SRU’s Open Educational Resources grant program saves students $37,000


Six Slippery Rock University faculty members received Open Educational Resources grants for the 2019 fall semester to support revising their courses to incorporate using free or low-cost course materials.

Six Slippery Rock University faculty members received Open Educational Resources grants for the 2019 fall semester to support revising their courses to incorporate using free or low-cost course materials.

Nov. 25, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — A new initiative by Slippery Rock University is lightening the financial burden students face when purchasing textbooks and putting that money back in their wallets.

Six SRU faculty members received Open Educational Resources grants for the fall semester to revise their courses by using free or low-cost materials instead of traditional textbooks. The initiative, organized through the Office of Academic Affairs and Integrated Learning, has already saved students a combined $37,000 for the fall semester compared to the cost of buying new textbooks.

"We are appreciative of the efforts of the faculty to help reduce the costs of education and make college more affordable for our students," said Brad Wilson, associate provost for academic affairs and integrated learning, and chair of the OER steering committee. "We'll continue to offer these grants to support faculty who see this as a suitable option for their courses."

Faculty members receive a one-time grant between $300-$500 for each class, depending on the number of the students in the class, that they can use for professional development as an incentive to revise their class using OERs.

OERs are class resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use. OERs include modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software and other learning tools. SRU's Bailey Library partners with Affordable Learning PA, a statewide initiative through the Pennsylvania Academic Libraries Consortium, to access OERs. The University also partners with Top Hat, a learning technology company, for faculty to select, adopt and edit existing OER materials at no cost to faculty or students.

Brad Wilson


For his Crime, Justice and Society course, Jeffrey Roth, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice, replaced a traditional textbook he used for several years with a set of articles he selected from various academic journals and distributed them online to students as PDFs.

"I had been increasingly unhappy with the textbook I was using but had been unable to find anything more suitable," Roth said. "Switching to journal articles not only saved students the money they would have spent on a textbook, but it also provided more interesting content that laid a foundation for more engaging discussions in the classroom."

Kathy Melago, associate professor of music, explored using an "etext" through Top Hat rather than requiring a textbook for her Exploring Music course. Unfortunately, Top Hat didn't have an etext suitable for her class ... so she ended up authoring one with Top Hat.

"The cost of the textbook I used before was getting out of control with either an expensive print text or an electronic text on a 180-day subscription that students could not sell back," Melago said. "The nice thing about (coauthoring an etext with Top Hat) is that I was able to incorporate the outcomes of my (liberal studies) class, Creative and Aesthetic Arts Inquiry, into my text and include other content that I believe is important and interesting for an Exploring Music class."

Roth will use his OER professional development grant to help pay for travel expenses to attend the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences' 2020 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, where he will present research and attend workshops. Melago already used her grant money to attend the National Association for Music Education National Conference in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month.

Other SRU faculty who received OER grants for the fall semester included Aksel Casson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary programs; Laura Kelley, assistant professor of elementary education/early childhood; Timothy Michaels, instructor of communication; and Mark Zeltner, associate professor of communication.

"We appreciate all efforts from the faculty and the University to address textbook affordability for students," said Nicole Dunlop, a junior corporate security major from Latrobe, who is president of the Slippery Rock Student Government Association. "It is great to see these accomplishments and we are excited to see how it will grow in the future."

The OER grant program will continue for classes offered in spring and fall 2020. Faculty interested in applying for the OER grant can find more information at

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