ACT@PSU launches 2nd round of affordable course transformation grants

October 19, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The second round of Affordable Course Transformation at Penn State (ACT@PSU) opened on Sept. 21, 2018. Faculty from all Penn State campuses are encouraged to apply for the grant-based initiative and, if accepted into ACT, will receive a monetary grant as well as production support and resources to transform their courses.

According to a 2018 research study, The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics, open educational resources (OER) increased end of course grades by 6.90 percent in non-Pell recipients and 10.98 percent in Pell recipients. In the study Colvard, Watson, and Park found that OER adoption resulted in a 2.05 percent reduction in DFW grades (grades of D, F, and W, or withdrawal) for non-Pell recipients and a 4.43 percent decline in DFW grades for Pell recipients. 

To help students across Penn State with affordability of course materials, ACT@PSU was launched in April 2018. Funded through the office of Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones, the initial offering awarded to ten projects funding to transform their courses from using high-cost, traditionally published materials, to using open educational resources, potentially saving students over $1 million.

The goal of ACT@PSU is to provide faculty with a grant stipend, instructional design, multimedia and library support to transform a course that uses high-cost textbooks/required materials to one revised to include open or low-cost, defined by any required course material that students may purchase for less than $50.

The course will be revised with the assistance of the Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) Instructional Design Team, and the Open Educational Resources coordinator and Open Education Librarian. This will allow faculty to analyze their course goals, lesson objectives, assignments and assessments, and align them with the open and affordable resources that students need to meet those objectives by the completion of the course.

“For the first couple months I felt this project was way over my head and I struggled with figuring out what to do,” said Jackie Schwab, associate professor and program coordinator for human development and family studies (HDFS), when asked about her experience in the first round of ACT@PSU. “With the guidance and assistance of the instructional designers, the pieces started to fall into place to the point where I now enjoy creating my Pressbook and am learning new skills all the time.”

Schwab selected her Drugs, Behavior, and Health (BBH 143) course to revise which she teaches at Penn State Mont Alto for her adaptation project. She explained, “This project is comprehensive as it includes course design, finding and creating content, learning about copyright and open resources, creating the book with accessibility in mind, and learning how to embed interactive components into the online textbook. I had no idea how many open educational resources are available!”

Beth Egan, senior instructor of hospitality management for Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development, chose to work on revising two closely related courses, Introduction to Food Production and Service (HM 329), and Food Production and Service Management (HM 330), for her ACT@PSU authoring project.

“I am so excited to develop our own book and materials for the introductory class I teach because now all students will have just what they need to read and study starting with the first day of class,” Egan said. Both she and Schwab said they were very happy to work with TLT and University Libraries for the faculty development portion of ACT@PSU.

“The professional development and idea sharing provided by the ACT initiative really helped me think outside the box. I hope using some new resources and technology will help the course become more ‘alive’ for our students,” Egan said.

Applications for ACT@PSU are currently being accepted through the Nov. 21 deadline. Interested faculty members can learn more about the program and apply online at Questions may be directed to Julie Lang or Amanda Larson at

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Last Updated October 19, 2018