New Miller grants support better course materials, for free

The inaugural Miller Open Education Mini-Grants awarded this summer are helping Iowa State faculty develop, adapt and share instructional materials that save students money while enriching their classroom experiences.

The $50,000 program to support open educational resources (OER) provided small grants to 13 individuals or teams who want to use free, openly licensed course materials, or those who want to refine, expand and release OER materials they're already employing. Grant guidelines favored proposals that aim to improve teaching methods, said Abbey Elder, open access and scholarly communications librarian.

"Though we want to encourage student savings and OER adoption on campus, our aim wasn't just, 'Adopt an open textbook.' It was, 'Change how you teach the course,'" said Elder, who coordinated the grants. "By using or creating OER, you can make the class your own."

Advisory groups from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the library reviewed 27 proposals. The grants were distributed in July. Some materials already are in use this fall, while others will be developed for 2019, Elder said.

Faculty who received grants are required to place their materials in the library's digital repository, making them available to instructors anywhere, and complete a report and a panel presentation on their project, Elder said. They'll also be encouraged to mentor colleagues seeking to offer similar OER course materials.

Following are summaries of the winning proposals and the estimated savings per student:

Boris Jovanovic, natural resource ecology and management, and Evrim Baran, School of Education

Award: $5,000
Course: NREM 50X, Aquatic Toxicology
Summary: In this spring 2019 graduate course, Jovanovic's students will collaboratively write a wiki-style textbook that future classes can build upon. Small student teams will work together to write chapters, which Jovanovic will edit. Baran has experience in open pedagogy and will assist in the process, as well as assess learning outcomes.
Savings per student: $370

Young-Jin Lee, chemistry

Award: $2,000
Course: CHEM 211, Quantitative and Environmental Analysis
Summary: Lee is adopting an existing open textbook and creating or adapting supplementary materials to build upon the text.
Savings per student: $180

Eric Olson, apparel, events and hospitality management

Award: $5,000
Course: EVENT 471, Special Events Coordination
Summary: Olson is identifying and collecting OER materials, which are scarce in the event management field, to replace a required textbook. He's also creating team-based learning activities based on the OER.
Savings per student: $130

Sara Pistolesi, chemistry

Award: $9,950
Courses: CHEM 163L, 167L, 177L and 178L, general chemistry laboratories
Summary: Pistolesi is creating step-by-step visual manuals for experiments conducted in these 100-level chemistry labs.
Savings per student: $100

Dennis Lavrov, ecology, evolution and organismal biology

Award: $4,950
Course: EEOB 563, Molecular Phylogenetics
Summary: Lavrov's redesign of this course is using open resources in an integrated way. In addition to adopting an existing open textbook, he's creating OER tutorials and exercises for the materials and moving the course website to an open-source platform.
Savings per student: $100

Reza Montazami, mechanical engineering

Award: $4,000
Course: ME 370, Engineering Measurements
Summary: Montazami is compiling hand-written lecture notes he already was making available to students to create a new open textbook, updating and organizing them along the way. 
Savings per student: $77

John Haughery, agricultural and biosystems engineering

Award: $580
Course: TSM 363, Electric Power and Electronics for Agriculture and Industry
Summary: This fall, Haughery is testing an open textbook in his TSM 363 class.
Savings per student: $75

Craig Ogilvie and John Lajoie, physics and astronomy

Award: $2,000
Course: PHYS 241/242, Introduction to Classical Physics I and II
Summary: Ogilvie and Lajoie used open resources before these grants were offered but are developing assignments to pair with the OER textbooks in these courses.
Savings per student: $64

Peter Moore, natural resource ecology and management

Award: $4,960
Course: NREM 240, Quantitative Problem-Solving in Natural Resources
Summary: Moore has been writing a textbook for this course, which was first taught on an experimental basis in 2014. The grant assisted in the editing and formatting of the book, which is designed to support flipped and hybrid course structures.
Savings per student: $60

Michael Brown, School of Education

Award: $4,000
Course: RESEV 552, Basic Educational Statistics
Summary: Brown has shifted from teaching this graduate course with a proprietary statistical analysis software to a free application, giving students a better chance of applying what they learn after the course is complete. He's incorporating an OER textbook and in-class labs based on public data.
Savings per student: $50

Larysa Nadolny, School of Education

Award: $2,500
Course: C I 202, Learning Technologies in the 7-12 Classroom; and C I 505, Using Technology in Learning and Teaching
Summary: Nadolny is building modules on copyright and fair use issues in K-12 classrooms. Though designed for these two courses, the modules will be available through Canvas Commons and could be used in any course for future K-12 educators.
Savings per student: $25

Shenglan Zhang, world languages and cultures

Award: $1,600
Course: CHIN 102, Elementary Mandarin Chinese II
Summary: Zhang is collecting video and audio recordings demonstrating the proper use of tones in Chinese speech.
Savings per student: $0

Jen McClung, English

Award: $1,500
Course: AM IN 20X, Native People in American Culture
Summary: McClung is creating lesson plans for this new course mostly from scratch, building a curated list of open-access examples of contemporary Native American voices in culture.
Savings per student: $0

The grants, sponsored by the library, CELT and the office of the senior vice president and provost, were funded in part by the Miller Endowment Trust, which supports faculty development. The trust was created by the estate of F. Wendell Miller, an attorney and farm manager who died in 1995 and left the bulk of his estate to Iowa State and the University of Iowa. Grants will be offered again in the spring for fiscal year 2020, Elder said.