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Innovation and Incubator Grants from the University System of Georgia

Combining Open Educational Resources and High-Impact Educational Practices to Transform Area C

Georgia Regents University


Grant Type: 
Project Lead: 
Robert Bledsoe, PhD
Associate Professor of German, Director of the Humanities Program
Other team members: 
  • Virginia Feher, MFA, MLIS, Assistant Professor, Government Information Librarian, Affordable Learning Georgia Campus Champion, GRU Libraries, and Assistant Professor of Art, GRU,
  • Deborah Richardson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, GRU,
  • Adam TM Wyatt, PhD, Director of Academic Programs, Academic and Faculty Affairs, GRU
Project Overview: 

The project extends a 2013 Incubator project by using a team of faculty members and librarians to gather and develop Open Educational Resource (OER) materials for two required core courses (Humanities 2001 and 2002). The shift to OER materials accompanies a redesign of the courses. We will prepare OERs for the courses, develop an instructor's resource manual, and incorporate faculty development, so that the transition to OERs integrates with the new course design and instructional delivery methods.

Project Description: 

Impact on Completion:

(1) Using OERs will lower textbook costs by up to $500 for approximately 700 students annually. Furthermore, the active-learning course design should (2) improve the DFW rates in two required core courses, thereby (3) impacting RPG rates and (4) student success in subsequent work, which potentially shortens graduation times.

Potential Lessons Learned:

We propose expanding the UGA incubator project to evaluate the feasibility of using teams to gather and create OERs. Furthermore, we will determine whether the OERs can be integrated successfully with a faculty development program to impact the pedagogy in a multi-section course with multiple instructor teams.

Concept Description


A. Identify the area of need and address how this project would address this need.
The current Georgia Regents University (GRU) first-time, full-time student six-year completion rate is approximately 25%. The institution has identified a number of reasons for this rate. One is that students have had a difficult time progressing through the core curriculum in a timely manner. Another is that a significant percentage of students work part- or full-time. This is not surprising since 84% of our students receive financial aid and yet 73% have unmet financial needs. Reducing the financial burden on students should help improve progression and graduation rates. This project uses the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs) as a means to tackle both issues: student financial burden and student progression and graduation.

Students have made the connection of the expense of college textbooks to student success themselves in a 2011 survey conducted by the Student Public Interest Research Group. In the survey of 1,905 undergraduates from 13 campuses 70% of respondents had decided against buying at least one assigned textbook due to cost, even though 78% believed they would generally do worse in class without their own copy of the required text. This project focuses on perhaps the most expensive undergraduate course sequence for students at our institution: World Humanities (HUMN) 2001 and 2002. Because of the courses' interdisciplinary nature, students are required to purchase three expensive textbooks. The texts required for one of the two courses totals almost $350; the total for both courses is over $500. Seven hundred (700) students enrolled in the two courses in the fall 2013 semester. We can reduce the student financial burden by up to $350,000 annually by moving to OERs in these two courses alone.

The decision to move to OERs in these two courses is accompanied by simultaneous decision to redesign this core course sequence according to current best practices of teaching and learning. The two­-course interdisciplinary World Humanities 2001/2002 sequence is required for all undergraduate students at GRU (excluding transfer students with 6 or more units in Area C). Since students are required to complete ENGL 1102 before starting the sequence, most students take this course in their sophomore year. Because of its position in the core curriculum, and because it has a DFW rate of 28% for HUMN 2001 and 23% for HUMN 2002, which has hindered progression for many students, the GRU administration asked the Humanities Committee, which oversees the Humanities Program, to evaluate the courses and recommend changes to the sequence last academic year. The Humanities Committee embraced this opportunity, because many students do not develop the critical analysis and synthesis skills the faculty wants to see by the end of the course sequence. Subsequently, in October 2013, the Humanities Committee sent an eight member team to a Curriculum Design Academy organized by the GRU Center for Teaching and Learning. This academy was a component of GRU's CCG effort; it sought to encourage innovation in the instructional delivery of targeted core courses. At the academy and in subsequent meetings, the work team used the principles of backwards course design to recreate the course.

The team came up with a new course design that maintained the courses' interdisciplinary nature, but set new course goals, created new learning outcomes, redesigned assessments, called for the scaffolding of assignments and the inclusion of active, collaborative learning within a writing-intensive course environment. The course redesign moved from a survey model to a model based on current best practices in course design that integrates the Association of American Colleges and Universities' LEAP high-impact practices of Global Learning and Collaborative Learning in Writing-Intensive courses. In this design, students devote more time on fewer units that focus on a global culture as a specific moment in a specific place. This should set the stage for deeper learning that will motivate students and enable them to make connections that support the development of the critical skills of analysis and synthesis.

The redesign requires the development of new assignments, assessments, and resources for students. Because of the unique focus of the redesigned courses, there is no single textbook that would adequately support the course goals and content. Unable to find appropriate textbooks, the design team determined that to implement the course successfully, the Humanities Program would (1) need to turn to existing OERs then (2) modify these resources and develop new ones to complement them within the course structure and (3) develop an instructor resource manual for the courses. The resource manual will include assignments, assessments, teaching tips and content commentary to accompany the course materials. These materials will be introduced with extensive faculty development to prepare instructors to teach the redesigned courses effectively.
This is a significant undertaking; however, we have planned the project so that the materials will be used starting in the Fall Semester of 2014. This allows us to revise the materials twice before the end of the project. Therefore, by June 2015 we will have a well-tested, reliable product, which can be readily sustained after the funding period ends.

B. Define the project's potential impact on student success and college completion.
As noted above, we can reduce the student financial burden in these two courses alone up to $350,000 annually by moving to Open Educational Resources (OERs). Because of the courses' position in the GRU core curriculum, the project will impact every undergraduate at GRU, except those who transfer with enough hours in Area C. Given the current per credit hour cost of $225.60, the successful creation and adoption of OERs would be an immediate, direct value to each student of 2-3 credit hours' worth of tuition.

Since the adoption of these materials is attached to improvements in the instructional design and delivery, we anticipate improving the DFW rates, student engagement, and student performance in these two required core courses. In the medium-term, this should have substantial impact of RPG rates at GRU. The impact is on retention may be especially significant, because the courses are frequently taken during the sophomore year, when we lose most students. Since the instructional changes are targeted at two of the new overlays for the core curriculum, Critical Thinking and Global Perspectives, the switch to a course design that relies on active-learning should also result in better performance on the General Education Student Learning Outcomes. In the medium- and long-term, we anticipate that the successful completion of the project would also improve student performance in subsequent course work, thereby improving outcomes and potentially shortening graduation times beyond the improvement achieved by having more students complete the Humanities sequence in a timely manner. All these factors point to a transformative project that will impact every undergraduate at our institution.

C. Explain the potential lessons learned from the project and the impact of the project on the institution as well as USG if it were scaled.

The incubator project gained a clearer understanding of the time and resources required to transition a course from textbook dependency to OERs. This project will expand our understanding of this transition. First, it looks to duplicate the experiment to transition a course from textbook dependency to OERs. However, it does so using a different model. The incubator project used one faculty member to create an OER. This project will use a team of faculty members and librarians to prepare the OERs. Second, the incubator project focused on a high enrollment biology course. This project focuses on a multi-section humanities course with a large instructor corps (currently 24 sections per semester). Because of this difference, we have included a significant faculty development component in the project.  The project will, then, further our understanding of the environments in which the extensive incorporation of OERs is feasible and scalable within the USG. It will also help us understand the types of faculty development activities that should accompany the adoption of OER in multi-section courses and allow us to determine the extent to which the introduction of new course materials can be used to leverage changes in instructional design and delivery. In the long-term (albeit beyond the term of the proposal) we will also be able to evaluate how many faculty members involved in the project expanded their use of OERs and incorporated current best practices of instructional design and student learning into other courses. This will allow us to evaluate the potential distribution of curricular reform beyond courses immediately impacted.

This project is sustainable: it is incorporated with a planned change in course design, involves courses that are required in the core curriculum, and provides a foundation of materials that will be used continually in those courses. This project is transformative: it impacts all undergraduate students who complete their core requirements at GRU, transforms teaching and learning with its focused impact on faculty and students in the introductory Humanities sequence, and it has the potential to impact a large and diverse group of GRU faculty (both fulltime and part-time) through faculty development workshops and information sessions offered to the entire community. This project is scalable: although the unique nature of the interdisciplinary course design may appear to limit the adoption of the OER content to other USG institutions, we expect that the units we develop could be adopted with or without adaptation for use in courses in fields such as Art History, Music, Literature, Philosophy, History and Cultural Studies.

 More significant impact and scalability is likely to be found in the lessons drawn from tracking the impact of OER material on instruction when combined with faculty development.  We will report on our experiences working on this project on campus as well as in workshops or presentations within and beyond the state of Georgia through venues such as the USG Best Practices conference, the consortium of directors of Center for Teaching and Learning, the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD), and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). We will make our materials available via MERLOT and other OER portals for adoption. The materials could, then, find a home in a number of different contexts and influence course delivery significantly.


"High Prices Prevent College Students from Buying Assigned Textbooks: Survey Finds Soaring Costs, Publisher Tactics May Jeopardize Success in Classes."

"High Impact Educational Practices," Association of American Colleges and Universities.


Project Plan


The primary goal of this project is to improve RPG rates by reducing costs to students through easy access to course resources and improving student learning in core courses. The objectives that will lead to the achievement of this goal include (1) reducing the DFW rate in a core course taken by all GRU undergraduates, (2) lowering student expenditures on course materials, and (3) improving student learning in upper division coursework. In order to achieve those objectives, we will produce the following deliverables:

  • New course materials completely available as OER for two courses, HUMN 2001 and 2002.
  • An Instructors Resource Manual to use with the course materials. This will be sharable with other USG institutions not only as an entire course, but also as 10+ individual units. The resource manual will include assignments, assessments, teaching tips and content commentary to accompany the course materials.
  • Faculty development for instructors of HUMN 2001 and 2002. As well as reviewing the materials and resource manual, this training will incorporate instruction about current best practices in course design and instructional delivery.
  • Faculty development for a broader audience to introduce information about the availability and use of Open Educational Resources both at Georgia Regents University and throughout the USG.

Core Personnel

Primary Roles

Robert Bledsoe

Oversee all activities of the project including establishing and coordinating teams, setting deadlines, etc.; will be primary liaison with instructional corps.

Virginia Feher

Serve as primary liaison with library and oversee the gathering and vetting of existing OERs and other digital materials.

Adam Wyatt

Oversee budget and collection and analysis of assessment/evaluation data

Deborah Richardson

Coordinate faculty development and in-course assessment and collaborate with A. Wyatt to implement assessment/evaluation plan

Graduate Assistant

Will gather, enter, manage, and assist with analysis of assessment data under supervision of A. Wyatt and D. Richardson

Instructional Designer

Will help faculty develop online modules and create online assessment mechanisms to determine efficacy of programmatic changes

Humanities Faculty

Members of the Departments of Art, Music and English and Foreign Languages who teach in the Humanities program, and Faculty Librarians. These individuals will gather, vet and adapt existing OERs and develop new material as needed for the course materials and the instructor resources.



Timeline (with milestones in bold)



Responsible Party

Oct. 2013

Humanities team attends Curriculum Design Academy



Team finalizes course redesign proposal


Jan. 2014

Proposal endorsed by Humanities Committee



Core team members Feher and Bledsoe start work on a demonstration unit
CCG Innovation Grant Proposal submitted


Grant Period




Core team begins work


Mar. 27

Faculty development program begins with
Workshop on Writing Assessment (by M. Garcia, Director of First-Year Composition, Dept. of English and Foreign Languages, GRU)



Grant principles meet with UGA mentors



Team expands and starts gathering and preparing material
Faculty development program continues with workshop on new course design using demonstration unit.

Feher, Bledsoe


Assessment data on student engagement and student achievement in current course configuration gathered, analyzed, summarized and evaluated.

Richardson, Wyatt

May 8

Team presents at least two completed units to Humanities instructor corps,
at a workshop on active learning and assignment scaffolding.


Summer Session

During summer session these units are piloted


Assess student engagement with course and OERs for piloted units Assess achievement of student learning outcomes

Richardson, Wyatt

June 20th

Work on materials development is completed

Bledsoe, Feher


Team meets to critique and revise work


July 15

Course materials are distributed to instructional corps


August 4-6

Multiday workshop for instructional corps to train, work and plan with new materials

Bledsoe, Richardson

Fall 2014

New course design implemented



Team and instructional corps meet to critique previous unit and prepare for next.


Sept. – Dec

Units are revised in order of use, so that revised units are available for use in SP15

Feher (HUMN 2001)
Bledsoe (HUMN 2002)


CTL conducts midterm assessment of response to course and materials



Assessment of student learning outcomes and student engagement

Richardson, Wyatt


Team and instructional corps meet to evaluate materials, course design and results of assessments


Jan.- Mar.

Units are revised in order of use, so that revised units are available for use in SU 15

Feher (HUMN 2001)
Bledsoe (HUMN 2002)

Jan. 2015

Workshop for instructional corps before semester begins to familiarize it with any new material and revisions.

Feher, Bledsoe


CTL conducts midterm assessment of response to course and materials



Assessment of student learning outcomes and student engagement

Richardson, Wyatt


Instructional corps meets to evaluate materials and course design



Units and course syllabus are revised as needed

Bledsoe, Feher


Report submitted



Logic Model





Short-Term Outcomes

Long-Term Outcomes


1400+ students/year in HUMN 2001/2002

Approx. 40 faculty

Core team

Center for Teaching and Learning

New Humanities course sequence (4/4 to 3/3)

Course prerequisites


OER preparation, development and revision

Revised Humanities courses

Faculty Development

Assessment of SLOs, student and faculty engagement, satisfaction


OER materials for HUMN 2001 and HUMN 2002

Instructor's Resource Manual

Enhanced Instructional Delivery

Scholarly presentations and articles on redeveloping a course sequence, effects on students, and OERs


Reduction in cost to students

Improved DFW rate

Improved student learning


Faculty use of best practices in course design and instructional delivery

Improved retention beyond sophomore year

Improved progression

Improved performance in upper division coursework

Materials available for use by faculty at GRU and throughout USG

The logic model presented assumes that faculty will buy-in to the new model and approach of teaching the World Humanities 2001/2002 sequence. At meetings, a majority of the instructional corps has already voiced support for the changes. The logic model also assumes that all materials necessary to move toward an OER-oriented class will be available to acquire or use. External factors include on-going support from our project sponsor and their availability to help discuss and work through issues discovered in moving to a new form of student learning.


Project Budget and Evaluation Plan

Due to the scope of our replication project, much of the activity necessary to achieve an initial fall 2014 start date must be completed during summer 2014. The proposed budget below outlines the major activity groups and estimated costs. Because redesigning a course and the associated faculty development and evaluation of changes is more expensive than the maximum available funding, Georgia Regents University is able to redirect approximately $6,000 to help achieve a high-quality, assessable new World Humanities course sequence.

Budget Activity

Estimated Costs

Faculty Development Workshop on accessing, using, and working with OERs


Acquisition of new materials and development of modules


Summer Stipend for Project Director


Graduate Assistant to help with data collection, analysis, and reporting


Collaboration Trips to Replicate Sponsor (Augusta, GA to Athens, GA)




GRU Institutional Commitment


Total Budgetary Request


The project has assessment mechanisms built into the project plan, so that during the project we can assess

  • student engagement and satisfaction during and at the end-of-the-course through surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and use of online instructional systems;
  • student learning and performance on assignments in courses and overall grades;
  • faculty satisfaction and engagement during and at the end-of-the-course through surveys, interviews, classroom observations, and use of online instructional systems; and
  • overall achievement of student learning outcomes through course-embedded assessments and indirect survey assessments.

The results of these assessments will be used to revise the OERs and instructional delivery during the project. At the end of the project, we will also measure

  • cost savings in student expenditures as they relate to course materials; and
  • changes in the DFW rates for the targeted courses

In the long-term we will track students to measure

  • Effect on retention, progression, and graduation rates; and
  • Effect on student performance in subsequent course work.

All experience from the process of moving a course from textbook to online education resources oriented, developing a new model of learning, faculty development, and assessment and evaluation of the efficacy of these endeavors will be shared in professional forums.