College textbooks are expensive. Some states and universities are countering the cost by developing archives of OER course material and even degree programs that eschew paid textbooks entirely, and now Hawaii is joining the fun.
There is a bill before the state legislature which would require the University of Hawaii to establish a task force to promote OER course materials.
Establishes the University of Hawai‘i open educational resources task force to conduct a comprehensive analysis and evaluation on all general education courses and high attendance courses taught at the University of Hawai‘i system to identify open educational resources for those courses. Establishes and appropriates funds for an open educational resources pilot project grant program to incentivize faculty that adopt, develop, and implement open educational resources.
The bill is weak tea compared to the first version; an early draft of this bill required the University of Hawaii to adopt OER textbooks in all general education and high enrollment courses by 2020. It also placed onerous requirements on lecturers by having them provide course material where none was already available; that was dropped from the bill.
The bill was watered down after the UH faculty protested; they pointed out that this would lower the quality of course materials, and limit what could be discussed in class:
Additionally, mandating students rely only on instructor-created materials can literally mean students in some academic disciplines will only have access to information in the public domain due to copyright laws. This means students would only be able to learn from information that is minimally 75 years old and older. In a discipline like literature, courses that focus on contemporary literature would be wiped from the catalog. Exploring ideas and hearing voices of contemporary artists would be impossible. Students would be relegated to reading and discussing literature and responses to literature that only exists in the public domain. Students would not be able to further their literary studies through an examination of contemporary issues, a critical component of literary studies.
SB 2328 will severely handicap our students and prevent them from engaging with, reviewing, and learning from carefully vetted, current information as well as reduce their ability to learn from multiple points of view. Limiting students’ access to different opinions also reinforces the growing national voice disparaging facts as “false” as well as policies that call for elimination of words from official communication because one group of people find these words objectionable. Students’ perceptions, understanding, and knowledge will be limited to the point of view of the individual instructor. This defeats the purpose of obtaining a university education, as students’ ability to learn how to think critically will be severely compromised.
While they are for the most part correct, it is a shame that the university wasn’t required to at least convert the freshman gen-ed coursesand other core classes to OER. That would have saved students a lot of money without impacting academic quality.
The University of Hawaii does have an OER office, but it is less about encouraging and promoting the adoption of OER than making the option available to professors and lecturers.