A Year-long Institute and New Grant Grow Digital Offerings

With an emphasis on student co-creators, Muhlenberg’s Open Educational Resources program receives recognition and new opportunities.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Wednesday, November 2, 2022 04:42 PM

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Muhlenberg students contribute to an Open Educational Resource project

In July 2021, a team of Muhlenberg faculty, administrators, staff and students was chosen to participate in the inaugural American Association of Colleges and Universities’ Institute on Open Educational Resources (OER). 

Muhlenberg was one of 66 institutions selected for the program. Working in collaboration with an AAC&U mentor, the team was able to advance its efforts to support the creation and adoption of free and affordable instructional materials for more students at the College. The 12-month program concluded with a capstone event in July.

The continued growth of OER offerings at the College — educational materials published under open licenses so they are free to use, adapt and share — is the focus of the article "Open Books" which ran originally in the Summer 2022 issue of Muhlenberg Magazine.

“The high cost of publishers' textbooks was certainly a starting point for OER on campus,” says Dean for Digital Learning and Professor of Media & Communication Lora Taub, who along with Tina Hertle, the director of Trexler Library, co-led the team throughout the AAC&U program. “But we wanted to widen that lens and use OER to address affordability, access, equity and inclusion in a broader way.” 

OER in the Hive - Tineke
Assistant Professor of History Tineke D'Haeseleer developed an OER for her China’s Magical Creatures course

Being chosen for the inaugural AAC&U institute was a recognition of Muhlenberg’s early successes in creating opportunities for faculty to engage in OERs, says Taub. “The feedback we got from our mentor and from peer institutions was that for a small liberal arts institution, we really are very forward-thinking and far along in our OER journey,” she adds.

Muhlenberg is particularly focused on engaging students as OER co-creators. They research, write, revise and then peer-review each other's chapters, which are then collected and published in a digital textbook. Their coauthored OER then becomes the text for students in future semesters of the course. 

“While faculty members play a major role as the lead author-editor, this process showcases the students’ work as collaborators, as digital creators, as scholars and writers,” adds Taub. “It's powerful for students to have the experience of doing a research paper that has a wider readership beyond their professor, including students at other institutions.”

One of the team’s tasks throughout the AAC&U program was to identify sources of funding to promote and incentivize the work. With Provost Laura Furge's support, Muhlenberg received a $22,000 grant in May from the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts (PCLA) to support the College’s OER efforts.

It’s perfect timing, says Taub, who noted that receiving this grant just as the AAC&U program was ending allows the College to fund five faculty to work on their individual OER projects over the next year.

The faculty members — Associate Professor of Psychology Erika Bagley, Professor of Chemistry Joseph Keane, Professor of Environmental Science Jason Kelsey, Lecturer in Spanish Amelia Moreno, Lecturer in Spanish Camille Qualtere and Assistant Professor of Spanish Mirna Trauger — hail from across the academic disciplines. 

Next summer, they will share their work at an OER conference hosted by Muhlenberg and which will bring together all the PCLA institutional grant recipients.