History Department and Libraries' Open Educational Resources Save U of A Students $50,000

Participants in the Summer 2020 Open Educational Resources and Affordable Partnership Project
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Participants in the Summer 2020 Open Educational Resources and Affordable Partnership Project

This summer, six historians worked together with the open educational resources librarian of University Libraries on a new course development project with open educational resources and affordable resources.

The project resulted in saving over $50,000 for students who take the required core curriculum two-semester sequence in American history during the 2020-21 academic year. The project helped reduce the average cost of books in those two courses by 25% since last fall, to just over $36.

The team of historians — Michele "Scout" Johnson, Airic Hughes, Amanda McGee, Sarah Riva, Marie Totten, and Ryan Smith — compiled OER, public domain, and free online resources and electronic library materials in a central online location to help all department instructors who teach HIST 2003 and HIST 2013.

In addition, each instructor agreed to teach using these free resources in the 2020-21 academic year to increase student access to these critical general education curriculum courses. A separate partnership with U of A Global Campus last year eliminated textbook costs and adopted OER resources in four regularly taught general education curriculum courses in World History and American History as well as the popular 3000-level Arkansas History online course.

"As a third of our first-year students from Arkansas are Pell eligible, this project further reduces the barriers students face to access our undergraduate courses," said James Gigantino, professor and chair of the Department of History. "This new partnership with the University Libraries adds to our department's success in reducing textbook costs in HIST 2003 and HIST 2013 by 60% since 2015 (from $91 to $36), saving students over $350,000 in the past five years and further increasing access and inclusion in our courses."

Each semester since 2017, the University Libraries and Global Campus have offered funding for U of A faculty to convert materials for their courses into open educational resources, or OER. This is the first departmental-wide partnership launched by the University Libraries. Learn more about the U of A's course materials conversion program on the OER webpage and visit the Finding OER guide to search for resources.

"The primary goal of our OER program is to help instructors identify and adopt cost-free openly licensed resources that allow them to help decrease the cost of attendance for University of Arkansas students. Adopting open resources also gives the instructors the academic freedom to teach their courses outside the confines of expensive, traditionally published textbooks. OER are licensed to allow instructors to legally make changes and additions to the resource without seeking permission from the author or publisher. Creative Commons licensing allows authors to grant this permission upfront," said Elaine Thornton, open education and distance learning librarian.

"However, because we know that OER is not yet available for all areas of interest, we also encourage instructors to take advantage of the many electronic and streaming media resources available at the library, by using them in their courses. I am very excited about the work that these historians have done this summer. They have created no textbook cost course plans that will benefit students this year and in the future." 

The Department of History, the University Libraries, and Global Campus jointly funded this summer's OER/Affordable Partnership. 


Jim Gigantino II, chair
Department of History
479-575-7332, jgiganti@uark.edu


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