Two Appointed to State Program Promoting Free Resources
Two Northern Essex Community College employees, Jody Carson and Sue Tashjian, were recently appointed as members of the newly formed OER Working Group under the direction of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The Working Group is charged with expanding the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) statewide to make education more affordable and accessible for all students.
OER, by definition are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing.
The Working Group, which Tashjian is co-chairing, includes more than 20 stakeholders who share a common interest in student success across colleges in Massachusetts. Its mission is to increase the use of OER and open teaching.
Carson and Tashjian are pioneers in the field of OER having trumpeted its merits since they introduced the free OER to the NECC campus back in 2014. Since then nearly 9,500 Northern Essex students have realized more than $1.4 million in textbook savings. At NECC, for the fall semester alone, there were 53 courses for a total of 90 sections that included OER materials.
“NECC’s Textbook Task Force started as a way to save students money, but it has turned into so much more. OERs have changed the way faculty are teaching and the way students are learning,” Carson said.
Faculty across the state’s public higher education institutions are embracing the concept of free or low-cost (under $40) course materials for their students. They are taking advantage of professional development opportunities for implementing OER on a broader scale.
“I am very excited to see the OER movement gain momentum and support in Massachusetts,” said Tashjian. “Having the resources from the Department of Higher Education will allow us to explore opportunities for implementing OER on a broader scale.”
What does the cost savings mean for the students? According to Tashjian and Carson they hear a variety of comments from grateful students. Some apply the savings to paying off their tuition and fees, while others are able to purchase other books necessary for other classes. Still others say they are able to enroll in additional classes and finally some say the money covers basics like the cost of food and transportation.
One of the tools the Working Group has created is a dedicated webpage on the Massachusetts DHE website titled “Massachusetts Open Education- Achieving Access for All.”
The page defines the role of OER, training events available to faculty, and contact information.
Moving forward the Working Group will make recommendations on the formulation of OER policies in Massachusetts.