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SHP Faculty Use Affordable and Open Educational Resources to Reduce Cost of Education for MU Students

In August 2017 UM System President Mun Choi invited School of Health Professions faculty in the Department of Health Sciences to participate in an Affordable and Open Educational Resources (AOER) Initiative to help reduce the cost of education for MU students. The initiative provides funding for faculty to evaluate and adopt alternative course materials, and, in some cases, redesign their courses to maximize the new resources.

Affordable resources are those with a cost of $40 or less to the student, and open resources refers to materials with open licensing, such as Creative Commons, and come with no cost to the student. Another key component of AOER are resources that are free to the students, but come with an associated cost borne elsewhere in the university, such as journal subscriptions and other materials provided by the MU Libraries and other partners.

Pictured at left: Grace Atkins, MU Libraries; Dale Sanders, the Mizzou Store; and Health Sciences faculty members Molly Vetter-Smith, Botswana Blackburn, Jenna Wintemberg, Mark Kuhnert and Carolyn Orbann recently presented their work in AOER at the Mizzou Celebration of Teaching.

In the summer of 2017, Health Sciences faculty identified four courses to make the transition to AOER materials, and worked in teams to identify the best approach for each course. Assistant Teaching Professor Jenna Wintemberg teaches a research methods course online. “The team approach was really helpful,” Wintemberg said. “There were more open resources than I expected and the library was able to help us find an open textbook that worked well for our course.”

Associate Teaching Professors Botswana Blackburn and Mark Kuhnert said their course, the department’s capstone course in health care leadership, was almost completely re-written and now relies mostly on alternative materials like journal articles, TED Talks and case studies. “For the theory portions of the course, we were able to negotiate with the textbook publisher through the Mizzou Store to get the two chapters we needed for only $15 per student,” Blackburn said. “And then, because the course is interdisciplinary, we used the other materials to build assignments that gave students greater flexibility in how they learn, and in which context they’ll apply that theoretical knowledge.”

Molly Vetter-Smith, an assistant teaching professor in the department, teaches Health Care in the US. The best learning materials for that course can change almost daily. “The benefit to students of using AOER in our course is a wider variety of sources and types of materials, which helps students engage at a higher level and supports a many different learning styles,” Vetter-Smith said. “It was harder than I thought to give up my own reliance on a textbook, but the transition to AOER has given me more flexibility in what I share with students and challenges me to keep my materials up to date.”

The four courses modified by DHS faculty members in Spring 2018 saved 594 students $33,495 – or an average of about $60 per student this semester. Kuhnert noted that as the health sciences faculty analyze their course evaluations and student grades in these courses, they’ll be looking for indicators that the AOER courses have been successful from a student outcomes perspective. Throughout the university system, efforts are underway to measure the effectiveness of AOER courses by correlating student outcomes with the cost and type of materials used in the course.

Assistant Teaching Professor Carolyn Orbann serves on the UM System Affordable and Open Educational Resources Task Force, and also adopted open resources for her courses this semester. In recognition of her leadership in AOER and improving the affordability and accessibility of course materials for students, she was recently awarded the MU Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Open Educational Resources. Orbann has long been an advocate of the initiative and encourages other faculty to use the resources available to help them pursue a transition to AOER materials for their courses. “When you do it, use your partners – MU Libraries, the Mizzou Store, ET@MO, The Disability Center – and do it the right way so that everyone gets the benefits,” Orbann said. She added: “The university has been 100% supportive of our academic freedom in finding, evaluating and selecting the materials that are best for our students.”

Health Sciences faculty are not the only ones at SHP taking advantage of the UM System financial support for adopting AOER course materials. Monica Schibig, Associate Clinical Professor and Program Director for Respiratory Therapy, just received a grant to support modifications to one of her courses: Emergency and Disaster Management in Health Care. The 100 students per semester in that course will no longer need a textbook, but use alternative materials to study and evaluate disasters and provider responses. “Transitioning to AOER will give us the opportunity to add modules to the course that were missing from the traditional textbook,” Schibig said. “We can incorporate interdisciplinary team responses in the hospital setting, we can add resources that cover how economic and social disparities affect the disaster response, we’ll have a lot more flexibility.”

SHP Dean Kristofer Hagglund is supportive of faculty members who are exploring and adopting open materials. “The AOER initiative gives our faculty the opportunity to redesign some high-enrollment courses in a way that keeps materials costs down and keeps the learning environment fresh and engaging for students,” Hagglund said. “Faculty will have the flexibility they need to place current practice, policy and trends in the context of history and theory, and students will be better prepared to critically evaluate the changing landscape of health care as they pursue their educations and careers.”