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March 25, 2020

MSU Libraries announce awards to develop open educational resources

When MSU Libraries faculty and staff developed a new strategic plan last year, they defined a vision of promoting equal access to information and spaces for all, then got right to work to advance the accessibility, equity and inclusion they promised.

As part of a new Open Educational Resources, or OER, Program, they are awarding nine MSU faculty funding assistance for the creation and adaptation of OER course material for the 2020-21 academic year. Dean of Libraries Joseph Salem said the financial awards, which total $26,500, are designed to help instructors reduce costs for students, improve access to required text and increase student success.

The following faculty members and faculty member teams will each receive $4,000 to create and develop new OER for primary course material:

Andrea Bierema: Applications of Environmental and Organismal Biology/Applications of Biomedical Sciences
Dick Colbry: Applications in Numerical Linear Algebra
Alison Dobbins and Dan Smith: Theater and Society
Casey Henley: Neurobiology
Ayman Mohamed and Sadam Issa: Elementary Arabic II
Rajiv Ranjan: Basic Hindi I

Saul Beceiro-Novo will receive $2,500 to adapt existing OER materials for an ISP course titled, “The Mystery of the Physical World/The Mystery of the Physical World Lab.”

The awards have the potential to impact 4,555 students and save students $287,475. Three projects will be implemented in the fall of 2020 and four will be implemented in spring of 2021.

“Data shows that textbook costs affect the academic choices students make,” Salem said. “Our award program supports open education resources, which are resources that reside in the public domain and permit free use. The program reflects many of our values. We want to invest in collaborative relationships, and these awards will honor the contributions our faculty partners make to OER initiatives. We want to advance accessibility, and that is what open resources are all about.”

MSU Open Educational Resources and Student Success librarian Regina Gong said the awards point to positive and important changes. “We’re thrilled with the level of engagement we are seeing with this new program,” Gong said. “If textbooks are prohibitively expensive, students often will make other choices. They’ll find illegal PDFs online, they’ll buy an outdated edition of the book, or they won’t acquire any course materials at all. Those choices create problems, and we want to help students avoid those problems.”

Gong is forming a University-wide OER Advisory Committee to advise and support the OER program at MSU Libraries. The committee includes students, faculty, IT staff, MSU Hub and several representatives from MSU Libraries.

Assistant professor Rajiv Ranjan, who will use the award funding to create new content for a Hindi language and culture course said he appreciates support for a less commonly taught language. “This funding will help me develop language teaching materials that will follow the modern pedagogy and evolve based on learners’ feedback,” Ranjan said.

Director of Online Neuroscience Programs and Assistant Professor Casey Henley said she is excited for an opportunity to create accessible, engaging content while decreasing academic costs for my students. “The digital framework allows me to include animations, videos and interactive quizzes, providing students multiple ways to learn the content,” Henley said. “I look forward to implementing it in my course, and I hope my work can be used by others at MSU and at other institutions.”

Alison Dobbins, who teaches a large IAH class, said she was impressed by how simple the OER award process was and impressed by the quantity and quality of resources MSU Libraries invested in the program. “The project I’m designing with Dan Smith will replace an existing course pack in a large lecture class,” Dobbins said. “Many students were not purchasing the old course pack because it was so expensive. We’re excited to create something that will join a large collection of free resources.”

Anybody who teaches at MSU was invited to submit an application for one or more OER Award categories — Adoption of Existing OER, Adaptation of Multiple OER, or Creation and Development of New OER. To be eligible for an award, projects must replace traditional textbooks with OER to reduce students’ costs.

The MSU Libraries are at the center of academic life at MSU, providing expertise, collections and infrastructure for discovery and creation. The Libraries facilitate connections that support research, teaching and learning in local and global communities.

Faculty and staff at the Libraries are committed to providing equal access to Library collections, services and facilities for all library users. Last year, the Libraries joined the Open Textbook Network, a diverse community of higher education institutions that promote access, affordability and student success through the use of open textbooks.

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