Words by Ching-Jung Chen
Originally posted on both The City University of New York and The City College of New York websites
For the second year in a row, City College is participating in a $4 million grant awarded to CUNY by New York State to bring down the cost of textbooks and increase accessibility for students to free educational resources. Open Educational Resources (OER) is an initiative designed to increase affordability, access and academic success.
Open educational resources are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes. These teaching materials include textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, images, videos, readings, quiz items, assignments and grading rubrics.
“The goal is to build awareness on campus, so students know that OER brings textbook costs down and increases accessibility,” said Professor Ching-Jung Chen, Digital Scholarship Librarian, who, working closely with the Provost’s office, is spearheading the initiative at CCNY. “We also want faculty to recognize that there are resources on campus and colleagues who have already adopted OER successfully.”
The funds awarded to City College, which total $237,000, are used to enable faculty to convert their courses to OER, train faculty to teach using free resources, provide technical support and infrastructure to students and staffing support for libraries.
City College’s mid-year report on OER progress released in December 2018 shows that 111 courses and 151 sections were converted for a savings of over $404,232.65 for students. Since efforts began in the fall of 2017, 69 faculty members have converted their courses and 3858 students were impacted.
“I strongly believe that knowledge is the common heritage of all humanity, and education, therefore, must be free,” said V. Parameswaran Nair, Interim Dean of Science & Distinguished Professor of Physics, and one of the earliest OER faculty at CCNY. “This is also the founding credo of City College as the Free Academy in 1847. The CCNY OER program is an opportunity for a practical realization of this principle, for us to help our students avoid high-priced publications without compromising quality, and to highlight to the entire world CCNY’s unique place in the realm of higher education.”
“The OER initiative at City College makes it a lot easier for students to access their course materials,” said Thomas Peele, associate professor of English and director of CCNY’s First-Year Writing Program, “and it draws on and helps develop our instructors’ pedagogical dexterity. The OER initiative has encouraged instructors to find or create open access materials and to learn how to use—and teach—web-based platforms.”
While CCNY is relatively new to OER, faculty have uploaded 125 openly-licensed course materials to Academic Works, CUNY’s institutional repository, encompassing syllabi, assignments, lab manuals, presentations, lecture notes, and two textbooks. Those CCNY-created OER have been downloaded 5,740 times as of February 2019, benefiting faculty and students all over the world seeking free educational materials.
Chen will hold several workshops this spring for faculty to learn about OER and how to convert their courses to zero cost materials in the coming semesters. The dates are Friday, April 12 and one more day to be determined in mid-May. More information can be found here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.