companies follow the money, and those companies believe the money lies solely in supplying services for general education courses. There is no shortage of companies claiming that they have the out-of-the-box solution to OER usage in introductory psychology, college physics, or U.S. history. Few companies, however, are developing resources that support the use of OER throughout the curriculum. The Intellus Learning platform enables instructors and course designers to discover and select resources from a database of more than 6 million OER assets structured in a taxonomy built around the undergraduate curriculum. In addition, Intellus Learning can provide insight into use of popular library databases like EBSCO, ProQuest, Springer and Films on Demand (just to name a few), and as a result it can be used to effectively identify, aggregate and deliver OER and freely available resources up and down the curriculum - not just in general education courses. Since Intellus-identified OER is delivered through the campus LMS, full-scale campus implementations can be more easily managed by campus technology.
To make finding and delivering open educational resources even easier, we created Intellus Open Courses, using carefully curated, quality OER delivered via a customizable, affordable course to students. Each Intellus Open Course contains content from openly licensed eBooks and instructor resources such as presentation slides and test bank questions that have been created by Macmillan Learning and shared under Creative Commons licenses. Each course includes additional open and freely available resources including YouTube videos, optional institutional library content, primary source documents, and more. In our effort to ensure we are not charging for open content that can be freely-accessed elsewhere, all content that is included in an Intellus Open Course is linked to on our public website, no passwords, no paywall.
Also unlike other offerings, central to our mission is to enable instructors to make each course their own by taking advantage of the powerful search and discovery tools within Intellus Learning to add or remove content and design their course to fit their individual course needs. Adopters of Intellus Open Courses receive support services, including on-demand training and implementation support.
The CARE Framework as well as so much of the work by the open education community has helped us become better participants in the conversation around open education. We welcome more feedback on how we are doing and look forward to many future conversations about how Macmillan Learning can be a participant in the broader mission of open education. Tell us your thoughts below, tweet us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Linsmeier is senior vice president, content strategy, at Macmillan Learning, where he manages the social science, curriculum solutions, and high school programs. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, he began his career at Macmillan Learning in 2000.