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Look at us now! Year three of our OER grant program and OA journals

By Michele Gibney, University of the Pacific | Sept 27, 2019

University of the Pacific OER Program


The author’s original article, “From pilot to launch: a step-by-step approach to developing an OER program and OA journals,” is available here.



Open Education Resources grant program update


At the University of the Pacific in California, the University Libraries (UL), in collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Technology in Education Committee (TEC), started a grant-based Open Educational Resources (OER) program in 2017. (Read more about the first two years in this Library Connect article.)


The initial faculty cohort consisted of 10 members, and during the first academic year (2017-2018) they saved students slightly over $110,000 in textbook costs by using OER in their courses.


In the summer of 2018, 15 faculty were awarded grants to work on OER. Their efforts more than doubled the amount saved by students: During the 2018-2019 academic year, a total of almost $153,000 was saved, bringing the program’s total to $263,000. This represents a significant return on investment, as the total paid out in grants for the first two years was $60,000.



In the spring of 2019, the UL, CTL and TEC revised the grant parameters, so they could both offer more grants at a sustainable rate and acknowledge the varying levels of OER development and interest among our faculty. The response to this change was positive, as we saw many faculty submit for a “review” level grant to review an OER relevant to their courses.


We spent a great deal of time raising campus interest during Open Education Week (March 4-8, 2019) by using a whiteboard with student-directed questions on textbook costs, holding a “petting zoo” of open textbooks (with printed first chapters of over a dozen books, including four from our faculty), and a social media blitz.


The questions directed at students on the whiteboards were:


  1. How much money did you spend on textbooks last semester?
  2. Do you delay buying textbooks for classes?
  3. Have you ever NOT bought a required text?


The responses helped us gauge how University of the Pacific compares with other schools. From our 41 responses on how much money they spent on textbooks in one semester, the median amount was approximately $200. The national average for last academic year, according to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), was $484. Our students reported slightly less than half of that amount for one semester, but it is likely that the NACS amount does not include alternate means by which students purchase or rent textbooks (i.e., costs other than purchases at the college bookstore). Unfortunately, based on the phrasing of the question, we are not sure whether students included additional course fees (such as technology fees for online homework programs or miscellaneous lab fees) in their amounts.



Our last two questions on the other side of the whiteboard gauged how often students delay buying textbooks (e.g., until financial aid money is deposited) or never buy the required text and make do by borrowing from a friend, finding a pirated version online, or borrowing from a library. For both questions, the number of “Yes” answers was striking. Eighty-five percent of respondents (47 out of 55) said they delay buying textbooks for class, and 74 percent (37 out of 50) admitted to not buying a required text. A 2018 study of 1,000 students in the US and Canada found that 80 percent of students waited to purchase course materials, and 35 percent on average didn’t purchase the textbook at all. Previous studies in 2016 and 2011 have the percentage who opt out of purchasing at least one textbook at 66 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Our students were comparable with the 2018 study on delaying purchase, but well above the average for not buying at all.


Lastly, our social media campaign helped raise awareness among students and faculty about textbook costs (see photos below). Students visiting the library wrote how much money they spent this semester on textbooks and what they could have spent it on instead. We got a range of responses, including food, clothes, trips, musical instruments, pets, and family. We also had several students (7 out of 41, or 17 percent) who spent $0, an increase from last year (when we had six out of 110, or 5 percent). When we asked those students more questions to find out why, it seems as if more Pacific faculty are using OER and/or more students are finding pirated PDF copies of textbooks online. 



While the Library does not support illegal textbook copying, it is interesting to note the cost-cutting lengths students will go to in order to reduce their textbook costs. Hopefully, the three-year campaign to advocate for OER at Pacific will help lower textbook costs.


For the summer 2019 grants, the OER committee received 24 applications and awarded 21 grants in varying amounts: $2,500 to create OER materials, $1,000 to adopt OER materials, and $250 to review OER materials. Some faculty created brand-new textbooks or course materials; some reviewed OER in their field, including textbooks, online materials, and video series, for potential future inclusion in their courses; while others adopted and adapted existing OER into their course’s pedagogical framework, aligning it to their teaching style and needs.


The 2019 grants went to faculty affiliated with multiple departments from the College of the Pacific (including Mathematics, Economics, Physics, Religious Studies, Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, English and History), the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the School of International Studies, the School of Business, and the School of Education. This was a more diverse group than in the previous two years—and, of course, due to the staggered grant amounts, we were also able to award more grants with our limited budget. Staff members from the UL and CTL were available all summer to assist faculty working on their OER projects.


For more information on OER at University of the Pacific, check out these resources:



I will be co-presenting on our OER program at the Charleston Conference in November.


Open Access journals update


In addition to the OER program Pacific’s institutional repository also became host to two Open Access (OA) journals in 2018.


The Pacific Journal of Health continues to solicit and review articles for publication in a second issue but the initial issue consisting of two articles has seen a total of 400+ downloads worldwide from over 40 countries. They also have a very active Twitter feed.



Backstage Pass, the undergraduate music industry journal, has published two issues, totaling 47 articles and 3,300 downloads from 83 countries.


Usage map from Digital Commons



The editor in chief, the publications manager, and one of the student editors gave a presentation on the journal at a meeting of Music Librarian Association, California Chapter, in September 2019. See their abstract and slides.


One of the most important results seen from the journal is the empowerment of undergraduate students from the Conservatory of Music. The dean, Peter Witte, said, “Success in music today requires a range of skills and writing persuasively is essential. Backstage Pass highlights Pacific students’ curiosity and scholarship across a range of subjects in the music industry.” Editor in chief Keith Hatschek has heard from employers in the music industry that “professional level writing and communication skills are the most important attributes they seek in new hires. Backstage Pass was conceived to provide a public platform, encouraging and celebrating scholarship and writing excellence.”

Ensuring that the articles are open access and usable as proof of skills in job interviews is a key service that we provide to the student authors. One of the student editors, Nicole Wasnock, said that the skills she has obtained in editing, concise and professional writing, fact checking and formatting “are all transferrable skills to any job which I can talk about in an interview, citing my own personal experiences which have prepared me for the professional world.”

One of the published authors, Joey Tan, whose article “LGBTQ+ Representation and Activism in the Music Industry” accounts for approximately a third of the journal downloads so far, graduated in 2019 and has gone on to graduate school for a MA in Cultural Studies focusing on LGBTQ+ representation in media and society. Tan provided a quote for the recent presentation: “Writing for Backstage Pass has given me the chance to refine and share my ideas about inequalities in the music industry, as well as exploring the role that music can play in speaking out about social injustice. It’s helped me find my voice and better understand what kind of career I want to pursue.”

The editors are also looking into the future and discussing where they can take the journal next. Publicity and marketing efforts on campus have increased this fall to solicit new submissions for the spring 2020 issue. Stickers and T-shirts are circling around the Conservatory and discussions of other outreach methods are ongoing. Adding additional non-text submission options is also a hot button topic. The journal has already received and published a few infographics but is also contemplating podcasts or vlogs. While the journal is currently only open to Pacific students, there is also the possibility of an all-California issue, asking for submissions from any California undergraduates on the music industry, perhaps with a guest editorial board to manage the special issue.

As a relatively new entrant to OER and OA journals, University of the Pacific has accomplished quite a lot already. The institutional repository, Scholarly Commons, launched in the fall of 2016, and three years later, we have awarded 46 faculty OER grants and published 49 OA articles in two new journals. We look forward to adding to these numbers in the coming years.




Are you attending the Charleston Conference? You may be interested in attending the session “Public and Private, Two West Coast Perspectives: Offering Faculty Grant Funding for Open Textbook Initiatives,” a panel session with Michele describing their open textbook grant program. More info here.



Michele's original article, “From pilot to launch: A step-by-step approach to developing an OER program and OA journals,” is available here. You can also access the webinar, Open science: from empowering people to employing platforms, where she presented an overview of the OER pilot project and info on the two open access journals here