What is the Open Educational Resources and Affordability Initiative?

The purpose of the Open Educational Resources and Affordability Initiative is to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for Lafayette students by promoting the adoption, adaptation, creation, or reuse of Open Educational Resources (OER) or other low cost alternatives to commercial textbooks and course materials. The program supports faculty who want to make the transition to low cost alternatives by providing grants and assistance for reworking course syllabi or creating new free materials.

Why have an OER initiative?

The price of textbooks has risen dramatically in recent years, with some individual textbooks costing as much as $300-400. The 2017 report of the Student Support Task Force recommended that the College explore ways to reduce textbook costs for students.

We at the Libraries view the affordability of a college education as a social justice issue and believe that promoting OERs in the classroom is one of the ways we can most directly help to reduce the cost of attending Lafayette College. We are not alone — many institutions have begun to promote the use of low-cost alternatives to traditional, expensive course materials. More faculty nationwide are creating or adopting free textbooks, such as those available through OpenStax. For some good examples of ways to adopt OERs and reduce costs, you can browse through the various projects done at the University of Massachusetts and funded by their Open Education Initiative (scroll to “Previously Awarded Projects”).

To learn more about the benefits of OER initiatives, and how one was implemented at Temple University, you can watch the recording of the slides and audio from a talk given at Lafayette in March 2018, featuring Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian, and Daniele Ramella, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, both at Temple.

Who can apply?

Any faculty member or instructor at Lafayette who is teaching an upcoming course is eligible to apply.

What forms of support are available?

Successful applicants can receive:

  • Stipends which are intended to support the time needed to develop materials and/or make changes to a syllabus to adopt free or more affordable materials. Stipends can be for either investigation or implementation grants. Investigation grants of up to $300 are awarded for proposals to investigate OER possibilities for a particular course. Implementation grants of up to $1,000 are awarded for successful implementation of course changes resulting in the adoption of affordable materials.
  • Collaboration with the Libraries and Learning and Research Technologies in identifying appropriate materials, understanding accessibility and copyright issues, and using technologies to make materials accessible.
  • Additional funding for student hours to assist in identifying materials. It may be helpful to work with a student who has previously taken the course and is familiar with the content.

What are the criteria for a successful application?

Any proposal that has the potential to result in significant cost savings for students will be considered. However, priority will be given to applications that aim to adopt or develop materials that are free from copyright restrictions and can be adapted and reused. We will prioritize applications that will impact the greatest number of students over time; as such, we encourage collaborations with other faculty that will result in the reuse of the materials developed.

The list of previous grant recipients gives some sense of the types of projects that have been awarded to date, but this list should not be read as a limit to the scope of how the grants may be used.

What is the difference between an investigation grant and an implementation grant?

An investigation grant supports investigation into whether free or low cost alternatives exist and would be a good fit for a particular course; it may or may not lead to an implementation grant. An implementation grant results in a modified course syllabus that incorporates free or low cost alternatives. An implementation grant can follow an investigation grant, or can stand alone in those cases where the OERs are already known. Implementation grants can also support the development of new open texts or materials.

How do I apply?

  1. If possible, attend one of the information sessions sponsored by CITLS, the Libraries and ITS to learn more. The date for the next session has not yet been announced, but in the meantime, you can view the video linked above to learn more about OERs and where to find them.
  2. Contact us to meet with a librarian or instructional technologist to discuss your ideas prior to submitting a proposal.
  3. Submit your proposal. The proposal should include a description of the course and of how you would like to modify the class to decrease the cost of course materials for students. State whether your proposal is for an investigation or an implementation grant. Attach your current syllabus if available and include relevant class details: approximate class size, semester changes are proposed for, etc. State whether any additional budget is requested beyond the stipend (for student hours, etc.). Include a brief statement of how you will assess the effectiveness of the project.

What is the timeline for applying?

Applications are accepted at any time.  Because we know that the timeline for course preparation varies significantly depending on the nature of the course, we accept applications throughout the year.

If my application is successful, what happens next?

A liaison from the Libraries or ITS will be in touch with you to start the project and will meet with you throughout the project. For investigation grants, please submit a brief report when the project is concluded describing the landscape of available materials and what steps you plan to take next, if any. For implementation grants, please submit a report at the end of the course including an assessment of the effectiveness of the materials and feedback from students. We also ask that you be prepared to give a brief presentation about the course at an upcoming information session.

What if I am interested in doing something with OER in one of my classes, but don’t want to make major changes?  Can you help me?

Yes, a good place to start is our classroom affordability guide. We are also happy to answer questions or consult at any time. You can contact Ben Jahre to ask a question or arrange a consultation.