Partnership with panOpen

New platform expands Wheaton’s ability to offer courses with low- to no-cost materials

Wheaton College is expanding efforts to make educational materials more affordable and accessible to students by partnering with panOpen, an online platform designed to facilitate institutional use of open educational resources (OER).

In an announcement distributed this week via PR Newswire and shared by a variety of news sources, including Business Insider, panOpen founder and CEO Brian Jacobs said Wheaton was “at the forefront” of the OER movement, which is allowing institutions to collaborate and form communities around shared content.

“Wheaton is on the leading edge of a number of colleges that are moving in this direction, and helping to create for the first time a truly decentralized network for the development of educational materials,” Jacobs said in an email. “As important as the cost issue is, I’m also particularly excited about the creativity and innovation that can come from faculty freed from the constraints of the commercial copyright. The ability to experiment, collaborate and share could change pedagogy for the better in unexpected ways.”

Wheaton is one of the first liberal arts institutions to partner with panOpen, and will have its own collections hosted by the platform, available as early as the spring 2019 semester, said Lauren Slingluff, associate dean of library services at Wheaton.

“The main impact of this partnership is that it will make it significantly easier for faculty to discover, evaluate, adopt and create OER materials, and host them online. This means there will be a larger portion of classes available for students that have low to no textbook or material cost,” she said. “Additionally, it is difficult for some courses to change to OER, as they rely heavily on supplementary online content for quizzes, enhanced learning or assessment. With panOpen you can build this content into the courses so that students have as robust a learning environment with OER as they might with traditionally published materials.”

The use of OER is spreading in colleges and universities throughout the United States. A recent survey found that, nationwide, more than 16 percent of introductory college courses use OER.

With support from the Library, Technology and Learning Committee and staff at Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, nearly 20 Wheaton faculty members have already introduced OER materials into their courses—spanning a range of subjects, from biology to French to mathematics. Those materials can be uploaded to panOpen, which, along with the creation of new OER courses, will provide one streamlined platform for Wheaton faculty and students to use, Slingluff said.