UNM University Libraries Open Educational Research (OER) Librarian Jennifer Jordan is the principal investigator for a $2.125 million federal Open Textbook Grant recently awarded to the university by the U.S. Department of Education.
The money will go towards the creation of the New Mexico Open Educational Resources (NMOER) Consortium to help faculty in the state adopt, adapt, and create OER.
This grant is one of five awarded nationwide by the DOE’s Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. The goal is to help faculty across the state adopt OER, which are educational materials in the public domain and freely accessible by all. Elisha Allen, UNM IT director of Online Strategies and Academic Technologies, will be a Co-PI.
The grant creates the NMOER Consortium, which will allocate funding and resources to faculty at the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, and Santa Fe Community College. This program will build on state investments in equitable education, including the NM Opportunity Scholarship and the NM Lottery Scholarship.
“This grant program will be pivotal for OER in New Mexico because using open curriculum takes more time and effort for faculty to adopt and adapt. This grant will support faculty and encourage multi-institutional adoption and collaboration of open curriculum,” Jordan said.
At the same time, the funding will transform the education landscape in New Mexico and create more equitable conditions, she said.
“A study that we performed in 2022 with Dean Leo Lo from the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences and STEM Librarian Holly Surbaugh found that about a third of UNM students surveyed faced economic hardship while trying to afford textbooks. Purchasing textbooks interfered with students’ ability to meet their basic needs like food, housing, and transportation,” Jordan said.
“So one goal of this program is to help students pursue their education without as much financial struggle. Students can become overwhelmed and disengaged when they financially struggle and are hungry. Our students face so many obstacles just trying to make it to class. Research shows that OER positively impacts students from historically underserved groups at a much higher rate than students who can afford their books.”
Creating the NMOER Consortium will enable educators across the state to access OER materials aligned with the outcomes included in the New Mexico General Education Curriculum.
Currently, the UNM OER initiative, established in 2022, is administering a smaller scale Open Textbook Adoption program for faculty using funding from State Bill 192, which aims to provide faculty members with the support they need to adopt, adapt, and create low and no-cost textbook and class material solutions for their courses when it aligns with their instructional objectives and academic freedom.
The federal grant will expand the initiative to create an OER center within New Mexico where faculty can obtain help researching and creating open curriculum. The consortium will collaborate with units including the University of New Mexico Press, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the University Libraries.
Through the grant in 2024, five UNM faculty members will be actively engaged in the development and delivery of Open Educational Resources curriculum for their courses. They are: Dr. Stephen Cabaniss, Dr. K. Joseph Ho, Dr. Ezra Depperman, and Dr. Diana Habel-Rodriguez from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Dr. Mary Rice from the College of Education & Human Sciences.
For more information about the NMOER Consortium and OER opportunities, visit oer.unm.edu and sign-up for the OER listserv.