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Millie González and her colleagues will not argue here whether open educational resources are equivalent to traditional textbooks-she said Research This has been proven.

Gonzalez and Framingham State University, she is the interim curator of the Whitmore Library and part of a consortium in Massachusetts seeking to answer different questions. For example: if students have access to a free catalog-which is important here-what will happen to culturally related textbooks? What if teachers of color participate in the process of tailoring books for their courses?

“What will happen to students, especially those from underserved communities?” Gonzalez said. “Usually when you hear any discussion about free textbooks, it’s really just talking about cost, and what we’re saying is that it’s much more than that.”

Six colleges and universities in Massachusetts and the state’s Department of Higher Education are testing their hypothesis that free, culturally-related textbooks can improve student performance.

The project, called Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens, will be assisted by a three-year federal grant of $441,000. The funds will be used to provide financial support and guidance for teachers who create new open educational resources (OER) or adapt existing open textbooks. These books will be shared among 29 universities in Massachusetts that have undergraduate programs.

“We want to create a model that other states can use for their cultural relevance,” said Jess Egan, a coordinator of instructional design at Holyoke Community College, one of the partners. “We are trying to encourage a model that consciously builds or rebuilds OER to meet the needs of learners, not just to create textbooks.”

Other institutional partners are Fitchburg State University, North Essex Community College, Salem State University, and Springfield Technical Community College.

Beyond affordability

To explain the emphasis on cultural relevance, Gonzalez evokes memories of her growing up in New York City. Her experience is far from the example of her elementary school textbook centered on agriculture.

“As a little girl, I thought,’I don’t know what happened to the farm.’ But when I was in Manhattan, everything was tailored to this specific rural area. It just wasn’t appropriate,” she said.

But González believes that students will be able to see their own reflection in the funded text: “With open educational resources, we can certainly provide our students with this experience.”

González said that professors will be encouraged to include local background and examples in their textbooks and include non-white narratives. Approximately 39% of Framingham State University consider people of color, with Latino and black students accounting for 18% and 15%, respectively.

“If you want to change the dynamics and involve students, you can involve students in the production of your textbook,” she said.

Egan says that most commercial textbooks are produced in Texas or Florida, and their cultural references reflect their origins.

“For us in New England-a very progressive and radical place-some principles that have been stripped of the curriculum, this is why we are here,” she said. “We want to emphasize critical racial theory [and] Decolonization. ”

Egan is collaborating with a professor of anatomy and physiology, and he is preparing to change the images in her textbooks, which are mainly white male diagrams. This is not feasible for campuses where approximately one-quarter of the students are Latino and 40% of the students are generally considered to be people of color.

“It does not reflect the community, nor does it prepare students to serve the community,” Egan said. “She hopes to make the images completely diversified in order to better show the maternal health of black women or the diabetes of the’XYZ community’ and show them the issues they will deal with in the community.”

Fill in the gaps

Subjects such as English and low-level mathematics are covered in the OER ecosystem. Egan said that remixing open textbooks through a fair perspective has the opportunity to fill in areas where open textbooks are more scarce, such as early childhood education, healthcare, and criminal justice. Faculty and staff will be assisted by an advisory committee composed of local employers in the same field, including hospital staff, whose feedback can inform Egan of the changes in the anatomy and physiology texts mentioned.

“The faculty and staff are identifying gaps, and the hospital is providing insights about the gaps they see. This is a good combination of community and fair and purposeful curriculum design,” Egan said.

Egan says that creating and adapting open textbooks will also make universities more flexible. They can add chapters when employers need new skills, or choose the format that best suits their course.

“For things like social media marketing, if you publish a book this year, it might not make sense next year,” she said. “We can keep up with emerging trends and keep up with what is happening here and now.”

For example, music professors working for Egan need to ensure that their music theory textbooks, that is, textbooks that cancel four classes, will not be restricted. This will make it easier for students to use the included sheet music.

“They said,’We need to print it in a certain way so that when students play the piano, they can put the book like this.’ I never thought of such a thing before,” she said. “[OER] It’s not just PDF anymore. ”

Measure success

To measure the success of the program, participating universities will use open textbooks to check retention rates, grades, and number of faculty and staff. Librarians, technicians, and designers will work together to analyze the effectiveness of the plan and determine where students are experiencing difficulties.

“we know Students don’t always buy books, It created this cycle and they were left behind,” Egan said. “So we are very data-driven to ensure that not only the cost is reduced, but we are reaching people who are currently at risk. “

Of course, when the professor distributes open course materials, the student’s wallet is good.As the program may generate Up to 79 books, Participating institutions estimate that students will collectively save at least $800,000 in textbook costs. This may bring relief to students who have financial difficulties or go to university on their own.

“The first generation of students don’t know what happens when they go to college, they assume, just like in high school, all these materials will be provided to them,” González said. “Then we said to them,’By the way, You have to spend $1,000 to buy textbooks.'”

González hopes that universities in Massachusetts and across the country can use the materials produced by the project’s six partner institutions. At the very least, the project will encourage professors who plan to primarily use textbooks as references to choose OER books.

“We can absorb a lot of great OER content, and then add New England flavor, our regional flavor, and the intentional cultural relevance that I think is very lacking,” she said.

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