The EKU Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Open Textbook Resources is awarding $23,000 in grant funding to three departments and four individual faculty who submitted proposals to develop zero textbook cost courses. This incentive grant program was made possible by an EKU Board of Regents Innovation Grant and will be implemented with ongoing technical and staff support provided by EKU Libraries.
“Students in our region often have difficulty affording textbooks,” said Dr. James Maples, one of the grant recipients. “Utilizing high-quality OERs removes some of the financial burden of getting a degree.”
Traditional textbook costs pose a barrier to student success. Open Educational Resources, or OERs, provide a solution that saves students money, is more equitable, and results in better student learning outcomes.
Associate Chair of the English Department Dr. Jill Parrott, another of the grant recipients, coordinates English 101 – an important transition course for college students. In addition to the no cost benefit, students will be able to access the new textbook before the course starts, and “it will be 100 percent created with our students and the goals of our program in mind,” Parrott said. “We are most excited about choosing content that we think EKU students will be excited about and that will challenge them – and nobody knows our students better than we do.”
The Committee determined the grant awards based on average enrollment per year for each course, the cost of the textbook currently being used in the course and the total approximate savings for students. As a result of this first round of faculty members transitioning their classes’ required readings to openly available or library resources, approximately 4,500 EKU students will save a combined $333,000 each year. The average textbook cost for these classes is $81 – the most expensive being $134 and the least expensive $45.
Dr. Jill Parrott and Dr. Dominic Ashby submitted a proposal on behalf of the English Department’s First Year Writing program, which is being awarded $5,000 to create a new open textbook for all sections of ENG 101 – Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric. More than 2,000 students take this course every year, and providing an open textbook will save EKU students more than $160,000 annually.
Dr. Ogechi Anyanwu submitted a proposal on behalf of African and African American Studies, which is being awarded to create a new open textbook for all sections of AFA 201 – The African Experience, and to update their existing open textbook for AFA 202 – The African American Experience. EKU students taking these courses will save about $45,000 collectively each year. Faculty in African and African American Studies authored EKU’s first OER, “Slavery to Liberation: The African American Experience,” which was published in EKU’s Encompass Digital Archive in late 2019. This is currently the only open textbook on African American Studies.
Dr. Lisa Day submitted a proposal on behalf of Appalachian Studies, which is being awarded $5,000 to develop a new open textbook for all sections of APP 200 – Introduction to Appalachia. This book will save EKU students about $79,000 annually. It will be the first OER on Appalachian Studies.
Dr. David Stumbo is being awarded $4,000 to create a new OER for his course OSH 366 – Hazard Identification and Control. This OER will save EKU students about $7,000 per year and will be the only OER on this topic.
Dr. James Maples is being awarded $2,000 to adapt existing OERs and library resources for two of his courses, SOC 131 – Intro to Sociology and SOC 395 – Research Methods. Students in these courses will save about $11,000 a year. Because OERs are published without copyright, faculty are able to adopt or adapt them for their courses without paying any fees. There are many quality Sociology OERs on the market, allowing Dr. Maples to more quickly adjust his course content than if he were to write his own OER.
Dr. Erin Stevenson is being awarded $1,000 to adapt existing OERs and library resources for SWK 340 – Social Work Research 1. Students in this course will save about $20,000 a year.
Dr. Ni Wang is being awarded $1,000 to adapt existing OERs and library resources for AEM 195 – Computer Aided Drafting. Her students will save about $5,000 per year.
All of the faculty being awarded these grants will participate in a semester-long Professional Learning Community, led by EKU Librarian Kelly Smith, where they will explore best practices in assignment design with OERs. Following implementation of their courses, they will report back to the community about their successes.
Smith said they hope to identify funds to continue the grant program for several more years. “It provides a huge return on investment in terms of the impact it will have for EKU student success,” she said. “For some students, it could mean the difference between passing and failing a class.”