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Northern Essex Selected for Free Digital Textbook Pilot Program

Submitted by on February 7, 2023 – 1:14 pm

Haverhill, MA (February 7, 2023)– Northern Essex Community College is one of just seven colleges in the Commonwealth selected to participate in the Digital Textbook and Materials Pilot program. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) has approved a million-dollar grant for the seven schools to access digital textbooks, courseware, and materials on the Lumen Learning platform for free.

“In addition to reducing student textbook costs, this national movement is empowering faculty to curate their own educational materials.  In a very real way, this enhances faculty scholarship and has the potential of adding value to student learning.  I am so glad that NECC is a leader in Massachusetts in this work” says NECC Provost Paul Beaudin.

Sue Tashjian, the coordinator of instructional technology at Northern Essex, is currently reaching out to faculty about the options on the Lumen platform. Faculty have until June to take advantage of the grant; however, Lumen will continue to provide free use of their platform for the fall 2023 semester. Lumen also offers a wide range of course materials that are always free, and after the grant period ends, their course platform is just $35 per student. “Lumen offers 50+ courses in almost every academic discipline – especially those taken in the first two years of college. Their College Success course provides new students with skills they need to be successful in college, like goal setting and time management. Modules from this course could be used to complement existing courses,” Tashjian points out.

“Over the past few years, Lumen’s focus has been on creating equitable courseware to improve student learning outcomes,” Tashjian continues. “They received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focused on improving educational outcomes for underserved students, which aligns with the DHE’s Strategic Plan for Racial Equity and the local work that is happening at NECC.”

picture of the front of text book featuring children running and the title "The Whole Child: Development in the Early Years

NECC’s first open textbook, The Whole Child: Development in the Early Years

NECC’s recent work to remove barriers includes unveiling the college’s first open textbook. Early Childhood Education Professors Doris Buckley and Deirdre Budzyna developed The Whole Child: Development in the Early Years. This book replaces a commercial textbook that would cost students $174. NECC’s version is free for educators and students across the country.

Open textbooks are an example of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER is free, openly licensed educational materials that faculty can adopt in place of commercially published textbooks.  Buckley and Budzyna developed their OER project through the Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL) grant– a statewide project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

NECC was an early adopter of the use of OER. Tashjian is co-chair of the Massachusetts OER Advisory Council. She and Dean of Business and Professional Studies, Jody Carson, introduced OER to the college in 2014 with a textbook task force. Since then, Tashjian estimates that free and low-cost course materials have saved more than 19,000 students $2 million on textbooks. With the latest offering from Lumen and other open textbook projects underway at Northern Essex, that number will continue to rise.

Faculty interested in learning more about the Digital Textbook and Materials Program pilot program can participate in one of two upcoming information sessions. Register here. They can also email Sue Tashjian with questions about the program or OER.