BOULDER, Colo. – The University of North Dakota has been honored for its innovative use of Open Educational Resources, classroom materials that improve access and affordability for students.
UND received the 2022 Colleagues’ Choice Innovation Award from the Western Academic Leadership Forum at the Forum’s annual meeting in Portland, Ore., earlier this month. The Forum is a membership organization for provosts, academic vice presidents, chief executives, and chief academic officers within the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), one of four such regional higher education commissions in the United States. The Innovation Award recognizes achievements among four-year institutions and systems in the West that advance equity for student success.
“WICHE is dedicated to improving student access and success at the postsecondary educational level, and the Forum celebrates our partners in the West who seek solutions to shared challenges in this space,” said Gail D. Burd, the Forum’s vice chair in 2022, who is senior vice provost for academic affairs, teaching, and learning and a distinguished professor in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona. “The University of North Dakota stood out for its leadership on Open Educational Resources and serves as a model for other institutions interested in exploring how to use OERs for the benefit of both students and faculty.”
Open Educational Resources, or OERs, are openly licensed and freely accessible materials used for teaching, learning, and research, and UND has been committed in two ways to using them. First, UND has promoted the use of OERs by its faculty – in fact, more than 90 faculty from every school and college at UND have adapted, adopted, or created OERs to replace costly texts, saving students $11 million since 2015. Second, UND has supported faculty research since 2018 exploring the impact of OERs, including in areas such as higher retention rates and lower debt loads for students. As a result of this research and the successful outcomes it helped confirm, UND has funded more stipends and fellowships.
Through the efforts of an OER working group of senior administrators, faculty staff, advisors, library staff, and students, UND also is working to create an OER repository that can be shared across the state and the region.
“This recognition of the work that UND has done to advance the growth, development, and implementation of OER efforts across campus is the result of years of dedicated work by faculty and staff across the institution,” said Eric Link, UND provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I’m particularly proud of this award because it speaks directly to our collective commitment to student access and success at UND, and it has truly impacted in positive ways the financial pressures felt by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students on our campus.”
Link further remarked that WICHE’s award truly belongs to the entire institution, and that students, staff, faculty, and administrators joined together through the years to do important work in advancing OER efforts.
Stephanie Walker, UND’s dean of libraries and information resources who also serves as chair of UND’s OER working group, agreed, adding that faculty are using video, audio, 3D scans and other media to develop creative and exciting resources that engage students.
“Many institutions promote and work with OERs, but I believe UND’s work has been particularly innovative in that we’ve sustained extremely high levels of interest with faculty participants from every college and school,” Walker said. “We’ve also had widespread support and involvement from the grassroots of student government to senior administration, including the provost, president, and deans. I’m thrilled our united efforts have been recognized.”
Since 1953, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has been strengthening higher education, workforce development, and behavioral health throughout the region. From promoting high-quality, affordable postsecondary education to helping states get the most from their technology investments and addressing behavioral health challenges, WICHE improves lives across the West through innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy. WICHE members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia).