Faculty implement first round of open educational resources grants

Thirty-four faculty at eight Penn State campuses are transforming their courses using open educational resources

Rosemary Martinelli, a lecturer in business and communications at Penn State Greater Allegheny, works with communications students who are writing and editing stories and press materials. A longtime user and innovator of open educational resources, Martinelli authored an open access textbook for her public relations courses and uses materials that are library licensed from major textbook publishers for her marketing and management courses.

Credit: Penn State Greater Allegheny

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the fall 2022 semester, 434 students across eight Penn State campuses collectively saved tens of thousands of dollars as a result of faculty replacing commercial textbooks with a combination of open educational resources (OER) and resources licensed by Penn State University Libraries.

With support from the University Libraries Open and Affordable Educational Resources Leads Grant Program, 34 faculty from the Penn State Abington, Beaver, Brandywine, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Lehigh Valley, Shenango and University Park campuses collaborated with librarians at their campuses to identify open and library-licensed course materials that would meet their course outcomes and their students’ learning needs, while also making the course materials free for students. Seventeen faculty used the new course materials this semester and the other 17 will implement them in spring 2023. They are joining hundreds of other faculty at Penn State who are already using OER in their courses.

Rosemary Martinelli, a business and communications faculty member at Penn State Greater Allegheny, is a longtime user and innovator of open educational resources. She authored an open access textbook titled “The Evolving World of Public Relations: Beyond the Press Release” for her public relations courses, and she uses materials that are library licensed from major textbook publishers for her marketing and management courses. Martinelli has seen her PR text included in online open and affordable educational resources (OAER) repositories worldwide and was recently contacted by faculty at other schools who want to use her book.

“My students’ savings turns into more time for them to focus on their course work and not worry about course material costs, while I can continue to promote the benefits of OAER,” Martinelli said. “Whether in marketing, management or communications and the humanities, we are utilizing not just texts, but also other course materials, including streaming documentaries, business videos that would cost students if they had to access them through other means, and no-cost simulations and online webinars that support whatever modality in which I am teaching.”

Martinelli applied for the OAER Leads grant to be able to continue expanding her writing and teaching materials to not just keep her PR text up to date, but also explore other topics that are still needed in the open-access world, including resources on journalism, news writing, media and creativity.

Funded by the Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarianship for Learning Innovations and a 2021 GivingTuesday campaign, the OAER Leads adoption grant program was created by Penn State librarians Christina Riehman-Murphy, open and affordable educational resources librarian; Bryan McGeary, learning design and open education engagement librarian; and Elizabeth Nelson, reference and instruction librarian. It scaled up the OAER adoption program developed at Abington by Riehman-Murphy and Nelson in 2019 with an initial $5,000 in endowment funding from the chancellor. That grant program was renewed twice because of its success, and in just four years and with only $15,000, 21 faculty adopted OER. In that time, because nearly every one of them have continued to use OER, 2,703 students have taken those courses, resulting in more than $100,000 in personal cost savings for them.

Challenges accessing course materials remain a huge barrier to student success, as textbook costs have outpaced currency inflation for decades. Thanks to the outpouring of support during last year’s GivingTuesday, Faye A. Chadwell, dean of Penn State University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, selected OER grants as one of the campaigns for GivingTuesday 2022 as well. Alumni and friends can make a donation to the OER Leads Grant Program campaign through Dec. 6.