Brock grants aim to enhance teaching, cut student costs

A new grant is enhancing academic flexibility for instructors while cutting course costs for students.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Adoption Grant program is funded by the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) and is distributed to instructors who have incorporated OER into their courses.

OER are teaching, learning and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright but have been released under an open licence. OER may be freely reused, revised, remixed, retained and redistributed.

The most recent grants have awarded $8,000 to eight courses across four Faculties and will result in an overall student savings of $167,000 per year in course materials.

Rajiv Jhangiani, Brock’s Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning, said that while instructors are free to choose whichever teaching materials they determine are most appropriate, he hopes the grants will allow for OER to be showcased to new audiences.

“We already have a grassroots community interested in OER and we see further interest in the pedagogical flexibility and enhanced academic freedom they can provide,” he said. “While OER can help to free instructors from the constraints of traditional copyright, Brock is also recognizing the creation of OERs in applications for tenure and promotion.”

For BUSU Vice-President, University Affairs Carleigh Charlton, OERs offer a way to reduce barriers for students and enable a more accessible and affordable post-secondary education.

“OER significantly reduce student expenses and are designed to be flexible and accessible to everyone,” she said. “By investing in this initiative, BUSU hopes to create a more equitable and inclusive learning environment for all Brock students.”

Along with courses in Health Sciences, Education and Visual Arts, the funds will also be used in Psychology, where Lecturer Scott Neufeld said the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The resource I use for my Introduction to Community Psychology class is an entirely online, no cost textbook that, to me, feels superior to other expensive, hard copy textbooks for the same course,” he said. “Students get the benefit of an interactive, online textbook experience with embedded hyperlinks and videos to complement what they are reading. I also integrate the online chapter quizzes made available through the textbook into my assessments throughout the course. More than ever, students are struggling with the affordability of tuition and textbooks, and adopting free, open access, high-quality resources is an easy way to take a tiny bit of the financial burden off.”

With a new round of grants set to be distributed after the Monday, Sept. 25 application deadline, Jhangiani said his team is ready to help more instructors access OER.

“We are going to adjudicate grants until our funds are exhausted,” he said. “OER are part of Brock’s academic plan, and we hope to build even more support for this work in the future.

To learn more about Brock’s Open Educational Resources Adoption Grant, visit the Brock University Library website.

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