University of Houston Libraries has received a gift of $75,000 from the John P. McGovern Foundation, designated for open educational resources (OER).
OER are teaching and learning tools, either in the public domain or released with an open license, that anyone can freely use and re-purpose. OER at UH began in 2017 in response to advocacy from the Student Government Association regarding textbook affordability concerns. Commercial textbook costs have risen dramatically over the past few decades, with both financial and academic impact on many UH students. While expensive textbooks prevent students from accessing course materials, OER provide free and immediate access to course materials, allowing students to be prepared on the first day of class, earn better grades, and stay enrolled in the course.
Dr. Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, introduced the UH Alternative Textbook Incentive Program (ATIP). In partnership with the Office of the Provost, UH Libraries implemented ATIP, which awards instructors who adopt OER in their courses, replacing commercial textbooks with OER and/or the use of freely available or library-owned resources. Since 2018, ATIP has provided three rounds of funding for faculty who have adopted alternative textbooks, benefitting a total of 10,171 students and saving an estimated $1,183,564 in student textbook fees.
Additionally, instructors are afforded flexibility and customization through OER to produce course content that is appropriate, updated and diverse. Faculty have reported improvements in student preparation, engagement, and learning outcomes in connection with increased access to materials.
“I was thrilled to learn about this gift to the Libraries to support OER, an initiative I have known to be crucial for access to course materials for many of our students,” Short said. “The McGovern Foundation’s support emphasizes the ongoing achievements of this program and provides essential funding for its enduring success.”
With the McGovern gift, UH Libraries is empowered to better support faculty who take on the workload of preparing their own course materials. Ariana Santiago, open educational resources coordinator at UH Libraries, facilitates outreach and education for faculty on OER-related topics and coordinates a growing community of practice on OER. “The generous donation from the McGovern Foundation will allow UH Libraries to increase incentives for faculty who adopt OER,” Santiago said. “Providing free and immediate access to course materials makes higher education more affordable and improves the academic experience for our students.”
“This gift from the McGovern Foundation allows us to strengthen the great progress of this critical program,” said Athena Jackson, dean of UH Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair. “UH Libraries remains dedicated to Provost Short’s student success initiatives which enable us to scale our efforts and ensure the broadest level of partnerships across campus.”