New funding for open educational resources improves access to course materials
This article was written by Leona Rajaee on July 1st, 2016.
In October Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 798, the College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015, which establishes a $3 million grant fund to be awarded to CSU and community college campuses that demonstrate their commitment to increasing adoption of high-quality, no-cost and low-cost course materials.
Since then at least 17 CSU libraries have collaborated with staff across their campuses to apply for grant funding, which would allow them to more widely adopt affordable learning solutions (ALS) and open educational resources (OER). Each campus may apply for up to $50,000 to fund faculty professional development and technology support.
Faculty adoption of affordable learning solutions
AB 798 aims to reduce costs of course materials for students by providing OER adaptation and adoption support for faculty. For many faculty, time is “one of the most challenging things” about shifting toward OER, according to King Library Sr. Assistant Librarian Ann Agee.
Brian Beatty, Associate Professor of Instructional Technologies and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Operations at San Francisco State adds that “Designing classes and incorporating new instructional materials often requires a lot of major work, additional work that faculty may not have planned for.”
In response to these concerns, both Agee and Beatty hope that grants from AB 798 will make it easier for faculty to make the switch over to more accessible course materials.
“We’re developing a 2-3 hour faculty workshop to help link faculty to OER resources,” Beatty said.
On an institutional level, Agee believes that a tenure process that acknowledges faculty contributions to using or creating affordable course materials could also facilitate faculty willingness to adopt. “The tenure process doesn’t recognize or reward creating open resources,” Agee said. “If the incentive were there, then I think more faculty would make the shift to OER.”
New grants’ potential benefits to more programs
At San Jose State, Agee has noticed that health science, library science, and computer science departments have been the biggest adopters of ALS. For the time being, San Jose is focused on adopting resources for “high-enrollment GE courses,” but other disciplines such as meteorology are also interested in adopting more accessible resources.
At San Francisco State, Beatty has seen interest from the economics, statistics, and English departments. San Francisco State has given all faculty members the opportunity to switch over to ALS, even for courses with small enrollments, according to Beatty. Their grassroots approach capitalizes on faculty enthusiasm for promoting the benefits of ALS. “These early adopters are like case studies for other faculty,” Beatty said. “We rely on these faculty to help tell their story to their colleagues.”
Cultural impacts of AB 798
Beyond the faculty professional development opportunities AB 798 offers, many ALS specialists hope that this legislation will bring about a shift in institutional culture. “We want faculty to think of the cost of instruction from the very beginning so that we can change the culture and attitude toward OER,” Beatty said.
Agee echoed Beatty by adding, “We want to make OER adoption more mainstream and not just a library thing.”
According to Nicole Bohn, Director, Disability Programs and Resource Center at San Francisco State, AB 798 is “helping faculty think in new ways…Anecdotally we’re finding people learning more about accessibility.”
Supporting and expanding future ALS efforts
Looking forward, Beatty hopes this legislation will have far-reaching impacts on student experiences beyond the class sections funded by the first round of grants. “We want to reach as many courses as we can,” Beatty said.
Bohn believes the CSU’s commitment to accessibility will continue to be at the forefront of designing educational content. “My biggest hope is that we continue to be ambassadors in designing accessible courses for everyone,” Bohn said.
For more information about AB 798, participating faculty and courses, and helpful e-textbook reviews, visit http://www.cool4ed.org/.
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