Faculty: Apply for a 2022 Affordable Course Content Award by May 27

February 28, 2022

VCU Libraries, the Office of the Provost, VCU Online, the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Academic Technologies, Barnes and Noble @ VCU,  Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success, and the Friends of VCU Libraries announce that the 2022 round of the Affordable Course Content Awards is now accepting applications. The program supports faculty adoption of free resources and customization and creation of openly-licensed alternatives to expensive course materials. 

Deadline is May 27 for a required intent to submit form, which is followed by a pre-submission consultation to help applicants begin thinking through their project. Completed full applications are due June 12. 

“The Affordable Course Content Award program facilitates the development of open educational resources by providing access to a supportive network, individualized guidance and consultation, opportunities to present and share the newly created OERs, and formal recognition and financial resources to support the tremendous efforts necessary to develop OERs," said Dana Lapato, Ph.D., instructor of human and molecular genetics and recipient of a 2020 and 2021 award, who is creating a dynamic OER for data science. “The support and resources afforded by the program shifts the task of creating an OER from seeming nearly insurmountable to feeling challenging but achievable.”

Faculty members are invited to apply for awards in three categories:

  • Adopt: Redesign your course to incorporate open or free educational resource(s) with little to no editorial changes made to the resource.
  • Customize: Modify an open resource, combine and/or modify multiple open resources, or create ancillaries for an existing resource.
  • Create: Create a substantially new openly licensed resource, where it is possible to demonstrate that quality resources are not currently available to meet learning objectives. 

Resources can include textbooks, but also any other materials used for teaching such as videos, podcasts, or supplementary materials. Resources previously created by the faculty for use in their classroom can also fall under this category, as long as the faculty is willing to openly license them. In these cases, grant funding can be used to edit, formalize, and/or widely share these resources.

The awards can inspire faculty to begin a new project or provide the support needed to implement a long-considered project. Each type of project will also be evaluated on the scale of the project, which evaluates the project stage and impact:

  • Seed projects are in the early stages of planning and/or are for a limited implementation,
  • Spread projects are expanding on seed projects and/or projects with larger implementation, and
  • Sustain projects are close to or have completed a first draft of the resource or implementation, where additional funds are needed to help finish, revise, or expand the resource.

Support is both financial and project-focused, such as publishing support from VCU Libraries. Award cohorts are provided instruction and resources in topics including accessibility and open licensing and engage in conversations with past recipients to ensure they have the needed tools to adopt, customize, or create free resources for their students.

Full guidelines and application materials are available on the affordable course content awards page. Faculty who want to apply must indicate their intent through a brief online form by May 27, 2021, and participate in a required pre-submission consultation. Completed application forms are due June 12, 2021. Project timelines may vary but must be implemented by Fall 2024 at the latest.

Faculty who are interested or have questions can also reach out to Open Educational Resources Librarian Jessica Kirschner

“VCU faculty always have their students’ success in mind, and we’re happy to continue to offer this opportunity to help enable these efforts through the elimination of course materials costs,” said Kirschner. “I’m always impressed at the innovative projects faculty propose through this awards program. I look forward to working with another cohort of faculty creating resources that are not only free but are also inclusive, interactive, unique, and created specifically for the VCU environment.”

A Fall 2021 survey of VCU students found that textbook prices led to 80 percent of students not purchasing a required textbook, 44 percent not registering for a specific course, 45 percent earning a poor grade, and 27 percent dropping a course. Free course materials remove this financial barrier to access, increasing the possibility that students can succeed in their academic careers. Studies (e.g. Colvard, Watson, and Park, 2018) have shown that this impact is even more significant for students who are minorities or from certain socio-economic backgrounds. Course materials with open licenses also allow faculty to tailor materials to their specific classes, creating engaging learning experiences for students. 

The Affordable Course Content Awards support faculty who wish to follow this path to enhance the learning experience for students across VCU. The program has supported 27 projects across the four previous cycles. Through Fall 2021, those projects have impacted approximately 175 sections of 40 courses and 50 professors and saved 29,000 students (duplicated headcount) $3.2 million.

Visit the affordable course content awards page to learn more about the program and previous recipients. 


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