A $440,000 federal grant is helping Northern Essex Community College in its efforts to make classes more affordable and inclusive by encouraging the use of free Open Educational Resources.
Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium—digital or otherwise—that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.
“This grant is focused on creating and adapting OER for high-enrollment programs that are both free to students and culturally relevant,” says Sue Tashjian, the college’s coordinator of instructional technology and co-chair of the Massachusetts OER Advisory Council.
The college is part of a consortium of Massachusetts colleges that received a three-year federal grant.
Called Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens, the grant helps faculty and librarians create and adapt OER materials that are accessible, intentionally inclusive and representative of the student population.
Northern Essex was an early adopter of the use of OER. Tashjian first introduced free OER to the college back in 2014 with a textbook task force. Since then, she estimates the use of free and low-cost course materials has saved 16,000 NECC students nearly $2 million. “We know that the cost of higher education is a barrier for many students, especially community college students. The use of OER is a high impact practice that addresses the issue of equity and access.”
Students can easily find courses that already make use of OER by checking the box for “free access: low-cost/no-cost textbooks” while searching the course catalog.