ACT@PSU paves the way for replacement of high-cost course materials

April 03, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Roughly 1,000 Penn State students take the course Elementary Statistics, or STAT 200, each semester, and according to online bookstores, its required materials in Spring 2018 cost more than $150 per student. That means during a full academic year, STAT 200 students accumulate at least $300,000 in course-related expenses. A new collaboration between Teaching and Learning with Technology and the University Libraries aims to drastically reduce the financial burden on those and many other Penn State students.

Affordable Course Transformation at Penn State (ACT@PSU) is a grant-based program that originated from recommendations of Penn State’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force. The program, co-led by Julie Lang, TLT Open Educational Resources coordinator, and Amanda Larson, Open Education librarian, is being funded through the office of Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones.

"We have been discussing the need for a faculty grant program for about two years, and I am thrilled to begin this pilot with Penn State faculty,” Lang said. "We would like to work with faculty that teach high-enrollment classes. Reducing the costs of the largest courses across Penn State will allow us to make a positive impact on as many students as possible."

“Those resources and support make ACT unique from other higher education OER initiatives,” Lang continued. “Penn State is fortunate to have such a strong instructional design community, and that expertise, along with library support, will really help to not only save students money but also provide them with a pedagogically sound course experience.”

Faculty from all Penn State campuses can apply for the grant program, which will help transform courses to accommodate the replacement of high-cost materials with open and affordable content. Those who are accepted into ACT will receive a monetary grant as well as support and resources.

Once accepted into the ACT@PSU program, faculty members will participate in a blended cohort that will be customized to the specific needs of their individual project. ACT@PSU will provide guidance and instruction regarding best practices for finding, adapting and authoring open and affordable course materials, along with revising courses to accommodate open and low-cost resources and licensing open content.

“I’m really looking forward to helping faculty curate resources for their courses and mapping them onto their course objectives as part of the revision process, in addition to walking them through openly licensing their content,” Larson said. “I want them to leave the faculty development sessions knowing what resources, including library resources, are out there for them to use in this process.”

Lang added that ACT@PSU also will provide faculty participants with instructional design, production support, graphics, multimedia and editing resources.

Throughout the course of ACT@PSU, participating faculty members will receive a grant distributed in three increments. If multiple faculty collaborate on a project, then the grant award will be divided equally among them.

Revised courses that focus on adaptation of open and affordable content could be delivered to students as soon as the Fall 2018 semester. Courses that contain original-authored open content will be delivered as early as Spring 2019. Students will be surveyed to provide feedback on their experiences with the new resources, and their responses will be a part of the faculty member’s final report on the project.

Additionally, faculty members have the option to present their experience with the ACT@PSU initiative at a local or national conference in 2019.

Lang and Larson are offering sessions of virtual office hours to allow faculty members to discuss any questions they have related to open education resources or ACT@PSU prior to the application deadline of Friday, April 20. The sessions are scheduled for:

— Noon-2 p.m., Wednesday, April 4

— 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday, April 10

— 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 11

— 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., Monday, April 16

— 9 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m., Tuesday, April 17

— 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m., Wednesday, April 18

— 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, April 19

Applications for ACT@PSU are currently being accepted through the April 20 deadline. Interested faculty members can learn more about the program at and also can apply online. Questions may be directed to Julie Lang or Amanda Larson

Last Updated April 04, 2018