Grant allows instructors to create affordable class materials

One instructor plans to create an online Spanish textbook; free to his students



Grant applicants must prove that the funding will help minimize costs for students and the material created is sustainable for future use.

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

The Affordable Learning Grant is awarding five WSU faculty members $4,500 to develop open educational resources for students that will lower the cost of course materials. 

Rebecca Van de Vord, assistant vice president of academic outreach and innovation, wrote in an email that the grant recipients are Paul Buckley, Collin Shull, Nora Kuster, Johanna Phelps and Julie Staggers. 

WSU began funding the Affordable Learning Grants in 2017, Van de Vord wrote. The funding is provided by WSU’s President’s Office, Provost Office and Global Campus. 

The email that the goal of the Course Materials Value and Effectiveness Committee is to require affordable course materials such as textbooks without compromising the level of teaching effectiveness, Van de Vord wrote in an email. The committee consists of faculty, administration and students. 

In past years, the committee asked the President’s Office and Provost Office to fund the use of open educational resources to replace textbooks that students would otherwise be purchasing, Van de Vord said. 

She said the criteria for the grant include the amount students would save on materials, the number of students impacted, and sustainability of course materials. 

Collin Shull, Spanish instructor, said the grant funds the purchasing of software licenses and intellectual property, as well as the time it takes for faculty to produce those materials. 

Shull said he applied for the grant in March and received it in May. He is using it for his Spanish 204 class because the textbook can easily be moved online. 

Paul Buckley, associate professor of chemistry, said he had to write a proposal to receive the grant. His proposal stated how he would bring costs down for students and what his class project would accomplish.

Buckley said he will use the grant for his Chemistry 103 class to create an online textbook called  “Concepts in Chemistry.” It will replace “Chemistry” by Julia Burdge and it is cheaper than a physical textbook, he said. 

He applied for the grant because the online textbook will improve the educational experience for his students, Buckley said. The grant will provide a summer salary for him to write the book, and it also helps pay the illustrator he is working with.  

Shull said he has been developing the online Spanish textbook since the end of May. The book is divided into five chapters and includes a lot of videos.

He said the grant will be used to purchase a software license that costs $575 a year, hire an artist and buy the domain name. About $2,000 of the grant will be used to develop and maintain the online space for a few years. 

Shull will own most of the content, but he will not be profiting off of the book because it will be free, he said. 

He plans to use the online textbook for two sections of Spanish in fall 2020 and possibly adopt it for further sections after that, he said.  

“The way that it would help the students is … saving them around $100 to buy a textbook that has information that should be available for free,” Shull said.