West Virginia higher education faculty and staff recognized for helping students save nearly $450,000 in textbook costs

CHARLESTON, WV – Three West Virginia higher education employees are being honored for their leadership in implementing Open Educational Resources (OER), which are cost-effective alternatives to traditional textbooks, for their students.

In 2021, West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System launched Open Learning WV to provide grants to faculty members at public and private colleges and universities across the state to use OER. Since Spring 2021, nearly 90 faculty have converted more than 100 courses to OER through the initiative, resulting in a savings of nearly $450,000 for 3,000 students. 

The following faculty members received inaugural Open Learning WV awards for being at the front end of providing affordable instructional materials for their students:

  • Dr. Monica Garcia Brooks, Associate Vice President for Online Learning & Dean of University Libraries at Marshall University, received the Leadership Award for demonstrating strong leadership to support the adoption, creation, and/or use of OER.
  • Catherine Wright, English professor at the University of Charleston, received the Educator Award for excelling at adopting OER in the classroom, and for thinking creatively about the role of these materials in student learning.
  • Larry Sheret, Scholarly Communication and Open Educational Resources Librarian at Marshall University, received the Support Champion Award for championing the adoption of OER at his institution.

“I thank these awardees and every early adopter for their leadership and dedication to helping their students succeed,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education. “I’m proud that so many faculty have already embraced this opportunity, and for all of those working with us to expand this program even further. They are helping more students stay on track to earn their degrees and reach their career dreams. It is our earnest mission, as partners in higher education, to not just get more students enrolling in college – but to support them at every step in their college journey.”

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to make learning materials more easily accessible, but even before that – in 2019 – the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation that encourages using OER to reduce the financial burden on students. As outlined in this legislation, OER are materials available in the public domain or are otherwise released under an open license that allow for no cost and easy access to students.

As a direct result of this policy and thanks to a more than $1 million collaboration that began with a seed grant from the Ascendium Education Group, West Virginia’s higher education office launched Open Learning WV to provide $1,000 grants for faculty to use OER in their courses. 

Further implementation of OER through Open Learning WV is continuing through the Spring 2022 semester and beyond. Interested faculty are encouraged to contact the Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Academic Affairs at 304-558-0261 for information about future funding opportunities.