Videos are a common focus in new round of OER grants

This year's Miller Open Education Minigrants will fund nine open educational resources (OER) projects, creating free course content tailored for use in Iowa State classes and available to instructors around the world.  

After a spring in which teaching at times leaned heavily on video, more than half of the projects have a video component. In some cases, that experience may have had an impact, though many projects were in the works long before the pandemic hit, said open access and scholarly communications librarian Abbey Elder, who coordinates the grant program. The deadline to apply was mid-April.

"Some of them explicitly mentioned COVID in their applications," Elder said. "But often, this is something they've been thinking of for years and are now making a reality."

Faculty creating videos as part of their project will work with digital accessibility coordinator Cyndi Wiley to make sure the content meets accessibility requirements, Elder said.

The OER minigrant program is sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), University Library, and office of the senior vice president and provost. The minigrants, which are being awarded for the third year, are inspired by the Miller Faculty Fellowship Program, a CELT program funded by the Miller Endowment Trust. 

Elder said the minigrants are a key way to support faculty in creating OER, which saves students money and can support innovative teaching methods. Encouraging faculty to use freely licensed instructional materials, whether custom content or existing OER created by others, is an initiative backed by the Faculty Senate, the provost's office, the library and Student Government. Faculty who receive a grant are featured in the trailblazers section of the university's OER website.

Here are summaries of the 2020-21 minigrants, along with a statement from the faculty recipients about the project.

Eunjin Bahng, associate professor in the School of Education, and John Hauptman, professor of physics and astronomy

Humanizing science through STEAM challenges

  • Course: EDUC 449, Teaching of Science
  • Description: Bahng and Hauptman will produce STEM and the arts (STEAM) videos for K-5 students and short videos about scientists with various backgrounds. The former will be made in collaboration with teachers of science, technology, engineering and math in rural Iowa, and the latter by Iowa State elementary teacher candidates. 
  • Amount: $4,100
  • Quote: "We are mostly excited about community connections, peer-mentoring, and the creativity of science teachers in meaningfully placing the arts in STEM learning and teaching."


Anson Call, associate professor of graphic design

Developing OER videos for 3D motion graphics

  • Course: ARTGR 463/563, 3D Motion Graphics
  • Description: Call is developing video tutorials to bring subjects to life in an engaging way. Call's tutorials will be both pedagogically strong and focused on the course subject, aspects that available videos lack.
  • Amount: $4,000
  • Quote: "I'm excited to show graphic design in motion in a way that is exciting for my students but also accessible to a wider audience."


Yongyeon Cho, assistant professor of interior design

Tutorials of visual graphic communication programs for interior design

  • Course: ARTID 263, Graphic Communication for Interior Design II
  • Description: Cho will develop modular text, image and video tutorials to support students' understanding of three major computer graphic applications: AutoCAD, Revit and Enscape. The hybrid materials could help students with different learning styles.
  • Amount: $4,220
  • Quote: "Typically, graphic software learning requires direct interactions between students and instructors in a lab. Because of COVID-19, I am developing tutorials that could be optimized for online learning and a flipped classroom."


Kate Gilbert, associate teaching professor, and Ken Prusa, professor, food science and human nutrition

Creating instructional materials to improve the product development experience

  • Course: FS HN 412, Food Product Development
  • Description: Gilbert and Prusa have been teaching FS HN 412 for years as an innovative, team project-based course. They will publish an open textbook through ISU Digital Press and craft interactive exercises in ThinkSpace, a courseware platform developed at Iowa State.
  • Amount: $4,000
  • Quote: "We don't know what the spring semester will look like, so having the modules students can learn from and complete outside of lab time will provide needed flexibility for our capstone course."


Shan Jiang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering

An illustrated lab book and demos for polymer courses

  • Course: MAT E 453/553, Physical and Mechanical Properties of Polymers
  • Description: Jiang is developing an illustrated lab book to walk students through experiments with step-by-step images and videos. These materials may serve as teaching materials for other polymer courses as well, particularly MAT E 350, Polymers and Polymer Engineering.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "The new materials will greatly enhance the learning experience for students. It also provides new ideas to help deliver lab courses in a virtual environment."


Tim Kochem, doctoral student in English; Lily Compton, graduate communication programs coordinator for the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE); and Elena Cotos, associate professor of English and CCE director

Intelligibility-based oral communication resources for teaching nonnative English speakers

  • Course: ENGL 180 A-D, Communication Skills for International Teaching Assistants
  • Description: For over three years, Kochem, Compton and Cotos have been generating oral communication training materials and activities for international graduate students. The team will combine and refine that content in an interactive textbook.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "ISU Digital Press empowers us to create our project as a progressive, evolutionary process. We can continuously re-mold our materials to best serve the populations they are intended for."


Corinna Most, adjunct assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology

Biological and premedical illustration students’ anatomical drawings for BIOL 351

  • Course: BIOL 351, Comparative Chordate Anatomy
  • Description: Biological and premedical illustration (BPMI) students will create anatomical digital drawings of the specimens studied in the lab sections of BIOL 351.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "I see this project as a win-win-win! The students in BIOL 351 benefit from having an updated and improved lab handbook; the BPMI students get the chance to produce material for a university course and add a paid experience to their CV; and ISU gets to showcase the quality of both our biology and our BPMI majors by making these materials open access."


Megan Myers, associate professor of world languages and cultures

At home and abroad: Languages and cultures for the professions graduate experiences

  • Course: SPAN 304, Spanish for Global Professionals
  • Description: Myers' project will connect students to alumni through video testimonials and assessments. These videos will feature graduates of the languages and cultures for the professions (LCP) program.
  • Amount: $3,250
  • Quote: "Students often enroll in the LCP program because they recognize the importance of seeing themselves (and presenting themselves to future employers) as culturally competent global citizens, but they don't often get to see other students who've taken a similar professional trajectory and been successful. These video shorts -- linked to course objectives -- will allow students to virtually connect with past graduates and global professionals around the world."


Walter Suza, adjunct associate professor of agronomy

Integrating OER in AGRON 320

  • Course: AGRON 320, Genetics, Agriculture and Biotechnology
  • Description: Building on his experience creating online modules for teaching crop breeding to African students, Suza will create an open textbook that takes an interdisciplinary approach to genetics and biotechnology for agriculture.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "The pandemic has created immense financial difficulties for many. The genetics OER will save our students and their families some cash while providing relevant and up-to-date educational resources.”