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OER Initiative is Finalist for Bellwether Award

Submitted by on January 12, 2018 – 7:52 pm

NECC’s Jody Carson (left) and Sue Tashjian (right) show some of the resources available through Open Educational Resources (OER). They built the statewide initiative “Go Open” that is a finalist for the coveted Bellwether Award.

A statewide initiative, designed by two Northern Essex Community College professionals that has saved 9,000 Massachusetts college students more than $1.2 million just this academic year, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Bellwether Award.

The Massachusetts Community Colleges Go Open project was launched in 2016 by NECC’s Jody Carson, an early childhood education professor, and Sue Tashjian an instructional designer in the Center for Instructional Technology, to address the increasing costs of college textbooks. They built the statewide initiative based on NECC’s successful Adopt Open program which has saved Northern Essex students over $1 million in textbook costs over the last three years. Both programs encourage faculty and staff to use free open educational resources instead of costly textbooks.

“We are thrilled that the Massachusetts Community Colleges Go Open Program is being recognized,” said Carson. “We are all about student success and free access to educational resources translates into student success.”

“The average college student spends $1,200 a year on textbooks,” said Tashjian.  “This program encourages faculty to use free, open educational resources (OER) in place of expensive textbooks.”

In a letter supporting the “Go Open” initiative for the Bellwether Award, NECC President Lane Glenn wrote, “While saving our students significant money is central to “Go Open,” it is far from being the only benefit. Well over one hundred faculty and staff across the Commonwealth have received professional development opportunities that have helped to reshape course and curriculum design and promote new teaching methods and approaches…”Go Open” is a truly dynamic initiative that supports our students, that fosters innovation in teaching and learning, that strengthens our efficiency and effectiveness, and that builds community through its collaborative nature. ”

In its first year, 115 faculty have been involved in the statewide initiative, helping close to 9,000 students save over $1.2 million.

The Bellwether Award is sponsored by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida, and focuses on cutting-edge, trendsetting programs.

Carson and Tashjian will present the program at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Florida January 28-30, 2018.

Massachusetts Community Colleges Go Open project is one of just 10 community colleges programs in the nation selected as a finalist for the 2018 Bellwether Award.

Textbook prices drive up the costs of higher education. Since 2006, costs have risen by 73%.That’s four times the rate of inflation. Due to textbook costs, one-third of students surveyed dropped courses, or chose not to purchase the assigned textbooks, leaving them at an immediate academic disadvantage, according to Carson and Tashjian.

The textbook crisis hits community college students hardest, they say, since many are adult learners juggling full-time jobs, child care, and costs of living.

For additional information contact Carson at or Tashjian