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Improving Access to Health Education at Springfield Technical Community College

Posted by on February 7th, 2020 Posted in: Funded Project
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Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons (Building 19), Springfield Technical Community College, December 2018.

In 2018-2019, NER supported Springfield Technical Community College Library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative. Chelsea Contrada, Outreach and OER Librarian, was the lead for this project. Springfield Technical Community College is located in the ethnically and racially diverse city of Springfield, Massachusetts. This blog post is an excerpt from the final report submitted to NER in May 2019.

For the Improving Access to Health Education: Reducing Textbook Costs with Open Educational Resources project, qualified faculty members were awarded a stipend to convert their current course curriculum materials (textbooks, assignments, quizzes, etc.) to freely available OER or library materials. By redesigning health sciences courses and prerequisites around free resources that are openly licensed and/or available through the STCC Library and the National Library of Medicine, more students will be able to afford to complete these degrees.

The primary goal of this project was to increase the use of OER in the health degrees, particularly in the new health science associate’s degree. The final report includes more specific objectives. NER funds were used to develop an OER faculty fellows program. Only courses in the health sciences or their prerequisites were eligible for a stipend. Faculty agreed to follow specific project guidelines. The amount of funds each faculty received was dependent on the details of their course redesign. Stipend amounts were tiered, based on similar OER models at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Massachusetts Community College Go Open Project.

Faculty applications were graded with a rubric and recipients were chosen by the OER committee. Priority was given to courses with the greatest student impact. All faculty chosen were required to participate in an online training session that emphasized freely available online resources from the National Library of Medicine. The training was created by OER Librarian Chelsea Contrada, and hosted on the library’s website. Each recipient was required to have an initial meeting with Chelsea to discuss their plan for redesign and implementation. They were also required to meet with the STCC Office of Disability Services in order to ensure that all materials used are ADA compliant and follow Universal Design standards.

This program also came with unexpected positive outcomes. There were a number of faculty who were interested in the program but whose courses did not qualify under this particular grant. Fortunately, the Title III coordinator offered to use grant funds to match the stipends for any faculty with courses outside of the scope of the original program. These funds resulted in five additional course redevelopment projects, increasing student impact and overall savings.

The mission of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is to support students as they transform their lives. This project has made an impact on students by greatly reducing the costs of textbooks for courses that contribute to a degree in the health sciences. Demographically, the students in these programs do not match the students of the college as a whole. This project sought to promote diversity and remove barriers for underserved students and reduce educational costs by eliminating the cost of learning materials for specific courses. The project resulted in twelve (12) courses now running with zero materials costs, saving over four-hundred (400) students $77,639.86 on textbooks.

This project also helped to strengthen campus partnerships. As a result, the library has a stronger relationship with the School of Health and Patient Simulation, and a new partnership with Title III and HSI-STEM. Going forward, these partners will continue to support the STCC OER initiative and recognize the impact that OER can have on student success.

STCC Open Education Initiative

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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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