Funding to support Open Educational Resources (OER) at Cape Breton University is expected to result in nearly $80,000 in savings for students each year. Eight faculty members received internal funding to create OER to support specific courses at CBU. OER are teaching, learning and research materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license for no-cost access, re-use and modification. With the support of up to $5000 in funding, each faculty member will create or modify a textbook or instructional manual to replace materials that students would otherwise have to pay out of pocket. OER not only reduces students’ book costs, but as biology professor, Dr. Katherine Jones says, it will better allow her to compile materials that suit the learning outcomes for her introductory biology course.
“I currently teach 120 students in first-year biology, with a text book that costs students $130,” says Dr. Jones. “Open educational resources will allow me to create a resource that is current, relevant and specific to the content of the course, as well as free for students.”
Dr. Jason Loxton, CBU’s University Teaching Chair in Student Engagement and Knowledge Translation, has researched how textbook costs impact students at CBU, and the potential for OER to improve accessibility and student experience. “While the immediate benefit will be the cost savings—a lot of savings,” says Dr. Loxton, “Customizing textbook content allows faculty to tailor resources specifically for their classes, meaning they can better support their students and more effectively meet their learning objectives.”
The funding will support the creation of OER for courses in science and technology, as well as nursing and education. While designed for specific courses at CBU, the newly-developed OER may be suitable for courses offered by other institutions across Canada and beyond.
Dr. Rod Nicholls, Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, notes the role the CBU Students’ Union played in this project. “Students’ Union leadership was instrumental in advocating for and securing funding,” he says. “Seeing students and faculty collaborating so closely as an OER working group was an extremely positive experience. Congratulations to these faculty members who, with the support of generous funding from CBU, will dedicate time to develop resources that will benefit large numbers of students and provide leadership for future OER initiatives.”
The textbooks created as OER will be available on the Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL) Pressbooks.
OER Funding Recipients
Shannon Ezzat, Mathematics
Katherine Jones, Biology
Janet Kuhnke, Nursing and Sandra Jack-Malik, Education
Geoffrey Lee-Dadswell, Physics
Peter MacIntyre, Psychology
John MacMillan, Public Health
Helen Mersereau, Public Health
Martin Mkandawire and Adango Miadonye, Chemistry