By Elyse Pitkin

Kathleen Maretka, M.A., director of student teaching and field experience, and Merose Hwang, Ph.D., associate professor of history, were awarded OhioLINK OER Course Redesign grants designed to help faculty at OhioLINK institutions incorporate Open Educational Resources in their classes and to decrease course material costs for students. The hope is to increase grades and retention, as well as increase equity because all students have access to the textbook on the first day of classes.

“I have been thinking about open, free educational resources for quite some time,” said Maretka. “As a parent of two college students, I understand that every penny counts. It is a challenge to pay for tuition, room and board, and books. Some students here at Hiram are paying for much of this on their own, and it has been a noticeable challenge over the years for students to have the finances to purchase the textbook at the start of the term.”

Maretka was awarded the grant this past fall and is required to complete a three-week training along with a synchronous online meeting. After completing all required work, recipients are awarded $650 and Maretka is currently preparing to move some of her math courses to a free online text next fall––courses that are required for all students seeking elementary licensure or middle childhood math licensure. Part of the work that needs to be submitted to OhioLINK is an outline of what will be covered and how the open educational resource materials will be embedded in the course.

Maretka believes it is important for Hiram’s pre-service teachers to be exposed to these resources as the Education Department prepares students to work in schools. “Giving these students first-hand experience working with open educational resources will only help them prepare for the experiences they will encounter in schools,” Maretka said.

Like Maretka, Dr. Hwang found value in receiving the grant and implementing it in her courses. “I have noticed that when students have free access to course material, they are more likely to read the material. The Open Educational Resources text-to-voice reading materials have undoubtedly helped some of my neuro-divergent students to succeed in my classes and have more confidence in their learning capabilities,” she Dr. Hwang.

She furthers by saying, “It allows for underrepresented, underprivileged students to have better access to my classes and makes the cost of education more transparent. As an activist educator, I am finding like-minded content creators wishing to teach around similar missions, making me more invested and confident about my teaching materials. Open Educational Resources make me feel a part of the movement to democratize higher education.”