A new learning platform that only uses open educational resources (OER), called panOpen, has announced its release.
As panOpen’s website specifies, OER is defined by its licensing, flexibility, and shareability rather than its cost. All of its content can be downloaded, printed, and shared under a Creative Commons license, reports EdSurge.
Not only does panOpen aggregate open educational resources, but it also includes other tools like learning management system (LMS) integration, content customization, self-grading quizzes, the ability to take notes and highlight passages, flashcards, live chat, and data analytics.
CEO Brian Jacobs, who founded panOpen in 2013, said:
Accessibility and affordability are central issues in the national discussion concerning higher education. Supported with the right digital tools, OER is now emerging as a compelling alternative to traditional textbooks, greatly reducing costs and improving student access and outcomes.
According to Rhea Kelly of Campus Technology, panOpen also includes enhanced “pillar” resources in common subjects like history, chemistry, economics, physics, biology, psychology, business, and finance.
Students can pay a flat fee of $25 per course for access. PanOpen estimates that this will be only a quarter of the cost of traditional textbooks.
Faculty benefit as well: OER not only save students and educators money, but also allow teachers and professors to make sure they are delivering the most current content to keep pace with new developments. Faculty can also access, edit, and contribute content entirely for free. Once they create an account connected with their organization, they can use the tool to manage both content and classes.
PanOpen also offers help in course customization, with consulting services that will help users find and edit content and create assessments and other interactive tools.
South Plains College is one of almost 100 higher education institutions that are piloting panOpen. Jeremy Nicholson, who teaches biology at SPC, said:
Most students cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars on textbooks every year. Instead, they opt to purchase cheaper, out of date textbooks, or no books at all. Using high-quality open educational resources, we can ensure that every student has access to a current text that is integrated into the curriculum, while saving them a significant amount of money.
In January, panOpen closed a second investment round led by Zen Group, LLC, for initial financing of $4.5 million. The New York-based company plans to use these proceeds for platform development and institutional outreach, according to Market Wired. PanOpen has also been backed by Techstars, Kaplan, education technology entrepreneur John Katzman, and Professor Edward Roberts of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center.
Demand for OER is expected to increase in the wake of the US Department of Education launching #GoOpen in 2015, a campaign that encouraged educators to use OER. Not only does it save money, but it’s more sustainable than paper textbooks that don’t often get recycled, the Department argues.
PanOpen founder Brian Jacobs received his Ph.D., taught at Cornell University, and founded the virtual bookstore Akademos.
More information can be found on panOpen’s website.