The College of Staten Island Library has recently received an almost $93.5K grant for Open Educational Resources (OER).

The CUNY OER initiative, coordinated at CSI by Assistant Professor of the Library and Emerging Technologies Librarian Christina Boyle, focuses on promoting the adoption of OER and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) courses. It is a state-funded incentive grant that is distributed to CUNY colleges via the CUNY Office of Library Services (OLS). Starting in 2017, it was planned for at least five years. Each year, funding is released from the state to SUNY and CUNY schools, and each campus submits an aggregated proposal, compiled and edited by the individual campus OER representatives, such as Assistant Professor Boyle.

CSI Associate Dean and Chief Librarian Amy Stempler said, “The OER grant enhances the CSI Library’s efforts to advance open digital content adoption and creation, and increase student accessibility to course readings. This initiative reinforces the Library’s mission to provide equitable access to information and curricular material, while simultaneously alleviating the burden of textbook costs and supporting student success. The OER grant helps strengthen our ability to anticipate and advocate for positive changes in the nature of open and unhindered access to knowledge.”

“The first year of the grant was managed by my colleague, Professor Anne Adkison,” Boyle recalled, “and I took over managing the grant starting in Fiscal Year, 2019. In the years that the grant has been active, this initiative has saved CSI students over $1.56 million in textbook costs.”

Boyle added, “As the OER initiative continues, CUNY continues to support campuses in transitioning courses to ZTC as well as to promote the creation of new OER. OLS facilitates CUNY-based platforms that can be used for OER creation and publication, such as Manifold and the CUNY Academic Commons, and provides access to other platforms such as Pressbooks for CUNY faculty.”

OLS also provides training events. Boyle mentioned that she has organized a number of talks and workshops on campus. She has also launched a completely asynchronous virtual crash course for faculty on OER, which has run twice, so far. “This course introduces faculty to OER, encourages them to find and create it, and requires them to share an original OER to CUNY Academic Works, our institutional repository,” she stated.

How do CSI students feel about OER? Blossom Akagbosu, student and former Student Government Representative said, “Four-credit courses are $2,000 plus. That alone is very challenging, it’s a huge financial burden on me and for textbooks, the cost of a textbook really plays a huge role in my success in the class. In my Anatomy and Physiology II class, we started using OER this semester and it was wonderful. I loved the way everything was organized, it was easy to find, I could study at home, and that is something that is really changing the way I’m studying. That, I think is really improving my success in the class.”

Maxwell Velikodny, alumni and former Student Government President underscored the savings to students, “I know a lot of other students that have constantly been worrying about being able to take a class because of the cost of a textbook or of them being able to afford it. OER is very important, I strongly recommend pursuing that, as a student and as a witness to how much it has already helped people.”

By Terry Mares