Minnesota State Colleges Earn Grant to Supply Education Students with Open Course Materials – KNSI

(KNSI) – Education students at St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical and Community College and four other Minnesota State institutions will now have free, open textbooks and course materials for some of their classes as part of a new grant program.

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the consortium of Minnesota State colleges a $978,332, three-year grant to provide open educational resources for education students in six of their core classes. Open educational resources (or OERs) are textbooks and other learning materials that are free of cost for students.

St. Cloud State assistant professor of teacher development David Blanchard says about 300 SCSU students will benefit from this grant each year and that OERs can be beneficial for courses that are continually changing, like education technology.

“While we know that ed tech is going to be something where the core pieces of it are foundational … the trendy side of educational technology is going to be something where we want to make sure that we’re integrating relevant and recent examples,” Blanchard said. “Leveraging an open ed resource that we can actually crowdsource ourselves within this consortium will allow us the dexterity and the nimbleness to swap out content examples and to gather experiences from the field through real, authentic teachers and what tools that they might be using.”

Blanchard says OERs also lessen the financial burden on students. Minnesota State estimates the program will help education students save $500 per year on textbooks.

“My first couple of semesters teaching in one of the educational technology and media integration courses, I used a great textbook that was horribly expensive,” Blanchard said. “It was a great resource; it provided all sorts of different examples, it integrated the research well into the context of the text. But as I was looking at the cost of the textbook being about $120 new and not much cheaper used, I was looking at the impact it was having on student education.

“One thing that we know and one thing that is being supported by this federal grant is that there are barriers to education,” Blanchard continued. “As we’re thinking about teacher preparation, we need to be removing any of these barriers that we’re able to. So, the cost of a textbook being $120 per course, with five courses in a semester, can really add up to become a really substantial barrier for pre-service teachers entering our profession.”

While the responsibility of paying for textbooks is not as applicable to K-12 students as it is for college students, Blanchard says future teachers who use OERs as students themselves can learn new ways to use textbooks and other learning materials in their own classrooms, combining resources and crafting curricula that work for their specific classes and students.

“We can really help use OER projects such as this to be able to say a textbook is an instructional resource. It’s not the only instructional resource,” Blanchard said. “It might be one source of content that you use developing learning experiences for your students. It kind of helps take the textbook off of the pedestal that it may have been on at one point, and say, ‘What do students really need as they are learners within their own lives?’ and determining what works for them versus having a publisher determine what works for all.”

Century College, Minnesota State University Mankato, Normandale Community College and Southwest Minnesota State University also benefit from the grant.

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