UNC Receives Third Open Educational Resources Grant from State
March 18, 2021
The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) recently received an open educational resources (OER) grant of more than $43,000 from the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE). The grant is one of 27, totaling more than $875,000, the CDHE has awarded to organizations throughout the state.
According to the CDHE’s press release, “OER are high-quality teaching, learning and research resources that permit free or repurposed use and are legally available to students for free or very low-cost.”
The co-principle investigators who submitted UNC’s grant application are Jen Mayer, associate professor of University Libraries and an appointee to the state’s OER Council, and Oscar Levin, associate professor of Mathematical Sciences.
The grant will enable the university to build on past work and continue to provide stipends to faculty to transform a course to using all OER, provide summer funding for a faculty member to create an OER Faculty Learning Community for UNC faculty, and fund a graduate student to support the work of UNC's OER Committee.
“When faculty adopt OER for their course materials, it gives students greater access to learning opportunities, allows faculty to be more intentional about their course design and pedagogy and saves students money,” Levin said. “These grants have been extremely effective at driving OER adoptions and created real momentum to continue this effort.”
This work will save students textbook costs and provide faculty more flexibility in their teaching. Such efforts are not new to UNC, where the university’s OER Committee has prioritized providing OER-related opportunities for faculty members to mitigate the financial burden of textbook costs for students.
In fall of 2020, Governor Jared Polis named six winners of his Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Challenge, which encourages Colorado institutions of higher education to increase access, equity and affordability for college students by expanding the use of OER. UNC’s School of Mathematical Sciences was awarded the “Outstanding Z Department” award.
In fall of 2019, four UNC faculty members helped 450 students enrolled in their classes save a combined $63,775 in textbook fees by adopting OER into their curriculum with a previous grant from the state for the project.
In a 2018 University Libraries student survey with 921 total responses, 51% of students reported that they received no financial-aid assistance in buying textbooks. According to a report on OER by the CDHE, $550,000 of awarded grant money allowed 23,958 students in Colorado to be enrolled in courses with OER materials, with a projected $3.4 million cost-savings for students.
—Written by Katie Corder