The North Dakota University System Open Educational Resources Initiative is a 3-phased plan hinging upon a unique collaboration among the North Dakota legislature, the University System Office, and the faculty at public institutions across the state. At the intersection of these three entities are change leaders who have come together for a common goal of improving higher education by reducing textbook costs for students. A 2015 post previewed this work, and this post outlines the plan, the people, and the product.Project Inception
The American public has called for a change. Higher education is expensive and the national student debt load is collectively around $1.3 trillion. Lawmakers and educators in North Dakota are interested in ideas that might reduce the cost of attendance at ND public institutions. During the 63rd Legislative Session, Thomas Beadle, a young representative, sponsored a legislative study and resolution urging the North Dakota University System to increase the use of open textbooks as a way to cut costs for college students. In 2013, the Legislative council estimated that North Dakota students spent around $1,100 per year on textbooks. Rep. Beadle described how the idea came about:
“Going into the 2013 legislative session, I really wanted to focus on our students and how we can try to look at new ways of helping them. For years we have been talking about the growing levels of tuition and fees, but we hadn’t done anything that looked at the other costs associated with going to school. As a young, recent college grad, I remember how frustrating it was to have to buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of books each semester, and only be able to get a fraction of that cost back when I would try to sell them later on. I knew that the internet and technology was changing the game in how content was being delivered, but I hadn’t been seeing it on my campus, and knew that as a state we could do better.”
“In collaboration with some friends of mine, who had faced very similar frustrations about rapid cost increases for books and ‘silent expenses’ that went in to their education, we came up with Open Textbooks as being a first step for North Dakota to look at in order to try and help the students of the state not only save a few dollars, but also to help them get a more active learning tool.”
“While I knew about Open Textbooks and the impact that they could have, the whole world of Open Educational Resources was very foreign to me. Fortunately, we had Dr. Spilovoy, a very visionary leader in the ND University System who would take our resolution pushing the NDUS to explore this new technology and run with it. When I introduced the concept, and got legislative approval, I had hoped to start a conversation and try to move the ball forward a little bit. I hadn’t expected the tremendous snowball effect that it would create!”Gaining Funding and Support
In order for a system-wide initiative to succeed, there had to be stakeholders involved at every level. A bipartisan and student-focused group of legislators on the Interim Higher Education Funding Committee supported the idea and provided a platform for innovation and feedback. The North Dakota University System put together a team made up of faculty, a student, technologists, and provosts to draft a white paper exploring the concept of open textbooks in response to the legislative request. Because I work with Academic Affairs and Technology at the NDUS system office, I was on the team that wrote the white paper. And after the legislative session, I was asked to lead the Open Educational Resources Initiative for NDUS. Over the next few months, I spent a significant amount of time researching, planning, and preparing presentations, and collaborating with stakeholders across the North Dakota University System.
Governance, cost, collaboration and policy considerations were paramount to the planning process. I wanted to find and partner with a repository of open education materials instead of having to create and maintain a library. The University System is built on the concept of academic freedom. Faculty own the curriculum and choose materials for the courses they teach. I knew that faculty development, support and buy-in were key to the success of the project. An effective approach would be to empower campuses to create and implement open educational resources and textbooks in a way that best suited their unique mission, vision, and faculty. Finally, I knew that funding would be necessary and that the legislature would be interested in seeing a return on its investment. I put together a project concept and presented it at the Interim Higher Education Funding Committee.OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES PARTNERSHIP CONCEPT:
Improving Student Access, Affordability, and Academic Success
Textbook costs create a financial burden on college students that can impact their academic success and their financial health. North Dakota University System students each pay an estimated average of $1,100 per year for academic course textbooks. Open textbooks and other open educational resources can help alleviate the burden of textbook costs and reduce the cost of attendance. Open textbooks are complete, real textbooks that are licensed to be freely used, edited, and distributed. Open educational resources include peer-reviewed videos, simulations, lesson plans, and many other openly licensed materials.
By replacing traditional textbooks with open textbooks and open educational resources, the cost of attendance would be reduced without impacting the budget of the college or university. And faculty would have the opportunity to adopt open textbooks and educational materials that they can edit to best meet the needs of their students.
Concept Overview: Implement a system-wide Open Educational Resources initiative throughout North Dakota University System in three phases:
- Phase 1. Partner with the Open Textbook Network and the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library to build on proven success. Expand to other Open Educational Resources opportunities that would benefit our students and faculty. Phase I will introduce open textbooks to faculty with support, professional development, and stipends.
- Phase 2. Train a trainer at each campus so that the campuses begin taking ownership to reduce textbook costs for students. NDUS would also host an Open Educational Resources Summit.
- Phase 3. North Dakota Open Educational Resources Ideation Grant. Campuses would be challenged to design and implement their own campus-wide open educational resources initiative. Funded proposals will include support and collaboration from campus administrators, faculty, technologists, and others on campus. Proposals can include a variety of peer-reviewed open educational materials such as open and/or digital textbooks, videos, simulations, and other resources that replace traditional textbooks and reduce cost of attendance for students. Campus proposals will be funded based on actual dollars saved in student textbook costs.
The work between sessions set the stage for successful implementation. And in the 64th Legislative session, Representative Thomas Beadle introduced legislation to fund a project to increase the use of Open Educational Resources. The governor and legislature supported the project with funding even though overall budgets had been cut state-wide. The final budget appropriation was $110,000.
Of the legislative appropriation to support the Open Educational Resources Initiative, Rep Beadle said, “One of the benefits of a state like North Dakota, is that we are a small community. While that can be seen as a limitation by many, it has actually helped us experience rapid success. We are small enough to be nimble and adapt quickly. Every stakeholder knows that they need to work with others in order to get things done, and we need to develop and foster relationships to get things done well. We have really created a strong team atmosphere that is working together to push OER in North Dakota, and to make this a success for our students, our institutions, and our state. The buy-in and leadership we have seen on our campuses within the faculty has been tremendous, and the assistance provided by our University System office has been crucial. As a lawmaker who is responsible to the citizens and the taxpayers, being able to see the return on investment has been crucial. Knowing that we have the players and stakeholders all seeing benefits, and seeing ways that we can improve and operate more efficiently, has allowed us to be able to get legislative support for these initiatives, and hopefully to continue to provide that support in the future.”Data Shows Progress
In order to show progress, cost savings, and project success, I began working on baseline project data. In 2013, Babson Survey Group released “Opening the Curriculum: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2014.” I contacted Dr. Jeff Seaman of Babson Survey Group and asked if we could collaborate on a survey report comparing ND’s baseline data to the national survey data. He responded positively, and by October, 2015, we released “Opening Public Institutions: OER in North Dakota and the Nation, 2015.”
Key findings from the report include:
- NDUS faculty are more aware of open educational resources than their counterparts nationally.
- Similar to their peers nationally, NDUS faculty are taking the initiative with OER adoption. NDUS faculty report similar barriers to adoption; however, they also report that they are currently using a variety of OERs for instruction (primarily videos).
- More than half of NDUS faculty and those at national public institutions report that they are not sufficiently aware of OER to judge its quality.
- The most significant barrier to wider adoption of OER remains a faculty perception of the time and effort required to find and evaluate it.
- Faculty are the key decision makers for OER adoption. At the two-year Associates level, North Dakota University System faculty enjoy significantly more autonomy in the selection of course materials than their peers who teach at the associates level at public institutions nationally.
- A majority of North Dakota University System faculty say that they “will” or “might” use open resources in the next three years.
The NDUS joined the Open Textbook Network and began collaborating with other partner institutions already implementing open educational resources projects. I assembled a NDUS OER Steering Committee made up of a student representative, faculty members from each institution type, a legislator, and national experts in open education. In October, 2015, I organized a system-wide Open Educational Resources Summit at Valley City State University. Provosts were asked to send campus OER leadership teams made up of innovative faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and open-minded individuals. David Ernst, Ph. D., the Director of the Center for Open Education and Executive Director of the Open Textbook Network spoke and conducted a faculty workshop on open education and the adoption of open textbooks. Faculty that reviewed an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library and wrote a peer review received a $250 stipend.
The NDUS Open Educational Resources Campus Grants Call for Proposals was announced. Campus teams left the NDUS Open Educational Resources Summit energized to create their own campus plans and submit for funding.
On March 4, 2016, the OER Steering Committee met to review campus OER project proposals and give feedback. The initial state investment was $110,000. The first four funded proposals include estimated student cost savings of more than $2 million for school year 2016-2017. Three of the campus projects will provide faculty stipends to revamp general education courses using open source materials and textbooks. One project at the University of North Dakota will make Robinson’s “The History of North Dakota” an open textbook. Another round of grant proposals is due in October, 2016 with four more $10,000 institutional grants anticipated.
The final financial impact of this initiative will be calculated at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. In the words of Senator Tim Flakoll, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, “The Open Educational Resources Initiative could well go down in history as having the highest return on any higher education investment we’ve made in the last 25 years.”
___________________________________________________Call for Proposals: NDUS Open Educational Resources Special Projects
The North Dakota University System seeks grant proposals that implement high-impact, collaborative projects in support of open education and reduced textbook costs for students.
Applications for any amount of funding up to $10,000 are welcome from North Dakota University stakeholders, including faculty, librarians, technologists, administrators, students, and bookstore staff. Projects must involve the creation, adaptation or innovative use of Open Educational Resources (OER), which are educational materials that are openly licensed to the public to freely use, adapt, and share.
Sustainable adoption of OER is a complex issue with many parts, including course redesign, open material reviews, technology support, curriculum mapping, and much more. Project proposals will be evaluated using a rubric that balances the following criteria to prioritize impact and collaboration:
- Student savings on textbooks.
- Quality considerations such as use of peer reviewed resources, attribution/copyright clearance, and ADA compliance.
- Serving a campus or discipline where the availability or use of OER is underrepresented
- Collective commitments, such as:
- Department-wide commitments (for example, redesign all sections of a class, or all classes in a sequence), or
- Multi-institutional commitments (for example, collaborators on more than one community college campus, commitment to implement at more than one campus, or a 4-year partner).
- Institutional in-kind (e.g. release time) or cash match commitments (not required but may be considered favorably during the review process).
- Assessment plan to demonstrate improved student savings, learning, retention, and success.
Completed proposals should be no longer than three well-written pages and signed by the applicants and supervisors. The OER Steering Committee anticipates making 5-10 awards. Proposals are due 5 pm Monday, February 29, 2016. The NDUS OER Steering Committee will notify applicants by 5 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016.
___________________________________________________Tanya’s Tips and Take-Aways
- Focus on Students. When leading an Open Educational Resources project, focus on making a difference for students. It is motivating to think that more people will have the opportunity to access information, and that students won’t have to go into more debt because of high textbook costs. Student associations and leaders will be excited to help promote an Open Educational Resources Initiative.
- Empower the Faculty. Faculty rarely get to showcase the amazing things they do in their classrooms because they are busy focusing on and teaching students. Make faculty the super stars when talking about Open Educational Resources. Ask expert faculty to talk about how they’re using open textbooks and resources in their classrooms. You will be amazed what you’ll learn from faculty. The faculty will learn from them.
- Collect the Data. You need to show a return on investment. Collect baseline data on student textbook costs, faculty needs, barriers to adoption, and faculty understanding of Open Educational Resources and textbooks. At the culmination of the project, collect follow-up data so that you’ll be able to show growth, improvement, and textbook cost savings.
- Customize the Message. There are many reasons why replacing high-cost textbooks with free textbooks and resources makes sense. However, different groups of stakeholders care about different things. Customize your presentations and message to reflect what folks care about. Faculty are interested in protecting academic freedom, having the autonomy to choose and customize resources, adopting quality learning materials, and helping students meet the course objectives. Talk about how OER can meet faculty needs. Legislators and administrators are interested in initiatives that will be successful and reflect positively on their state and institutions. They want to see a good return on any monetary or time investment. Remember that legislators and administrators are also parents, neighbors, and friends; everyone cares about education. Students are interested in saving money, being engaged, and the convenience of accessing learning materials variety of formats on any device. All of these viewpoints are valid, and you’ll find great success if you focus your presentation on what matters to the audience.
- Find your People. There are innovative, excited, supportive people who are interested in improving higher education. Spend time with them and absorb their energy. Listen to their ideas; ask what they think of your ideas. Give them credit when they help you. All along this journey, there have been people who have opened doors, offered encouragement, and signed on the dotted line because they believed in it. There will also be people who hate change, and/or dislike you. There might even be folks who actively work to stop or sabotage your project. That’s ok. You don’t need to waste time trying to change them or fight about it. Think of them as part of the adventure. Smile, be polite but firmly state you will continue the work, and then find a pathway around their roadblocks. I’ve discovered that many of the people who initially resisted the project are now actively working to promote it. Focus your time and energy on the people who will contribute to the project’s success. Keep your eyes on the prize, and never give up on your goal.
Tanya M. Spilovoy, Ed. D.
Director, Distance Education and State Authorization
North Dakota University System
Back to school time can be a hectic time for both you and the kiddos. These are some of our best back to school tips to help ensure this school year gets off to a great start!
Walk or ride the route your child will take and make note of school patrols, crossing guards and high traffic areas along the way. Talk to your kids about NOT talking to strangers and find out what, if any, policies your child’s school has regarding early arrivals or late pick-ups. Learn about the school’s entrance and exit policies. Then, if you can, pop in and check out what the inside of the school looks like.
Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and ask him or her about the preferred method of communication. (Some teachers are active on email and social media, while others prefer the phone or in-person meetings.)
Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework. If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher sooner rather than later.
Limit the time that you let your child watch TV, and when you do decide to do TV time, make it a family affair. Talk together about what you see and ask questions after the show ends.
During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule, which is understandable. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your kids get back on track sleep-wise by having them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier at least a week in advance of when school actually starts.
Let’s face it – no one can concentrate when they’re hungry. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch Program.
It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements. And, always keep your own copies of any medical records.
Dorothy Amatucci is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education.
If you work in public service, you already know that feeling of self-fulfillment that comes from helping others, but you might not realize a potential added benefit of your public service work: federal student loan forgiveness.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. I know what you’re thinking … “qualifying” is used a lot of times in that sentence. How would you possibly know if you qualify? You don’t have to guess; there’s an easy way to determine your eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Submit an Employment Certification Form (sometimes called an ECF).1. What’s an ECF and why should I submit it?
An ECF is a form that you can complete and submit to keep track of your progress toward loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. It requires you to provide some basic information about you (the borrower) and your employer. Both you and your employer are required to certify that the information on your ECF is true, complete, and correct. Once you submit your form, the PSLF servicer will determine if your loans are eligible for PSLF and if your employer qualifies. Qualifying public service employment can include government work, teaching in a public school, or working at a non-profit organization.
If you think you might qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, there is NO reason not to submit an ECF. It only takes a few minutes of your time but could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you qualify. There is no cost to complete the form and it will give you peace of mind when you know where you stand when it comes to forgiveness.2. When should I complete an ECF?
If you work in public service and are repaying federal student loans, you should complete an ECF right away to confirm that you are making progress toward loan forgiveness.
After your first successful ECF submission, the Department strongly recommends that you submit an ECF every year or every time you change jobs to ensure your employment qualifies under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Your servicer will also provide you with an updated count of your qualifying payments each time you’ve submitted an approved ECF.
Let me be clear: This is not a one and done. You must provide documentation that you are employed by a qualifying employer (or employers) for a total of 120 months while making timely payments on an eligible repayment plan to qualify for forgiveness. That means you’ll need to submit an ECF for every qualifying job you work at, to cover that entire period of time. And an ECF is not the same as your annual income recertification if you are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan; it’s a completely different certification that serves a completely different purpose.
By regularly submitting ECFs, you’ll know exactly how much progress you’ve made toward loan forgiveness. Don’t wait until the end of those 120 months and find out too late that you weren’t meeting all of the necessary requirements.3. How do I complete an ECF?
Download this form. It’s a fillable PDF. Once you complete your information, print it out, sign it, and get your employer to sign it.
Then, you have three options:
- E-mail it to: AccountInfo@MyFedLoan.org.
- Fax it to: 717-720-1628
- Snail mail it to:
U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 69184
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184
Note: If FedLoan Servicing is already your federal student loan servicer, you can also upload your ECF through their online portal.Watch out for these common mistakes when you’re filling out the form:
1. Complete the entire form. Forms that are missing information or are incomplete account for almost half of the forms that get rejected. You must complete every field; if you need help completing the form, call 855-265-4038.
2. Get the proper signatures. If you AND your employer don’t sign the form, the PSLF servicer cannot assess your eligibility and your form will be denied.
3. Write clearly or better yet, type your information into the online form. If the servicer can’t read what you wrote, they won’t be able to properly determine your eligibility. When you download the form, type in your personal and employer information and then print it out to get the signatures. You don’t want to miss out on forgiveness due to something as silly as poor penmanship.4. What happens after I complete an ECF?
After you send your completed ECF, our Public Service Loan Forgiveness servicer, FedLoan Servicing will review your form to determine if (1) your loans are eligible for PSLF; and (2) your employer counts as a qualifying employer.
This assessment usually takes 5-7days. If you don’t meet these requirements, you will be notified that your ECF has been denied due to ineligible loans, ineligible employment, or a combination of these reasons. But if your loans and employer qualify, you will be notified that your ECF has been approved, and your federal loan account will be transferred to FedLoan Servicing (if your loans are not already serviced by FedLoan Servicing).
I want to emphasize that the terms and conditions of your loan(s) will not change when your loan(s) is transferred. This is a common concern from borrowers, so let me say it again: Your interest rate will remain the same and your payment amount will remain the same (unless you change your repayment plan).
Within approximately 7-10 business days of receiving notification that your ECF was approved, you should expect to receive notification from your current servicer (if it’s not already FedLoan) that your account will be transferred and then soon after, you will receive notification from FedLoan Servicing that they have received and are now servicing your account.
Next, FedLoan will take a look at the time period of qualifying employment certified on your approved ECF(s) and count the number of payments you’ve made during that time that count toward student loan forgiveness under PSLF. This part of the process could take a while, particularly if it’s the first time you submitted an approved ECF, if your ECF verified your employment for a long period of time, or if FedLoan needs to review payments you’ve made prior to 2010.
Remember, you must make 120 on-time (i.e. no more than 15 days after your due date) payments before being eligible to have the remainder of your loan balance forgiven. Once your payments are counted, FedLoan will report the number of qualifying payments you’ve made on your billing statements. They will also counsel you to get on a repayment plan that will allow you to benefit the most from PSLF (i.e. an income-driven repayment plan) and remind you to submit an ECF at least once a year.5. If I haven’t already submitted an ECF, does it mean I won’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
No, it’s not too late for qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. In fact, no one will be eligible for forgiveness until October 2017. But, that doesn’t mean you should wait until next year to take action.
There are lots of caveats associated with this program and you don’t want to play a guessing game when it comes to your financial future. Even if your employer qualifies, your loans might not; or if your loans and employer qualify, you might not be on a repayment plan that qualifies for student loan forgiveness or one that results in a remaining balance after 120 payments. Your student loan servicer can help you find the right repayment plan.
Simply, get the form and get to work. Document all of your public service employment history while you were making payments on your federal student loans (going back as far as October 2007 when this program first started). Complete Section 3 of the ECF or get your current and past public service employers to do so, and get their signatures. Then, submit the completed form to FedLoan Servicing. It’s that easy.
Tara Marini is a communications specialist at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
The post Get Rewarded for your Public Service Work with Loan Forgiveness appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
This year, I sent my youngest child to preschool.
Over the summer, we had the luxury of hours of cuddle time, reading books together, jumping on the trampoline and building endless Lego and wood block structures.
But now, it’s time for him to start his preschool journey – and I’m feeling a little hesitant about a few things.
First, I am really going to miss him every day. What if other kids say harsh things to him and his feelings get hurt? What if he trips and falls? Or, what if he has an accident and the teachers don’t comfort him as well as I can?
I’m worried about a lot – but I’m also very excited.
Noé’s preschool is diverse in a number of ways. Students are as young as two years old or as old as five. The student population is also made up of kids from different socio-economic backgrounds, as well as different ethnic and language backgrounds. Additionally, some families have a generational history of high levels of education while other may or may not have attained high school diplomas.
Every day, the teachers set up learning stations where students can create, arrange, construct, converse, act out, write, draw or play together.
But what’s most important is the way the teachers treat the children. They care about the children’s social-emotional health and they take the time to chat with me when they have a concern. I notice them watching the students closely, asking them questions and listening closely to how the children responds. Sometimes I see students get into arguments, usually about who gets to be included in a game or who gets to use a particular object. I notice the teachers mindfully observing. Will the children work through the problem on their own, or will they need a little guidance to help them get there? I notice their kind smiles and their gentle, yet firm, voices.
As an English/Spanish bilingual family, we know that Noé’s language and culture are regarded as an asset at his school. His Cambodian teacher is even trying to learn some Spanish to connect with him.
I also appreciate how children with autism, Down syndrome, and other special learning needs are included in his class and participate in play groups the same as other children. Noé is growing and learning in a classroom where everyone’s differences are celebrated and their contributions valued.
These formative years will allow Noé to be able to understand people better, to understand how a really inclusive community looks and feels, and understand how he’s a part of that community. That’s important to us.
Unfortunately, Noe’s preschool isn’t free, and this is a reality for many parents across the country. As a middle-class working family, we struggle to be able to pay the tuition, but we know it’s worth it.
Letting go of my kid as he ventures into an exciting new stage is tough, but I also know how right it is to send Noé to preschool. This is his time to grow and flourish and I can’t wait to root for him along the way.
Thea Fabian and her husband, Eduardo, have three children – Noé (age 4), Emerson (age 8) and Inés (age 12) – and live in Fresno, California.