National Network of Libraries of Medicine
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Improving Access to Health Education: Reducing Textbook Costs with Open Educational Resources 2018-2019

This project will support Springfield Technical Community College Library's Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative. Qualified faculty members will be awarded a stipend to convert their current course curriculum materials (textbooks, assignments, quizzes, etc.) to freely available OER or library materials. The project seeks to demonstrate that the availability of free, high-quality resources can make a significant impact on the accessibility of health sciences education at STCC, as measured by course pass rates and major retention rates, particularly for students of color and low-income students.By redesigning health sciences courses and prerequisites around free resources that are openly licensed and/or available through the STCC Library and the National Library of Medicine, more students will be able to afford to complete these degrees.
Identify roles of participants this project will serve: 
Educator, K-12
Student, college & post-grad
Project Lead:
Chelsea Contrada
Funding Source: 
Project Funding:
Federal Fiscal Year: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Period:
May 1, 2018 to Apr 30, 2019
Project Status:


Implementing Open Textbooks for DWT 099
Activity Description:
Meeting with faculty to discuss implementing open textbooks in community college course.
Activity Dates:
Activity Type:
User Feedback/Needs Assessment
Partner Organization(s):
Meeting with faculty to discuss methodology of including open textbooks for community college class.
Implementing Open Resources for PSY 110
Activity Description:
Meeting with faculty to discuss implementation strategies for Open Resources.
Activity Dates:
Activity Type:
User Feedback/Needs Assessment
Partner Organization(s):
Discussed strategies for implementing NCBI Books into community college courses.
Final Report
Approaches and Interventions Used:

Goals and Objectives
The primary goal of this project was to increase the use of OER in the health degrees, particularly in the new health science associate’s degree. Other more specific objectives are listed below.

Process objectives:
 Convert at least eight (8) courses in the health sciences or their prerequisites taught by at least eight (8) faculty to an OER curriculum (free of any materials cost)
 Save at least two hundred (200) students an estimated $175 on textbook costs for the semester
 Publish at least eight (8) OER objects created by STCC faculty to the OER Commons database for public use

Outcomes-based objectives:
 Reduce the amount of money students spend on textbooks and other course materials
 Promote OER materials on the STCC campus
 Encourage faculty to revamp their assignments and materials or create their own as to better fit learning objectives and outcomes
 Improve the diversity of the student body within the School of Health and Patient Simulation

Project Logistics
The grant funds were used to develop an OER faculty fellows program. Qualified faculty members were awarded a stipend to convert their current course curriculum materials (textbooks, assignments, quizzes, etc.) to freely available OER or library materials, consequently saving students thousands of dollars on textbooks and course materials.
Faculty interested in a stipend to convert their course materials to OER were asked to apply. The application asked faculty to provide information about the course including the number of sections taught per year, the number of students in each section, and the total cost of the traditional course materials (see Appendix 1). Only courses in the health sciences or their prerequisites were eligible for a stipend. Faculty also had to agree to follow specific project guidelines (see Appendix 2). The amount of funds each faculty received was dependent on the details of their course redesign.

Stipend amounts were tiered, as shown below; the tiered system is based on similar models at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Massachusetts Community College Go Open Project:

Adopt – Tier 1: $300 Courses redesigned to incorporate an existing open course textbook or existing course content or library material, as is.

Adapt – Tier 2: $500 Courses redesigned by combining and/or remixing new and existing open content and/or library resources in order to bridge gaps in available resources.

Build – Tier 3: $800 Courses redesigned with a substantial amount of new and original open content where it is possible to demonstrate that there is no open content or library material in existence that meets the course learning objectives.

Faculty applications were reviewed, graded with a rubric (see Appendix 3), and recipients were chosen by the OER committee; priority was given to courses with the greatest student impact. All faculty who applied were eligible and accepted.

All faculty chosen were required to participate in an online training session that emphasized freely available online resources from the National Library of Medicine (see Appendix 4). The training was created by the OER librarian and hosted on the library’s website. Additionally, each recipient was required to have an initial meeting with the OER librarian to discuss their plan for redesign and implementation. They were also required to meet with the STCC Office of Disability Services in order to ensure that all materials used are ADA compliant and follow Universal Design standards.

Team Member Contributions

OER Librarian
 Project director/contact
 Provided leadership and guidance for the OER committee as they reviewed faculty applications
 Conducted training for faculty on finding and using free/open materials as well as basic copyright and fair use
 Provided one-on-one guidance to faculty as they completed their course redesign

OER Committee
 Reviewed faculty applications and chose award recipients based on applications
 Marketed and shared project details with colleagues and campus community
 Provided information to faculty who considered applying

Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Patient Simulation
 Supported the OER Librarian by providing information about the SHPS, its courses and faculty
 Supported and encouraged SHPS faculty to apply for course redesign

Office of Disability Services
 Worked with faculty to ensure that materials used and created via this project comply with Universal Design standards
Office of Institutional Effectiveness
 Will help the OER librarian evaluate the effectiveness of the program through surveys and institutional data

Problems or Barriers Encountered:

There were no major barriers or problems during this project. There are, however, some considerations for improvement going forward. An overview of these challenges and suggestions for overcoming them are outlined below.

Time Management and Work Load
The work required for the success of this project was significant. The STCC OER librarian is responsible for coordinating all events and activities related to the school’s OER initiative (in addition to other regular library duties). Therefore, the OER librarian was working on several other projects while at the same time coordinating all aspects of this grant project. In the future, there are perhaps better ways to distribute the work load. For example, tasks can be better delegated to the other OER committee members.

Mandatory training for this project was created and hosted through LibWizard, a Springshare application owned by the STCC library (see Appendix 4). Individual components of the training were created with Microsoft PowerPoint and VoiceThread. While these tools were sufficient, they did have limitations. In the future, trainings related to OER will be created using different tools that offer more flexibility and have the potential to result in higher-quality training materials.

Faculty Buy-in
Many of the goals and objectives of this project were met (details available in the Evaluation section of this report), but a portion of the funds granted by NNLM were not used. The remaining funds could have been used for more faculty projects, but interest among faculty was only moderate. Redeveloping a course is a heavy task and while faculty appreciate the offer of funds for the extra work, they find that time is a significant barrier. There are perhaps other concerns as well, such as the skepticism of the quality of free/open materials and the lack of ancillary materials available for many open textbook options. As the OER initiative grows at STCC, these barriers will be addressed.


This project was evaluated in a few different ways, first and foremost by considering whether the project goals and objectives were met. All of the process objectives were met or exceeded. We set out to convert at least eight (8) courses in the health sciences or their prerequisites taught by at least eight (8) faculty to an OER curriculum. This goal was exceeded; the project resulted in twelve (12) eligible courses taught by nine (9) faculty. Next, we hoped to save at least two hundred (200) students an estimated $175 each on textbook costs for the semester. This goal was exceeded; the results affect approximately 448 students with a total annual savings of $77,639.86 (see Appendix 5).
These results were measured using data collected from faculty applications. Each instructor provided information regarding the number of sections they teach and how many students register for each section. The cost of the original textbook (new from the STCC bookstore) was used to determine the amount saved for each course.
Another of the project goals was to publish at least eight (8) OER objects created by STCC faculty to the OER commons database for public use. This goal was met; eight (8) OER objects were created and will be uploaded to the OER commons database for public use (see Appendix 6).

The outcomes-based objectives are also considered for evaluation. The project set out to reduce the amount of money students spend on textbooks and other course materials. This goal was met. We also set out to promote OER on campus and encourage faculty to revamp their assignments and materials or create their own. This goal was met. Lastly, we hoped to improve the diversity of the student body within the School of Health and Patient Simulation. This objective will need to be measured over the long-term by the STCC Department of Institutional Research.

Data was collected from faculty and students about perception and use of open materials. At the time of this report, responses are still being collected and therefore no conclusions can be drawn. However, preliminary results hint that both students and faculty find the open materials used to be easily accessible, engaging, and of high quality. Additionally, when faculty completed the required training, they were asked to complete the NNLM Training Session Evaluation Form as well as some additional questions about the training (see Appendix 7).

This program also came with unexpected positive outcomes. There were a number of faculty who were interested in the program but whose courses did not qualify under this particular grant. Fortunately, our Title III coordinator offered to use grant funds to match the stipends for any faculty with courses outside of the scope of the original program. These funds resulted in five additional course redevelopment projects, increasing student impact and overall savings.

Continuation Plans:

Due to the success of this project, some parts of it will continue at STCC. While stipend opportunities may not always be available, the other pieces of this project such as trainings and the library’s commitment to OER will remain while new opportunities will be explored.

The groundwork laid during this project has built a solid foundation for management and evaluation of OER activities. The materials created will remain available to all STCC faculty for future use and will be further developed and improved. STCC has received grant funding for a similar project for the Early Childhood Education program. The NNLM-NER program has given us a solid foundation and made it easy to get this new opportunity up and running.

The STCC Library has acquired funding from NNLM-NER for the next fiscal year in order to expand this project while also building a more sustainable model. It is not practical to assume that money for stipends will always be available. Furthermore, as the OER initiative continues to grow, it is not realistic for the OER Librarian to be the gate keeper of OER knowledge. Therefore, next year’s version of this program will focus more on professional development, allowing faculty to redesign a course but also acquire the knowledge and skills to teach their fellow instructors about open education. This “train the trainer” model will encourage discussion among faculty about the process of course redesign and the benefits of using open materials. Though stipends will eventually stop, having colleagues who know and use OER should make faculty feel more supported and will perhaps make the idea of course redesign seem less daunting.

Lessons Learned:

Overall, the STCC Library considers this program to have been a great success. Working with the NNLM-NER has been excellent. The program liaison was encouraging, communicative, and well-informed. While challenges were present, only positive outcomes –both projected and unexpected – occurred.

Unexpected Results
First and foremost, the general success of this project was unexpected. The STCC Library has attempted a similar model in the past with very little faculty interest. While library staff and source of funds were very different at that time, we still did not expect so many faculty to be want to participate. Interested faculty spanned beyond those in the health sciences and due to the program limitations, we could not provide them all with this opportunity. Thus, not all the NNLM-NER funds were used. However, due to this interest, the STCC Library was offered funds from another source in order to make the opportunity available to all faculty.

Some of the challenges faced were time management and workload, quality of training materials, and faculty buy-in. Because this was the first program of this type and scale in the library, the amount of time and energy put into it was significant. In the future, more campus partners will be identified and further input and participation from current partners will be required. As for the training materials created by the library for this program, they were sufficient but could be improved. Faculty participation and buy-in will always be an issue; faculty time is limited and there are several competing priorities on campus, not to mention the instructors’ strong emphasis on academic autonomy. While use of open materials will always be promoted and encouraged, faculty must make their own decisions about which materials are best for reaching their course objectives.

Others considering a project can learn a few thing from ours. First, have realistic goals. Our goals were carefully considered while designing our project so that we did not over-reach. While we did have funds leftover at the end, we still achieved our main objectives—and in some cases exceeded them—which was greatly rewarding.

We found that the most effective strategy was a fairly intense marketing initiative. Because there are so many competing campus priorities, it is easy for things like this project to be ignored or forgotten. We posted flyers around campus, sent many emails, and met with stakeholders regularly to promote the program. We reached out to specific faculty that we thought would be good candidates and asked them personally to participate. While we still did not recruit as many faculty as we would have liked, these marketing strategies definitely made an impact.

In the future we are looking for sustainability. We are looking for ways to motivate faculty to consider open resources without the promise of financial reward, since these funds will not always be available. We did submit a proposal for the current year that will address the issue of sustainability.

The mission of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is to support students as they transform their lives. This project has made an impact on our students by greatly reducing the costs of textbooks for courses that contribute to a degree in the health sciences. Demographically, the students in these programs do not match the students of the college as a whole. This project sought to promote diversity and remove barriers for underserved students and reduce educational costs by eliminating the cost of learning materials for specific courses. The project resulted in twelve (12) courses now running with zero materials costs, saving over four-hundred (400) students $77,639.86 on textbooks. This project also helped to strengthen campus partnerships. As a result, the library has a stronger relationship with the School of Health and Patient Simulation, and a new partnership with Title III and HIS-STEM. Going forward, these partners will continue to support the STCC OER initiative and recognize the impact that OER can have on student success. An article about the project will be submitted to a yet-to-be determined health sciences library journal for publication. A proposal was submitted but not accepted to a local library conference. Other outlets for sharing will be explored.