Press Release

AAC&U Receives $522,757 in Grant Funding for Two New Open Educational Resources (OER) Projects

Funding from the Davis Educational Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Will Support OER Projects to Enhance Integrative Learning and Strengthen Alignment with Campus Goals for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today that it has received funding in the total amount of $522,757 to expand its efforts to accelerate the development and adoption of open educational resources (OER) as a strategy for improving educational quality and equity and supporting student success.

OER are educational materials that are free for faculty and students to use, customize, and share. Their broad implementation by colleges and universities can help increase affordability, level the academic playing field, and reduce gaps in student performance.

“AAC&U partners with institutions across the global higher education landscape to support OER development and implementation,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “We are grateful to the Davis Educational Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for enabling us to expand this work by launching two new OER projects.”

AAC&U has received an award of $372,757 for Open Educational Resources as the Means to Enhance Integrative Learning, a three-year project to guide interdisciplinary faculty-led campus teams in identifying, creating, and deploying free or low-cost educational resources for both students and faculty. The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. In addition to promoting integrative learning through OER, the project will seek to instantiate integrative learning as an achievable, career-relevant, and assessable student learning outcome.

The first of two multi-institutional cohorts to be funded through the project are participating in the AAC&U Institute on Open Educational Resources, which kicked off with a virtual event on July 26–27. The yearlong institute supports the development and implementation of ambitious OER adoption plans by providing ongoing access to expert consultants as well as monthly webinars and cross-institutional planning meetings. The four institutions selected for the first project cohort are College Unbound, Eastern Connecticut State University, Salem State University, and Wheaton College. The second cohort of four institutions will be selected through a competitive application process beginning in spring 2022.

“Thanks to the generous support provided by the Davis Educational Foundation, we are thrilled to engage with our first cohort of four institutions as they work to promote integrative learning as a measurable, career-relevant outcome for their students,” said Kate McConnell, AAC&U Vice President for Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation and Executive Director of VALUE. “Leveraging OER in this process helps ensure that integrative learning experiences are not ‘boutique’ experiences reserved for those who can afford them, but rather a powerful, accessible accelerant to students’ abilities to make connections between and across disciplines as well as their coursework and out-of-class experiences.”

AAC&U has also received an award of $150,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for a research project designed to support the discovery, documentation, and diffusion of viable and broadly adoptable strategies for intentionally and effectively aligning an institution’s OER initiatives and its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals. Through direct observation of, and data collection with, the sixty-seven institutional participants in the AAC&U Institute on Open Educational Resources, the project will examine how best to build and foster enhanced OER-DEI connections and assess the impact those connections can have on an institution’s culture, policy, and curriculum; on teaching and learning; and on student success.

The research will result in evidence-based recommendations and an applied framework for connecting and integrating OER initiatives with wider campus DEI initiatives. The framework will support campus efforts to move beyond the adoption of OER as an affordability tool only and toward aligning OER with anti-racism policies, equity-centered teaching, and student success initiatives that seek to address the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequities on campuses and in communities.

“We are very appreciative of the kind support provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to engage in companion research associated with the accomplishments of the sixty-six campuses participating in AAC&U’s inaugural Institute on Open Educational Resources,” said C. Edward Watson, CIO and Associate Vice President for Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation at AAC&U. “We anticipate new models and best practices will emerge that connect campus OER projects to DEI initiatives, and this grant support enables us to document such practices and share them with the broader higher education community.”

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,000 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

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