Affordable Course Content Awards support free textbooks for 6 new courses

May 28, 2024
Flying books with red covers
Jeff Bland Illustration

Six faculty projects have been selected for VCU’s eighth round of Affordable Course Content Awards. This grant program supports faculty who enhance the learning experience for students through free and/or open course materials.  

The program received a high number of applications this cycle, showing faculty remain committed to student success.

Each of this year’s awardees will create or customize open materials with a potential for large impact at and beyond VCU. The awarded projects have the potential to save approximately 4,000 VCU students more than $228,500 annually.

The Affordable Course Content Awards program is made possible in part through funding from the Barbara Ford Endowment for the 21st Century Fund and The Friends of VCU Libraries.

Award recipients

  • Volkan Aytar, Ph.D., teaching faculty in the Department of Sociology, will create open course material for SOCY 370: Media and Society and SOCY 202: Foundations of Theory. The project aims to decolonize and de-Orientalize the sociology curriculum as well as to provide freely accessible course materials for a future online sociology major/minor track. 
  • Rebecca Shields, adjunct instructor in the Department of Art History, will create an open video resource for ARTH 104: Survey of Art. The resource is created in partnership with local historical sites highlighting African American art history, a topic absent from most art history textbooks. The first module was created with previous funding from the Affordable Course Content Awards and is available to view on the project website: Telling Their Stories: Black Artists in Virginia Historic Homes
  • Christine Cynn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Melissa Bradner, MD, MSHA, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Sara Wilson McKay, Associate Professor of Art Education, Shillpa Naavaal, B.D.S., M.S., M.P.H., Associate Professor, Dental Public Health and Policy, School of Dentistry, Sachi Shimomura, Ph.D., Associate Professor, English, and Tori Tucker, RN, PhD, VCU Health System will collaborate on a textbook for GSWS/AMST 391: Introduction to Health Humanities. This course content will be incorporated into the NEH grant-funded creation of a Health Humanities minor, starting in spring 2025. By planning affordable content for this core course of a new minor, the project team hopes to set affordable course content emphasizing diversity and equity-conscious transdisciplinary approaches as design principles for the program as it grows. 
  • Laura Ellwein Fix, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Punit Gandhi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Reed Ogrosky, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, will collaborate on a self-consistent set of supporting instructional materials for MATH 415: Numerical Methods that will be made freely available online. This resource will provide a critical foundation for students as they take the mathematical theory that they have learned into future STEM careers.
  • Oliver C. Speck, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of World Studies, will customize an open textbook for WRLD 240: Representations of Race in Cinema and create a film viewing sheet for each of the 12 films the course covers. The viewing sheets will guide students through their viewing experience with a series of questions about filmic form and will provide background information about the film in order to help students gain visual literacy and critically analyze representations of race in the films under discussion .
  • Nick Wong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Mason Hester, Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, will adapt the OpenStax Precalculus text for MATH 151: Precalculus and create ancillary materials, including a workbook with active learning activities and a CANVAS course shell. The workbook will have a focus on active learning and provide additional problem sets to accommodate students with a wide range of mathematical ability. 

About the Affordable Course Content Awards

The Affordable Course Content Awards provide financial and project support for faculty as they adopt zero-cost resources or create or customize openly-licensed alternatives to expensive course materials. By removing the financial barrier to access, free course materials increase the possibility that students can succeed in their academic careers. Course materials with open licenses also allow faculty to tailor materials to their specific classes, creating engaging learning experiences for students.  While many resources resemble traditional textbooks, supported course materials can take a variety of forms, including interactive websites, videos, or ancillary materials. 

The program has supported 36 projects in different academic 27 departments across 7 cohorts. Past projects include Digital Histology, Atelier RÉEL, Business Foundations, Language and Culture in Context, and Biological Basis of Behavior. Through Summer 2024, funded projects have impacted 468 sections of 59 courses and 100 professors and saved 61,231 students (duplicated headcount) $6.4 million.

Learn more about the Affordable Course Content Awards or VCU Libraries’ support for open and affordable course content.


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