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UMass Library Open Education Initiative

Now in its eighth cycle, the Open Education Initiative has generated a total savings of over $1.6 million for students in classes that utilize open educational resources or free library material. The Library partners with the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD), Instructional Innovation, and Provost's Office to support our efforts.

The Open Education Initiative at UMass Amherst aims to:

  • Encourage the development of alternatives to high-cost textbooks by supporting the adoption, adaptation, or creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) .
  • Provide support to faculty to implement these approaches.
  • Lower the cost of college for students in order to contribute to their retention, progression, and graduation.
  • Encourage faculty to engage in new pedagogical models for classroom instruction.

The high cost of commercial print textbooks is a major concern for both students and their parents. Data shows that the cost of textbooks affects the academic choices and success of students. If textbooks are prohibitively expensive, students will: find illegal PDFs online, not purchase them, buy an outdated edition, or not acquire at all. With the increasing use of adaptive learning systems available directly from commercial publishers via access codes, the used, rental, sharing, and library options that have provided alternatives for students, are effectively eliminated. To address these concerns, the Provost’s Office and the UMass Amherst Libraries launched the Open Education Initiative in the Spring of 2011. The Open Education Initiative is a faculty incentive program that encourages the use of existing openly-licensed, low-cost, or free information resources to support our students’ learning. 

Grant Categories

Grants are given in one of three categories with priority given to the projects that utilize or create the most openly licensed materials.

 Open Educational Resources

Proposals in this category must replace an existing textbook with a no, or low-cost (< $50), alternative. Priority will be given to proposals that utilize existing or create new openly licensed materials (e.g. Creative Commons, GNU General Public License, Public Domain, etc.) and that impact the largest amount of students.

 Free or Low Cost Educational Resources

Proposals that replace commercial textbooks or learning materials with free licensed library materials (e.g. articles found in LexisNexis, streaming video from Kanopy, eBooks, etc.) or free web content (e.g. blog posts, news articles, think pieces, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc.) will be considered but given less priority, as the library has an existing infrastructure to support the use of these materials (e.g. reserves, interlibrary loan, subject specialists, etc.).

Color_gradient_illustrating_a_sorites_paradox.png Hybrid

Proposals in this category use a mixture of the two categories above.

Four levels of funding are available based on the scale of the project proposed:

  1. Adopt - Redesign course to incorporate an existing open textbook or open course content. $500. Examples: adopt an OpenStax textbook with no modifications, find and incorporate Khan Academy or Ted Talk videos, etc.
  2. Adapt - Combine or remix new or existing openly licensed content to bridge gaps in available resources. Range: $1500-$2500. Examples: compile an early American Literature book using public domain works, take several chapters from an OpenStax textbook and re-write them or combine them with lecture notes developed for your class, create/implement interactive course-authoring tools (adaptive learning, quizzes, etc.) or low-cost homework platforms to accompany affordable learning materials, etc.
  3. Create - Create a new open educational resource when there are currently no sufficient OER available to meet your learning objectives. $10,000. Examples: Author a new openly licensed textbook, collaborate with students on the creation of a new textbook
  4. Other – Propose a project that does not fall within any of these categories.


Following the selection of your project, support will be provided by the UMass Libraries, Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD), and Instructional Innovation. These entities will help with technical, logistical, or pedagogical issues that arise in the course of finding/creating your materials. Library Subject specialists, eReserves, and Scholarly Communication personnel will be available to support the development of your materials. The Library has recently partnered with the Open Textbook Network & Rebus Foundation to support the creation of open textbooks using the Pressbooks publishing platform.

Funding & Timeline

Grant winners will be announced in May of 2017 and expected to implement their projects in fall 2017 or winter/spring/summer 2018 semesters. 50% of grant funds will be released shortly after the announcement. The remaining 50% will be awarded following the completion of a grant report at the end of the first semester of implementation. Note: we will consider extenuating circumstances that require all the funds to be released at once.


Grantees will be required to:

  • Write a final grant report that includes a narrative summarizing the challenges and accomplishments of your experience creating/finding/using the materials, the impact on your teaching, the impact on students and their performance, and lessons learned.
  • Circulate a qualitative and quantitative survey to all of your students at the end of the first semester you utilize the materials.
  • Attend a kickoff meeting where we will answer questions, discuss open licensing and copyright, and outline technological, pedagogical, and research support.
  • Provide a copy of the revised syllabus or course outline used for the class.
  • Participate in long range assessments of the Open Education Initiative.
  • Deposit any openly licensed material created into an appropriate open repository (e.g. Scholarworks, Open Textbook Library, Merlot, etc.)


Applications for the Spring 2017 round of grants is now closed.

For questions about future opportunities, please contact Jeremy Smith:


Northeast OER Summit
June 13-14, 2017

Past Presentations

Open Education Initiative Information Session, Spring 2016 [pdf]
Open Education Initiative Information Session, Spring 2016 [ppt]

Presentation for the information session for the OEI grant applicants in the Spring of 2016. Includes an overview of OER, copyright and Creative Commons, and the OEI grant parameters. Useful for those running a workshop or for people teaching with open education resources.

Presentation to UMass Faculty Senate, Spring 2014

This is a presentation made to the Faculty Senate Meeting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst regarding the Open Education Initiative. It includes an overview of the why and how of the OEI grant, some examples, and its successes/challenges. Useful for those talking to administrators about the open education movement.

Read the ARL Report on our program.

Spring 2017 Open Education Initiative

Here are the recipients of the spring 2017 OEI grants and their projects.

Faculty NameDepartment/ClassProposed Project
Jerimiah Bentley Isenberg School of Management/Acconting 331 Find/develop reading material needed to supplement free eBook and create a large bank of practice problems on Blackboard to replace existing elearning software.
Lori Astheimer Best College of Natural Sciences/Psychology 330 Create detailed lecture slides with original open access visual materials, use excerpts from existing textbooks, and utilize articles from library databases.
Katie Kirakosian College of Social and Behavioral Sciences/Anthropology 269 Create an Introduction to Archaeology in North America open textbook with a facilitation guide with lesson plans.
Michael Knapp College of Natural Sciences/General Chemistry Use the free OpenStax Chemistry textbook with the Perusall reading comprehension tool.
Karen Kurczynski College of Humanities and Fine Arts/Renaissance to Modern Art Utilize available sources from art databases such as Google Art, Khan Academy, Architecture Daily, and Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
Marc Liberatore College of Information and Computer Science/Using Data Structures Rewrite course lecture notes and assignments into a short, readable text and set of associated exercises and assignments.
Graciela Monteagudo College of Social and Behavioral Sciences/Introduction to Radical Social Theory Create original open source Introduction to Radical Social Theory textbook using the Pressbooks web publishing software.
Evan Ross College of Natural Sciences/Junior Year Writing

Create an original hybrid textbook/workbook for Junior Year Writing classes.

Betsy Schmidt College of Social and Behavioral Sciences/PubPolAdm 697, 497, 397, 197

Create a social enterprise network textbook using the Pressbooks web publishing software and use free online resources such as the BBC and Solutions Journalism Network.

Shubha Tewari College of Natural Sciences/The Physics of Music

Compile and organize a set of supplemental readings, problems with solutions, and additional text or video to accompany portions of  lecture slides to use with Peusall and create select videos of demonstrations and lab activities with accompanying instructions, as well as curate videos created by students enrolled in the class. 

Ashley Woodman College of Natural Sciences/Impact of Disabilities on Families

Create original open education textbook for an Impact of Disabilities on Families course.

Spring 2016 Open Education Initiative

Here are the recipients of the spring 2016 grants and their projects.

Faculty NameDepartment/ClassProposed Project
Ysaaca Axelrod Education/Human Development Find readings/video on the web that cover material in current textbook.
John Brigham Political Science/Intro. to Constitutional law Replace textbook with free Government material from Supreme Court website, Wikipedia, Oyez, Library of Congress and National Constitution Center 
Thomas St. Laurent Kinesiology/Introduction to Kinesiology Utilize chapters, articles, and studies that give overviews of basic contents in lieu of textbook.
Shubha Tewari Physics: Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, Modern Physics Edit and organize existing video content, film and edit new video content, and organize test questions for video content.
Brokk Toggerson Physics: Into. Physics I Organize existing free resources in a central location to improve navigation for students and use Perusall, a new reading enhancement tool.
Daniel Wang Astronomy/Exploring the Universe Evaluate existing available open textbooks and modify them. Revise lecture slides, quizzes, homework, reading assignments, and exams.
Jonathan Wynn Sociology/Intro. to Sociology Identify open textbooks and develop a digital archive where materials can be housed online.


Fall 2015 Open Education Initiative

Here are the recipients of the fall 2015 grants and their projects.

Faculty NameDepartment/ClassProposed Project
Philippe Baillargeon French: Intermediate French I and II Use public domain and library resources as well as free online newspapers.
Melba Jensen English: American Literature to 1865 & others Create eBook with public domain literature, use library articles, & have students create knowledge base.
Julia Choi Kinesiology: Motor Control Compile chapters from multiple textbooks & store on content management system.
Kimberly Dion Nursing: Community Health Nursing IV: Community Use library journals and state & federal websites.
Simos Gerasimidis Civil & Environmental Engineering: Structural Stability Use library and free online resources.
Sara E. Jackson German & Scandinavian Studies: Advanced German Collect free/open reading assignments, grammar exercises & work-sheets to accompany German-language films.
D. Joseph Jerry Veterinary & Animal Science: Cancer Biology ; Carcinogenesis Collaborate with colleagues in the field to create a downloadable free textbook from lecture materials.
Kinuyo Kanamaru Geosciences: Global Environmental Change Use recorded lectures, free online videos, scientific articles & open online educational applications.
Stefan Caris Love Music & Dance: Intermediate Analysis Use online music theory websites, YouTube videos. Create handouts and video/audio lectures. Have students compile all information on a wiki.
Bogdan Prokopovych Management: Foundations of Sustainable Enterprise & others Identify less technical articles available through library journals, and chapters of selected books. Identify alternative to Harvard Business School Publishing platform.
Mila Getmansky Sherman Management: Financial Modeling Work with PhD candidates to identify web-based materials and work with students to develop their own materials.
Jeffrey Starns Psychology: Statistics in Psychology Turn course slides into a stand alone textbook.