Update from UHD OER Task Force
By Dr. Rob Austin McKee
Assistant Professor, Organizational Behavior
Marilyn Davies College of Business
Open Educational Resources, commonly referred to as OER, are changing higher education by making it more affordable for students and giving greater freedom to educators.
Texas defines OER as “a teaching, learning or research resource that is in the public domain or has been released under an intellectual property license that permits the free use, adaptation, and redistribution of the resource by any person. The term may include full course curricula, course materials, modules, textbooks, media, assessments, software and any other tools, materials, or techniques, whether digital or otherwise, used to support access to knowledge.”
That definition was part of Senate Bill 810, signed into law in June of 2017 by Governor Greg Abbott. The law requires that state institutions of higher education provide students with searchable lists of courses that designate which ones require or recommend only OER materials. The same Bill also created a new grant program to help professors transition to OER.
Last year, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) formed an OER Task Force to bring the University into compliance with this law, as well as to research and develop best practices for the implementation of OER and related options. Through the OER Task Force, UHD seeks to surpass the letter of the law and embrace its spirit by actively promoting greater use of OER and other free and low-cost materials within the University community to benefit its students and faculty. As such, the Task Force is considering a wide range of materials in this effort and has developed definitions for two new course designations that it hopes will become part of the vernacular of the UHD community.
The “No-Cost Resources” (NCR) designation will be used to label courses that use only free educational resources. Free educational resources are teaching, learning or research resources which are in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits the free use, adaptation and redistribution of the resource by any person; and/or educational resources provided to students free of charge, such as via the library and/or developed or otherwise vetted by faculty.
The “Low-Cost Resources” (LCR) designation will be used to label courses whose required course materials (e.g., textbooks, books, online workbooks, lab equipment, website subscriptions, third-party test proctoring, etc.) total no more than $50.
A key goal for the task force in the coming year is to develop a robust system for faculty to identify courses that satisfy these descriptions, with such information made available in an easy-to-use format for students to use as part of their registration process.
But these steps are just part of a growing movement that UHD has supported since well before the Task Force was created. For instance, the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence (CTLE) has been supporting OER issues for a few years now. Its latest effort is to make OER the focus of the Online Course Development Initiative (OCDI), an initiative for faculty seeking to design or redesign courses in which faculty earn a $4,000 development award. The UHD W.I. Dykes Library’s OER team is working with CTLE to help OCDI awardees find materials for their courses. Additionally, the CTLE also has offered training sessions on OER-related topics in the past as well as connect faculty with additional learning opportunities, such as an excellent series of workshops from the Online Learning Consortium. The UHD Library also has a research guide dedicated to OER. The UHD Library, CTLE and University Bookstore are working hand-in-hand with the OER Task Force to roll out information and initiatives to UHD faculty over the coming months.
For more information on these topics, please contact the OER Task Force (Dr. Ed Cueva, Chair, email@example.com), the CTLE (Georges Detiveaux, Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org), or the library (Pat Ensor, Executive Director, email@example.com). Look for future updates.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.