Students benefit when faculty members choose to adopt OER, so the initial challenge is getting faculty members to step up and say, “Yes!” Offering grant funding to faculty members – even small-dollar “mini-grant” programs – can go far towards encouraging faculty members to try making the shift to OER.
Smart Planning is Key
A strategically aligned faculty grant program can help you make a big impact even when only limited funds are available to support OER adoption. Faculty grant programs help ensure limited funds have the largest possible impact on students with regards to costs savings and improving learning. They can also help guide faculty along a path towards success by creating incentives for them to follow best practices and engage in professional development.
Smart planning in how you structure the grant program can help you generate the type of OER adoption you want to see, for example focusing on high-enrollment courses that impact a larger number of students. How you structure the grant program can also help you anticipate potential challenges and avoid setting precedents that could limit your ability to grow OER adoption or be difficult to support in the future.
Steps for Success
Lumen has supported institutions through multiple waves of faculty grant programs for OER adoption. With each iteration, we see campus leaders applying lessons learned and best practices identified by their peers.
The following steps reflect what we’re seeing as highly effective practices for grant programs that pave the way for effective, wide-scale adoption of OER and broad impact on students. The Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T.) Initiative led by the University System of Maryland’s Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation is a leading, real-world example of these practices in action.
- Focus funding on high-impact opportunities. Establish eligibility criteria for receiving a grant that require courses to be high enrollment general education course for which there is existing fully developed OER courses (which include all of the ancillary course resources). This will help maximize the impact funding has on student cost savings and learning gains while avoiding faculty frustration that can result from not being able to find OER for upper level courses.
- Emphasize “adopt” and “adapt” over “creation”. Creating new OER materials can require significant amounts of time and resources. It can also be necessary to have processes in place to ensure issues such as intellectual property licensing and accessibility requirements are followed. Adopting and adapting existing OER content can significantly reduce the necessary effort while still giving faculty members the freedom to customize materials to meet their specific student needs. If you do fund creation of new OER content, consider focusing it on “gaps” in existing content, such as test bank questions or slide decks, rather than full textbooks which can require much longer periods of time.
- Consider also funding “scaling” grants. Creating a grant “track” for faculty who have adopted OER already in one course section who want to scale adoption across multiple sections is a great way to maximize student impact. If you run your grant program over multiple years it also allows those who might initial adopt in one section to re-apply the following year to scale.
- Set up a light-weight application and review process. Provide faculty with a application form to complete and set word limits to reduce the time required develop a proposal as well as review them. Set up a planning document to share eligibility criteria which can also be used to create a scoring rubric to use during the review process.
- Hold informational webinars or face-to-face session. Use these to review eligibility criteria with potential applicants, answer questions and provide feedback on any preliminary ideas. This can help avoid getting applications which are not well aligned with the program goals.
- Require grantees to attend professional development sessions. While many faculty may have an understanding of OER and may have already been working with it, they may not be aware of best practices, specific resources or related technology platforms which can help improve student learning. Requiring a one-day workshop for all grantees can help ensure success and development institutional knowledge of best practices.
- Require grantees to share student impact data. Make sure faculty share out student data such as textbook costs, final course grades, and completion rates (this will require having an IRB in place and the necessary data security protocols) as means to faculty research on student impact. Being able to report on the impact the grants have is important in securing additional or future funding.
- Ask grantees to identify sustainability plans. After their grant funding has ended there may be costs associated with technology platforms they are using, maintenance of OER content, print materials, etc. A sustainability plan helps ensure that faculty have a plan to cover such costs over the longer-term
- Support grantees in sharing and disseminating their work at the conclusion of their grant. Set expectations that faculty will present their work at state, regional or national conferences and/or at local institutional events. This helps being awareness of OER and leads to word-of-mouth sharing and more organic growth in OER adoption over time.