5 New York (SUNY)

Michael Daly

Large portions of this content are derived from Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies, an Open Access book forthcoming from Mavs Open Press in 2020. The content is used with permission from the book’s State University of New York System case study by Alexis Clifton, Tony DeFranco, and Michael V. Daly.

Course Marking Drivers

Since 2017 the State University of New York (SUNY) has received four million dollars annually from the New York State budget to drive the adoption and use of open educational resources (OER) in large enrollment, general education courses.

As a federated system, SUNY’s sixty-four campuses primarily function as independent units, with shared direction and services stemming from the system offices. SUNY’s Office of Library and Information Services distributed state fiscal year dollars allocated for OER to individual campuses, to let them determine the most fitting way to use these funds within their local cultures. By accepting OER funds, SUNY institutions agreed to three things:

  1. Encourage OER use in high-enrollment, general education courses
  2. Ensure all designated SUNY OER Courses keep that designation for 3 years
  3. Report data about SUNY OER Courses back to system administration

These three conditions, especially the last two, provide for student-level transparency in terms of OER use and provide for an organized method for on-going collection of data to report to the New York State Office of budget.


One of the few tools common across all SUNY campuses is SIRIS, the SUNY Institutional Research and Information System. SUNY utilizes SIRIS to provide data across a wide variety of course elements, including success and retention rates. SIRIS was a logical fit to begin to capture OER usage and effectiveness data across the otherwise disparate system. A SIRIS OER code was designated, and implementation instructions have been distributed to all participating OER Program campuses. The designator was specific to OER, rather than low-cost or other Zero Textbook initiatives, due to the emphasis on OER in New York State funding initiatives.

The SIRIS code and methodology was designed by SUNY Information Technology Exchange Center (ITEC). It is important to note that the OER code or designation is for administrative purposes. In other words, this code is for back-end data reporting, and not visible to faculty or students. Campus technology staff at individual SUNY institutions adopt this coding process into the data reporting structure. Once established, courses can have the OER code applied to them at any point in the semester or after the semester has concluded.

SUNY System Administration is moving towards the requirement of all SUNY OER Courses designated in SIRIS in order to receive continued OER funding. Acknowledging that the implementation procedure moves at different speeds at different campuses, there is a three-year window towards implementing this requirement. By the 2019-20 academic year, SIRIS will be the only official OER Course reporting mechanism for campus OER funding allocations.

Since the same campus units who are responsible for SIRIS reporting also tend to manage course registration systems, implementing a forward-facing OER course designation was a natural companion conversation at many SUNY schools

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Even though the mechanism for adding the OER code to SIRIS is relatively straightforward, the intention behind when and how it is used needs to be well-planned. This becomes even more true when forward-facing course designators are also added into the equation.

Questions that SUNY campuses raise as important to address with both SIRIS and SIS OER Course designation markers include:

  • Who is responsible for marking courses in SIRIS and SIS?
  • Who vets courses that are marked, to ensure they meet the criteria?
  • How early in scheduling will SIRIS and SIS course designations need to be applied?
  • How is the language of SIS markers determined?
  • How is the language of SIS markers communicated across campus?
  • How will the SIRIS and SIS marking process be replicated from semester to semester?

Decisions to mark OER course sections for public, or student-facing viewing during course registration process should always be a campus based decision involving the appropriate level of input from all stakeholders, administration, faculty, staff, shared governance bodies and as necessary, labor unions.

Inasmuch as OER Champions drive the adoption, adoption and creation of OER on SUNY campuses the burden to track, record and report all OER sections every semester should not fall to one person. Consideration should be given to other existing systems in place requiring unique course attributed (modality, alternative schedules, etc.) and campuses, to the best of their ability, should seek to replicate those processes to reduce manual labor in marking OER course sections.


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Price Transparency by Michael Daly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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