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About this project: The Kentucky Virtual Library, a unit of Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), has convened an Affordable Learning Steering Committee to explore opportunities for a coordinated statewide project for Kentucky. This website features the resources assembled and created by the steering committee. The project remains in draft status at this time. The steering committee's work can be viewed in more detail at


Kentucky Open Education Week 2022

The Affordable Learning Steering Committee is planning a full week of events to celebrate Open Education Week.

  • Meet your colleagues
  • Learn about open practices
  • Get involved

Virtual Lunch & Learns

  • Monday - Copyright and OER
  • Tuesday (for Administrators) - Case Study: U Pike
  • Wednesday - "How to OER" - Lightning round presentations on finding, adapting, creating, and teaching OERs, followed by discipline-specific discussions of OER.
  • Thursday - Faculty Panel - faculty from 3 different institutions discuss their experiences teaching with Open Practices

*All sessions tentatively planned for 12pm EST.


OEN "Train the Trainer" 3-hour workshop for librarians, teaching and learning staff, and instructional designers.

Open Education Network

Open Education Network

KYVL and the Council on Postsecondary Education are consortial members of the Open Education Network.

KYVL member institutions can join as consortial affiliate members at a substantial discount. Learn more at OEN's membership page.

These Welcome to OEN slides shared with Kentucky institutions in December 2021 by OEN Senior Managing Director Sarah Cohen introduce OEN, the benefits of the community approach, and the scope of OEN programs and tools.

Affordable Learning KY Vision and Mission (working)

Affordable Learning KY Vision

Affordable Learning Kentucky envisions a Commonwealth in which all students benefit from high-quality open, accessible, and affordable educational materials.

Affordable Learning KY Mission

Affordable Learning Kentucky promotes student success and fosters educational equity by supporting the adoption, adaptation, and creation of affordable and open educational resources in the Commonwealth and by sharing best open educational practices with Kentucky educators.

Working statements, 1.24.2022

What is OER?

OER is Open Educational Resources. As defined by the Hewlett foundation, OER are freely available “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Affordable Learning Kentucky is a bringing statewide coordination to the open and affordability work taking place around Kentucky.

The site is being built as a clearinghouse for educators interested in implementing OER in their teaching or learning more.

Why OER?

"Why We Are Excited about OER and Affordable Learning in Kentucky"

Reflections of Affordable Learning KY Steering Committee Members

Since 2020, Kentucky Virtual Library’s Affordable Learning Steering Committee (ALSC) has been exploring how to facilitate efforts to expand availability and use of low- and / or no-cost high-quality educational resources for our state, with an initial focus on undergraduate higher education. The ALSC has representatives from across the Commonwealth including public and private universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The committee has explored Open Educational Resources (OER) in particular, which are “freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing, as well as for research purposes.” Instructors who use OER find that they not only gain flexibility in how they teach, but also introduce cost-savings for students, making education a more equitable and accessible endeavor.

A 2020 survey conducted by the Affordable Learning task force found that librarians at 16 institutions are actively involved in curating affordable course materials. The biggest barriers to OER adoption include time constraints, lack of training or awareness, and lack of financial support. Over the course of the coming year, ALSC will focus on outreach, technology, and training to capitalize on current efforts and overcome the known hurdles. As part of an effort to prepare to conduct work for the year, CPE has sponsored a team of ALSC members to participate in the 2021-2022 Institute on Open Educational Resources (IOER) of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The institute, which kicked off this summer with two intensive days of workshops, webinars, and collaboration, is a year-long online engagement opportunity.

Golden circle
A diagram of what Simon Sinek calls 'The Golden Circle'. In his TEDx talk, he says 'People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it." Image by Mosborne01, 2010. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

One presentation at IOER introduced Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ concept as a source of reflection for OER advocacy. The golden circle is the notion that beginning a discussion with why a person does something is better at inspiring action than beginning that same discussion with what a person is doing. When we talk about OER, therefore, focusing on why we advocate for OER is important. So far, this column has described some of the what and how of ALSC. In the remainder of this column, our institute participants describe why they care about accelerating affordable learning in Kentucky.

~ A.J. Boston, Murray State University

I believe knowledge is more impactful when it is free to use, reuse, and adapt, which is why my scholarly writing is always open access. You see the truth of this everyday online. Intrigued by Sinek’s golden circle? You can freely watch the TEDx talk online or view the openly-licensed derivative graphic above. I am a fan of all things open. But what made me sit up and pay attention to OER in particular was hearing Chuck Pearson share why he chose to use open textbooks. Pearson spoke with students at the Tusculum University bookstore who were having trouble affording his assigned text, a text which he realized he could build and adapt from freely-licensed materials online himself.

Pearson’s testimonial primed me for action, which came to be earlier this year when an art history professor at my university complained about the commercially-produced textbook her department had historically used, describing it as an overpriced, inconveniently organized, and overly Eurocentric option. Hearing her describe why she wanted an alternative resource, I immediately spoke with my dean, and we developed a plan to establish a pilot program to grant course releases to instructors committed to creating or adopting OER.

At Murray State, we've made progress, finding kindred spirits, modest funding, and the will to act. We still need further support, like funding to grant more course releases, software to build high-quality textbooks, and training, which may best be covered by state consortial support. To be frank, most OER work is a labor of love, but at the end of the day, there is a real opportunity to make education more affordable for Kentucky’s students and to give Kentucky’s teachers and instructors more control over their curriculum.

~Laura Delancey, Western Kentucky University

Like AJ, I became acquainted with the what and how of OER through library conferences and publications. When I made a pitch to WKU Sisterhood, a group of donors who distribute annual grants to advance the university’s mission, the why seemed simple: invest in this initiative, save students money! After two years of working with faculty on textbook affordability my understanding of why has evolved in light of the different ways faculty tackled affordability:

  • One faculty member wrote his own open textbook to make psychology statistics more approachable and even humorous
  • One faculty member found she could include a greater variety of voices and primary sources by abandoning a traditional textbook
  • Several faculty members incorporated existing library resources into their curriculum for the first time
  • Several faculty members have been so satisfied with OER options that they are convincing colleagues who did not participate in the incentive program to make the switch – grassroots OER evangelism at its best!

Student savings is a sufficient outcome to justify OER initiatives. But students also benefit from revamped course materials that incorporate diverse perspectives, and from faculty who are just so pumped to share new resources and shake things up. Working on textbook affordability means I don’t just get to make a difference for students, I also get to work closely with faculty and get them the recognition they deserve for their hard work and innovation. What’s my why for our OER efforts? I keep discovering new reasons! I am involved in OER because I want to facilitate and support faculty innovation, improve diversity and representation in course materials, increase awareness and use of library resources, and, of course, make the college experience more affordable for all our students.

I’m excited to be part of the Kentucky Virtual Library’s Affordable Learning Steering Committee. By working together we will make local efforts stronger and more sustainable, and hopefully have an impact across the Commonwealth.

~Kelly Smith, Eastern Kentucky University

In 2017, EKU Libraries were approached by our African and African American Studies (AFA) program about collaborating with us to publish in our Bepress repository an open textbook that they wanted to write for an Introduction to African American Studies course. Three years later, after much trial and error, we launched Slavery to Liberation: The African American Experience, the first open textbook in that field. Initially, our why was the same as that of the AFA faculty - to save students money and ultimately to improve students’ success in the classroom.

We started a Faculty Senate OER committee which ultimately obtained grant funding from the EKU Board of Regents ($25,000 for FY21 and $50,000 for FY22) to implement a faculty incentive grant program to adopt, adapt, or create OERs for use in their classes.

As part of that grant program, I led a professional learning community (PLC) on OERs in Fall 2020. From discussions in the PLC, I realized that the why of OERs is much larger than saving money. Of course our why centers on students - on their well-being and success in our programs. But OER adoption addresses so many more whys.

  • To create equity and inclusion. When Dr. Matthew Winslow, a psychology professor at EKU, learned that one in six EKU students experienced food insecurity, he felt that he couldn’t in good conscience continue to assign expensive textbooks when quality, free materials were available.
  • To increase student trust in faculty. One student in Dr. Winslow’s class said in a class evaluation, “I am so thankful for you designing a course that makes everything we need at our fingertips and not out of our pockets. I’m sure you had to do some looking around to figure it out and your effort really... shows some empathy.”
  • To contribute to the field. As scholars have been sharing research for generations, the opportunity to share open pedagogy is an equally valid form of scholarly communication. Reclaiming the publishing process from for-profit publishers offers a sustainable path for the future.

~Crissy Ross, Northern Kentucky University

My why initially was closely tied to the move to remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic; we witnessed a deluge of faculty frustrated with resources inaccessible electronically because of strict licensing guidelines and barriers. This seemed to solidify the argument overnight for faculty that our commercial publishing model was not only expensive, it did not serve our students adequately. Over the last 18 months, I have worked diligently with faculty and instructional designers on campus to identify and implement open resources into courses to serve the needs of our students during a very stressful and chaotic time.

During this process it quickly became evident OER is not only about replacing commercial textbooks with open content, Open Education (OE) is a movement. One of our faculty members inspiringly described her experience with OER as “an entirely new way to think about education”. Open publishing is a social justice movement, it seeks out and includes voices missing from the scholarly conversation and works to illustrate a more diverse record of scholarship. It removes barriers by eliminating costs and prioritizing accessible content, addressing the privilege of information. OE encourages new scholarly collaborations by inviting students and our entire community to become active participants in knowledge creation that increases innovation and encourages students to recognize they too are important contributors to the scholarly conversation.

My work with Open Education over the last year has been deeply rewarding and, I like to think, impactful on campus through student savings, but also, through innovation and transformation. I am excited to continue this collaborative work with this passionate group as we expand our service on Northern Kentucky University’s campus and within Kentucky.

~ Adrian Ho, University of Kentucky

At UK, the promotion of OER was congruent with the developments in different domains on campus. In early 2015, the then senior associate dean of UK Libraries and I attended an inspiring workshop in which OER advocates discussed the benefits of using OER. Meanwhile, both UK and UK Libraries highlighted student success as a key objective in their strategic plans. There were also concerns about students’ economic plight, which resulted in food insecurity and their inability to afford required textbooks. At the same time, some instructors found commercial textbooks unsatisfactory in terms of coverage and currentness. They had started using reliable online resources as teaching materials while others had created custom-made instructional resources. In light of these developments, it was apparent that promoting OER would dovetail with the support for students’ academic success because using OER would enable timely and equitable access to essential learning materials regardless of students’ economic backgrounds. Furthermore, thanks to the 5R characteristics of OER, instructors would have much freedom to revise OER to their satisfaction. UK Libraries recognized the importance of promoting OER and thus launched the Alternative Textbook Grant Program in 2016. Instructors interested in enhancing their teaching materials were welcome to submit proposals in order to replace commercial textbooks with OER, library-licensed resources, and/or self-created course content. The program was a success and was held annually from 2016 to 2021.

As a former student coming from a working class family, I understand how the costs of textbooks can turn into a significant financial burden. When I first heard of OER, I was amazed by the flexibility they have to offer to both students and instructors. Working with instructors on their Alternative Textbook Grant projects provides me with opportunities to explore different topics and acquire new skills. I find it gratifying that my efforts can help make teaching and learning better, and I feel lucky that I can keep growing professionally through the implementation of UK Libraries’ Alternative Textbook Grant Program. I look forward to collaborating with colleagues on ALSC to broaden the adoption of OER in the Commonwealth.

Our committee has a full agenda for the year ahead, but above all else we want to hear from you. We want to know who among our readership is excited about making learning affordable. Do you have a personal reason why? Let us know here.

In 2020, the Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL) convened a small group of member academic libraries actively pursuing Open Educational Resource (OER) initiatives on their campuses. The group came together as KYVL’s Affordable Learning Exploratory Task Force in January 2021, and in July 2021 was recast as the KYVL Affordable Learning Steering Committee. The group was formed as an initiative of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), KYVL’s parent agency, to explore how affordable learning could contribute to CPE strategic priorities of affordability and student success.

The current ALSC team includes: AJ Boston (Murray State University), Ilona Burdette (KYVL), Laura DeLancey (Western Kentucky University), Naulayne Enders (Kentucky Christian University), Cris Ferguson (Murray State), Elizabeth Goodman (KCTCS), Rebecca Graetz (Thomas More University),  Adrian Ho (University of Kentucky), Jared Porter (Asbury University) Crissy Ross (Co-Chair, Northern Kentucky University), Steven Shisley (EKU), and Kelly Smith (Co-Chair, Eastern Kentucky University).

This manuscript is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 license by the authors.

OER Glossary - DRAFT

Term Definition Learn More
5 Rs Five permissions of open content: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute BC Campus' Faculty OER Toolkit Definition
Accessibility Usable regardless of physical ability; may refer to Section 508 or ADA compliance OER Accessibility Series and Rubric from Affordable Learning Georgia
Affordable Learning Low-cost or no-cost educational materials  
Attribution The process by which a content user gives proper credit to the original creator of a work when a portion of that work is reused or adopted outside of its original context. Attribution typically includes a link to the original work and information about the author and license (Source: the OER Starter Kit) Learn more about How to Attribute Creative Commons Licensed Materials
Course Marking Textbook cost indicator in course catalog SPARC OER Course Marking Best Practices
Copyright A license permits users to certain rights over a copyrighted work. These can be exclusive (allowed for individual groups) or nonexclusive (allowed for all users). Licenses can be restricted by certain factors such as purpose, territory, duration, and media (Source: the OER Starter Kit). U.S. Copyright Office
Creative Commons Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that created free copyright licences called Creative Commons licenses. The Creative Commons license most commonly associated with OER is CC-BY, which permits all use with attribution.
Fair Use Fair use is the context in which you can use materials under copyright without obtaining permission from the rights holder. Fair use is determined based on purpose and character of use, nature of the work, amount used, amd effect on potential market. Information on Fair Use from the U.S. Copyright Office
Library Resources Library owned or licensed material where the license permits linking to licensed material or creating course packs from licensed material.  
Low cost “Low cost” will depend on context and individual situation. Most colleges and universities using this designation consider costs up to $40 or $50 per course per semester “low cost.”  
No Cost or Zero Cost No cost course materials are "free" for students. Resources may be purchased or licensed for students to use by an entity such as the Library or University. Typically, students have funded these through tuition, fees, taxes, etc.  
Open Access Resources (OAR) OAR are free online articles, books, data sets, and other research outputs. They may or may not have open licenses. Wikipedia page on Open Access
Open Educational Resources (OER) OER are freely available “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” Hewlett Foundation
Open Licensing Licenses that permit others to freely use a resource.  See also: Creative Commons
Open Pedagogy Approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes the creation and democratization of knowledge; students’ agency in learning; and other open principles in the sharing of course material Open Pedagogy Notebook
Open Practices Open Practices "seek to fully use the potential inherent in OER to support learning and to help students both contribute to knowledge and construct their own learning pathways."  EDUcause Learning Initiative "7 Things You Should Know About Open Education" Series
Public Domain According to Stanford Libraries: creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. Stanford Libraries' Public Domain info page
ROI Return on Investment, which can be measured for OER projects in terms of students’ saved costs, learning outcomes/assessment, etc. A User Guide for Organisations/Measuring Open Education from WikiBooks, and OER Adoption Impact Explorer
SSO Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication method that enables users to securely authenticate with multiple applications and websites by using just one set of credentials. Many libraries use SSO for off-campus access to online resources. Tech Target SSO Definition
Universal Design According to The Center for Universal Design: The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities Universal Design for Learning
Z-degree Zero textbook cost degree “Project Z-Degree will make college more affordable,” by Kurt Liebich for Idaho Ed News (10/6/21)
ZTC Zero textbook cost course Zero Textbook Cost Guidelines used at CUNY