(Update: For the fall semester of 2018, 11 faculty redesigned their courses for a total savings of $52,353.82 for students.) Mount Wachusett Community College is moving forward with a pilot program aimed at reducing the cost of books for students by tapping into Open Educational Resources (OER).
“When faculty do this in their classroom, it would essentially mean free books for students,” said MWCC Librarian Ellen Pratt. “Commercial textbook provide essentially a course to the students. So this funding will allow professors to work through OER to create their own.”
The program, which will be funded by a recently announced $16,235 Performance Incentive Fund grant from the Department of Higher Education as well as college funds, will support 12 faculty fellows who will work with library staff to develop course curriculum using open resources.
“We will be partnering the faculty with a librarian to help with a lot of this research. They will be partnering to dig down deep and see what is already out there. There is so much out there already that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel,” said MWCC Dean of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Michelle Paranto.
Students in those classes will see significantly reduced costs associated with class materials, such as textbooks. This is especially important for students on financial aid, said Pratt, because sometimes there is a lag between classes starting and financial aid disbursement.
“If students have the materials on the first day of class they are more successful,” she said.
The pilot program is part of an ongoing effort at the college to incorporate OERs into the classroom. Professors in MWCC’s criminal justice program have already been incorporating OERs into the classroom, with one class going exclusively OER using government documents and online material available through fair use or creative commons copyright licensing.
Instructors have found that the OER resources not only cut costs for students but can also allow professors to become more engaging with their course materials. There’s inherent flexibility within the OER model that allows professors to branch out more and tap into online resources that students are already comfortable with.
“Giving internet assignments is so easy to them. It’s me going to them,” said Chair of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Criminal Justice Program Reed Hillman who explained he looks forward to the library’s involvement in the pilot. “The library has so many resources and is great to work with.”
The pilot program will run for one year with plans to continue it the following year.
Performance Incentive Fund (PIF) grants are issued by the Department of Higher Education and seek to incentivize the state’s higher education institutions to produce cost savings for students through collaboration across the campuses. Since 2012, the fund has awarded more than $25 million in grants.