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In an effort to promote equal access to information and spaces for all, MSU Libraries have awarded nine MSU faculty members funding assistance for the creation and adaption of open education resource materials for the 2020-21 academic year as part of a new program designed to help instructors reduce costs for students, improve access to required text, and increase student success. 

The Open Educational Resources (OER) program awarded a total of $26,500 in funding to seven different projects across MSU, three of which are from the College of Arts & Letters. Those three projects will each receive $4,000.

In order to earn a part of the grant money, projects must replace traditional textbooks with OER to help reduce the cost of course material.

The College of Arts & Letters projects and the five faculty members working on them include:

Basic Hindi I

Rajiv Ranjan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, sees the funding as an opportunity to expand the educational quality of his material while also saving students money.

“With this grant, I am developing a set of semester-long teaching and learning materials that are based on communicative and task-based approaches to language teaching,” he said. “These materials will be widely used by our own MSU students and other Hindi language learners across the globe for free via the MSU Library.”

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Assistant Professor Rajiv Ranjan

Ranjan said the current material for his Hindi Language and Culture course is sparse and often fails to meet the standards of current education. He will use the funding to create new content for this course.

“The final project will be an online, open-source, interactive textbook with two purposes,” Ranjan said. “First, it will be used for Basic Hindi learners at MSU or for any other learners in a classroom setting. Second, the self-assessment tools will allow any independent learners to use it at MSU and/or elsewhere at no cost.”

Elementary Arabic II

Ayman Mohamed and Sadam Issa, both Assistant Professors in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, applied for the grant to improve the resources for their Elementary Arabic II course. They will use the funding to publish a textbook and to produce audio/video material to go with that textbook.

The current textbooks for the course have shown “significant gaps in achieving learning goals,” according to Mohamed and Issa.

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Assistant Professors Ayman Mohamed (left) and Sadam Issa (right)

“Activities in this open resource are based on ACFTL proficiency guidelines that aim at solidifying the students supposed linguistics proficiency and at the same time challenging them to move to the next level of proficiency,” Issa said.

Mohamed and Issa plan to create the new textbook as a part of a learning series that they will build upon in the future.

“The final expected outcome will be in the form of an open access textbook that will constitute a full-fledged curriculum for ARB 102 for spring semester,” Mohamed said. “The textbook will include 10 theme-based units consisting of vocabulary, grammar, and culture. These themes will be handled through various modalities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).”

Theatre and Society

Associate Professor Alison Dobbins and Assistant Professor Daniel Smith, both faculty in the Department of Theatre, will use the funding to produce a textbook for their Theatre and Society (IAH 241D) course.

“In addition to utilizing public domain plays and primary sources, the textbook will explicate concepts based in sociology, anthropology, and philosophy as they relate to theatre and performance,” Smith said. “The grant is a catalyst for a more significant overhaul of our course than we probably would have done otherwise. My hope is that moving to OER will provide greater student engagement by making reading assignments more accessible.”

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Assistant Professor Daniel Smith (left) and Associate Professor Alison Dobbins (right)

Dobbins sees the funding as a crucial step forward in assisting a class that averages 300 students each semester.

“This grant goes beyond the funding, as the library has committed resources to assist individuals in training on the use of Pressbooks, guidance on copyrights and accessibility, and overall editorial assistance,” she said. “That assistance plus the funding has made the idea of writing a book into a reality.”