To mitigate the cost of higher education for students, the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) launched the Affordable Learning Ohio initiative. The initiative is helping faculty members at Ohio colleges and universities develop, discover, and utilize no- or low-cost-to-student teaching materials, including Open Education Resources (OER), library-owned resources, and OhioLINK-negotiated Inclusive Access textbooks.
OhioLINK, a division of the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), created the Affordable Learning Course Redesign Grant in March 2022 to help accelerate adoption of OERs and remove barriers to use. The program offers two grant funding cycles, in the spring and fall, to help faculty members identify OERs that complement their curricula.
“College affordability is a top priority of the DeWine-Husted Administration and the Ohio Department of Higher Education,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “OhioLINK’s Affordable Learning Course Redesign Grant program is a great example of the innovative ways we are addressing the issue for students in Ohio as well as colleges and universities.”
“Reducing the burden of Ohio students’ textbook costs is one of the goals of OhioLINK’s Affordable Learning Ohio Initiative,” said OhioLINK Executive Director Amy Pawlowski. “Over the last few years, we have focused efforts on identifying how faculty can replace higher-cost commercial textbooks with no-cost resources, such as by using readily available library materials or modifying Open Educational Resources that can be shared with other educators.”
Faculty positive about impact
During its first year of implementation, the Affordable Learning Course Redesign Grant program provided support to 59 faculty at 26 institutions across Ohio. The faculty used the grants to revamp a wide variety of courses during a three-week training experience and personalized reviews of their own syllabi to identify open resources, with preference given to faculty teaching high-enrollment courses.
“The strong response to OhioLINK’s call for applications indicates that Ohio faculty are eager for support while they learn how to adapt their existing syllabi to utilize relevant no-cost open course materials,” said Anna Bendo, director of OhioLINK’s affordable learning initiatives. “The program attracted a high number of instructors from private and two-year colleges, as well as four-year public institutions.”
In addition to helping faculty members incorporate OERs into specific classes within the upcoming academic year, the course helped instructors see how they could broadly adopt OERs in their teaching, according to the program’s survey results. Participants also reported that they would advocate for OERs in their academic units and educate colleagues about the benefits of use.
“The use of OERs is something I have considered for a while, and an opportunity such as this was just the boost that I needed to be able set aside the time to engage and dig deeper,” said Lori Long, Professor and Burton D. Morgan Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies at Baldwin Wallace University.
The Affordable Learning Course Redesign Grant helped dispel myths about OERs that may have dissuaded faculty from using them previously, according to course survey results. Faculty learned that OERs can be high-quality, vetted, and peer-reviewed; represent a large range of subjects; and are easy to use.
Faculty who participated in the first cohort of the program in spring 2022 reported various other benefits. They found that using OERs allowed them to add variety and breadth to their course materials without any additional cost. In addition, OERs freed instructors from “teaching to the text” so they could incorporate more innovative teaching practices.
OERs also provide an opportunity for educators to collaborate and customize materials, the faculty said. These “living documents” can more easily incorporate the latest research and scholarship and help faculty better align materials with DEI goals and the College Credit Plus program, they noted.
Mandi Goodsett, Performing Arts and Humanities Librarian and OER and Copyright Advisor at Cleveland State University, helped faculty enrolled in the OhioLINK program identify relevant OER resources for their redesigned curricula.
Significant return on investment in first year
“Support for faculty to transition to affordable and openly licensed course materials is crucial,” Goodsett said. “Programs like this one from OhioLINK are so important for giving faculty the resources and assistance they need, and it’s clear that it has a real impact!”
In addition to helping faculty create dynamic, relevant curricula, OERs play an important role in keeping higher education affordable for students. The first round of grants, totaling $18,000 funded by OhioLINK and the Midwest Higher Education Compact, was completed in spring semester 2022. By fall semester 673 students had saved $71,942, according to information submitted by the grant applicants, and the savings will continue growing in subsequent semesters.
“As faculty, it is important for us to embrace change that can not only enhance our students’ education, but can also be more affordable and practical,” said program participant Denise Pacholski, Adult Gero Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Concentration Coordinator at Kent State University.
In addition, research has shown that students who use OERs in the classroom complete their courses at a higher rate. Karin Hooks, Associate Professor and Chair of the English Department at Lorain County Community College, observed this outcome in a recent class.
“I taught the course this summer and all 20 students enrolled finished the course successfully,” Hooks said. “Not a single withdrawal or failure—an almost unprecedented experience. And students loved the course! My heartfelt thanks for the OhioLINK OER Course Redesign Grant that funded the work and supported student success.”
OhioLINK will continue to offer the Affordable Learning Course Redesign Grant program in 2023 to support faculty seeking new resources for their spring and fall semester courses. Applications will be solicited in March for the spring cohort, who will participate in the program during April and May. The fall program is expected to start in November and finish in early 2024.
Find more information about OhioLINK’s Affordable Learning Ohio Initiative.
Established in 1992, the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) is Ohio’s statewide academic library consortium, serving 88 institutions plus the State Library of Ohio. Delivering both IT infrastructure and content negotiation, OhioLINK provides students, researchers, faculty, and staff with access to valuable digital research collections at a fraction of the cost if those collections were purchased by individual institutions. OhioLINK also connects library services, print and digital collections among its member institutions and manages collaborative services aimed at reducing students’ cost of higher education in Ohio, including eTutoring and Affordable Learning. A member of the Ohio Technology Consortium of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, OhioLINK creates a competitive advantage for its member institutions and supports student and researcher success across Ohio. Learn more at ohiolink.edu.