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Latest OER grant projects expected to save 1,300 students $247,000

By Lauren McKeen, Open Education Librarian

Four recipients of a 2020-21 Open Educational Resource grant will receive at least $5,000 to develop free teaching material for a Northwestern undergraduate course. The grant committee estimates that the completed projects will save 1,295 undergraduates $247,575 in the first year.

The Open Educational Resources Grant (OER) Program is designed to support faculty who are interested in developing and using OER in their undergraduate courses. Funded by the Office of the Provost and the Libraries, the grant program supports the work involved in finding, creating, using, and sharing OER as a replacement for commercial textbooks.

OER are free teaching materials that are licensed for unrestricted distribution and modification to fit the course-specific needs of instructors. Some examples of OER include textbooks, websites, presentations, syllabi, and lesson plans. While most OER start in digital format, files can be converted so faculty and students can print their materials at home or through a printing service. OER support is part of theĀ Affordable Instructional Resources (AIR) initiative, a multi-departmental effort across Northwestern to address the impact of rising cost commercial textbooks and course packets.

This year’s grant program follows a successful pilot year in which seven faculty from six departments across Northwestern replaced their commercial textbooks with newly developed OER. The projects ranged in scope, but the output includes a digital open statistics textbook with dynamic content, original recordings of conversations spoken in Swahili, a remixed book made up of content from three existing OER, and custom problem sets within an interactive homework software platform. To learn more about the projects and hear from the faculty behind them, listen to the Digital Learning podcast episode on open textbooks.

Following a 10-week application window, four projects were chosen:

Grant funds will pay for the development, use, and publishing of OER. In addition, each grant recipient will receive individualized support from librarians on finding, using, and publishing OER. Work is scheduled to begin over the summer with grant projects expected to launch in 2020 and 2021.

Although the grant opportunity is now closed, OER support is available from the Libraries year round. If you are a faculty or instructor interested in exploring OER options for your course, contact us. We are happy to meet with you individually for a consultation, or to speak with your department about OER within your subject area.