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NECC Hosts Faculty Showcase for OER Textbook Project

Submitted by on May 30, 2024 – 1:09 pm

Haverhill, MA (May 29, 2024) – Faculty from across the state gathered at Northern Essex Community College on Wednesday to celebrate the culmination of a year of hard work on the “Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens” project (ROTEL). The project, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, provides participants with the resources to create Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are free, openly licensed educational materials that faculty can adopt in lieu of commercially published textbooks.

Northern Essex is one of six institutions in Massachusetts participating in the ROTEL project. Wednesday’s showcase allowed faculty and leaders from all of the colleges and universities to share their work, network, and learn from each other.

Professors Doris Buckley (center) and Lisette Espinoza (far right) share their experiences creating free digital materials for their classes

“This is some of the most rewarding and exciting work I do here,” said Sue Tashjian, NECC’s coordinator of instructional technology. “It’s incredible to see these high-quality, inclusive resources for our students.”

One of the requirements for all ROTEL participants is that they create culturally relevant and diverse materials. Faculty also take part in weekly professional development training on topics such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “ROTEL’s training assists me in the design and structure of a textbook to empower students to learn – from its overall design and curricular content, which reflect diverse voices of the literary world, to providing options for students to access from different devices and platforms,” said Professor Lisette Espinoza, while she was designing her project for one of her literary classes. The free, digital textbook is called “Literary Studies for a Sustainable Future.”

NECC Professor Lisette Espinoza’s OER textbook published through the ROTEL project

The showcase also included the first OER textbook developed at NECC. Early Childhood 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, like all OER, is free for educators and students across the country.

“OER work in Massachusetts is a shining example of how an initial investment of just small amounts of money and time can turn into a grassroots movement that is creating accessible and equitable materials for our students,” said Jody Carson, NECC’s dean of business and professional studies. She and Tashjian were at the forefront of the OER movement in the state. Carson recalled starting this work ten years ago with just a $5,000 grant.

Since then, Tashjian estimates the use of free and low-cost course materials has saved more than 20,000 students $10 million on textbooks. She also serves as co-chair of the Massachusetts OER Advisory Council.

NECC currently offers 90 courses that use OER. Students can search specifically for these classes in the course search tool and select the Free/Low-Cost Books icon at the top-right. For more information about free and low-cost textbooks or OER, please contact Sue Tashjian at 978-556-3686 or

Institutions participating in the ROTEL project, along with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education:

Fitchburg State University
Framingham State University
Holyoke Community College
Northern Essex Community College
Salem State University
Springfield Technical Community College

More information can be found on the ROTEL Project webpage. A catalog of OER developed through the ROTEL Project can be found here.