A federal grant is helping Northern Essex Community College (NECC) in ongoing efforts to make classes more affordable and inclusive. NECC is part of a consortium of Massachusetts colleges that has received a three-year $440,000 federal grant to encourage the use and development of free Open Educational Resources (OER).
OER are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.
“This grant is focused on creating and adapting OER for high-enrollment programs that are both free to students and culturally relevant,” says Sue Tashjian, NECC’s coordinator of instructional technology and co-chair of the Massachusetts OER Advisory Council.
Called Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL), the grant will help faculty and librarians create and adapt OER materials that are accessible, intentionally inclusive and representative of the student population.
NECC was an early adopter of the use of OER. Tashjian first introduced free OER to the college back in 2014 with a textbook task force. Since then, she estimates the use of free and low-cost course materials has saved 16,000 NECC students nearly $2 million.
Colleges taking part in the effort, in addition to NECC, include: Framingham State University, Fitchburg State University, Holyoke Community College, Salem State University, and Springfield Technical Community College, in consortium with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.