Affordable Learning Champions

Affordable Learning PA (ALPA) is accepting nominations for “Affordable Learning Champions” to recognize outstanding work or efforts in open and affordable learning. Affordable Learning Champions can include faculty, librarians, instructional designers, students, staff, or anyone promoting or supporting affordable learning.

What qualifies as open and affordable resources? Affordable resources are zero-cost or low-cost to students, as compared to more costly, commercially published textbooks. Zero-cost materials may include no-cost online materials (such as government reports or data sets) and library-licensed materials (such as eBooks or videos purchased by the library for campus-wide use). Open Educational Resources (OER) are completely free to access online and also free of most copyright restrictions, meaning it’s legal to copy, share, edit, mix, keep and use those materials. 

Some examples of open and affordable support might be:

  • Contributing to cost savings and/or an increase in OER use through creation, promotion, and adoption of OER
  • Planning and coordinating workshops and information sessions to promote awareness of OER materials 
  • Advocating for open and affordable programs to decrease the financial burden on students
  • Talking to students and/or student organizations about open and affordable resources
  • Creating and supporting other faculty to develop open pedagogy assignments that eliminate the need for commercial textbooks
  • Serving in a leadership capacity on an institutional level textbook affordability committee
  • Conducting research that promotes the advantages of adopting open and affordable learning materials

To nominate an Affordable Learning Champion, please fill out the form. Self-nominations are welcome. You and/or your nominee may be contacted for more details. Your nomination form will be shared with the nominee.

2021-2022 Champions

Name: Dr. Dana Lynn Driscoll

Title: Professor of English and Director of the Jones White Writing Center

Institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Name: Dr. Matthew Vetter

Title: Associate Professor of English

Institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: 

Dr. Driscoll and Dr. Vetter, working with a team of collaborators outside of Pennsylvania, have been co-editors of Writing Spaces for four years. Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing (www.writingspaces.org) is a peer-reviewed, open-source textbook series for college-level writing courses at the undergraduate level and is used by courses in developmental writing, first-year composition, advanced composition, and other general education writing courses. It has had nearly 2.5 million downloads from around the world since 2010, and 500,000 downloads have occurred since 2020. A conservative estimate of cost savings for students is over $9 million per year.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you?

Dr. Driscoll: Supporting Affordable Learning and open access educational content is critically important to promote literacy, democracy, and to create a better world. As a writing professor, I know how important having access to high quality textbooks is for student learning success. Textbooks can also be used by individuals globally beyond college. Further, with the rising costs of college education, open access textbooks like Writing Spaces help create more affordable opportunities for students. I believe that education is both for individual benefit and collective benefit, thus, developing means to provide free and equal education through open access supports public education in Pennsylvania and beyond.  

Dr. Vetter: Open Educational Resources (OER) have become an increasingly necessary and important tool in ensuring that postsecondary educational opportunities remain within reach for low-income and working class students. For those of us working at state universities that profess to be available to a range of economic demographics, pricing out our students with costly textbooks is problematic at best, and classist when considered in any ethical light. We must do better to support, engage, and offer OER at all levels, but especially in undergraduate education. This is why supporting affordable learning and OER through the Writing Spaces project is so important to me. 

Name: Andrea Palmiotto

Title: Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: 

Palmiotto is spearheading a collaborative effort with IUP’s Anthropology faculty to create an OER for introductory anthropology courses. She and her colleagues have written chapters, created short videos, and compiled supplementary resources which together form a robust, peer-reviewed introductory text covering all four subfields of anthropology. The new OER will save 850 IUP students about $94 each, resulting in annual student savings of about $80,000. Additionally, she has been the lead PI on an internal grant and a PA GOAL grant to help bring this resource together.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you?

The IUP Anthropology faculty are dedicated to improving student learning experiences and want to make anthropology more accessible to students while demonstrating its value to society. At its core, anthropology is committed to improved diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. We understood that high textbook costs were one factor impacting student experiences, but we were frustrated by the lack of four-field introductory OER when we began this project. Our goal was to provide a quality resource that addressed the applied and holistic nature of anthropology.

Name: Andrea Hartranft

Title: Associate Professor, Information Science

Institution: Harrisburg Area Community College
Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: 

Andrea was instrumental in significantly reducing the burden of textbook costs for HACC students. Through her direct leadership and guidance, the College-wide OER committee was formed, funding was secured, and OER grant opportunities were created for faculty. Andrea also helped establish extensive OER training and support, including dedicated mentors who have completed the Creative Commons course. 

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? Supporting Affordable Learning and OER is easy to be passionate about because it is all about supporting students and making higher education more affordable for everyone. Meeting with students, hearing their stories, and seeing the drive they have to succeed continues to be a motivating factor. I feel very fortunate that I am in a position, along with many others at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), to help support student success. At this time, HACC faculty have contributed to 42 OER projects. Because of this work, over 5,000 HACC students benefit from free textbooks each semester saving a total of $538,000 per semester. It is inspiring to be surrounded by so many motivated faculty and hardworking students. 

Name: Dr. Stephen Baker

Title: Associate Professor of Psychology

Institution: Saint Francis University

Notable Contributions to Affordable Learning: Professor Baker embraced affordable learning materials as soon as the library began promoting them on campus. He now teaches five zero-cost courses, utilizing an OpenStax title and an array of unlimited, perpetual use e-books in the library collection. His students enjoy average savings of $115 per course across those classes.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you?

I firmly believe that an educational opportunity should be open to all; however, I realize that there are various barriers that make taking advantage of, or preventing, this educational opportunity exist. Choosing to use open resource materials and other affordable learning sources (e.g., open-source software) minimizes the barriers for individuals wanting to pursue higher education.

Name: Dr. Crystal Machado

Title: Professor of Professional Studies in Education

Institution: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Notable Contributions to Affordable Learning: Dr. Machado has championed the use of OER for over a decade. The majority of her 30+ undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate courses are zero-cost or low-cost for students; many use OER. She believes that in addition to making learning affordable, OER and Open Pedagogy enhance learners’ digital, media and global literacy skills and prepare them for digital citizenship. Beyond her own courses, she has used her service on the College of Education and Communications Technology Committee to advocate for professional development for all faculty, and has planned and coordinated more than 40 workshops and information sessions designed to promote awareness of OER materials and Open Pedagogy on her campus.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you?

I spent my formative years in Pakistan, with limited access to affordable high-quality content. At the Notre Dame Institute of Education, I was blessed with professors who provided me with access to no-cost and low-cost books; I want to do the same for my students. I am grateful for the books that people in Australia donated. When they arrived, we created a human chain to move the books up several flights of stairs to the library. For me, those free books were like manna from heaven. I believe that every student should have access to affordable learning options. I strongly support the Open Education Movement which seeks to provide learners with access to high quality content across the globe. I see no reason why students should pay for books if free or cheaper options are available.

I embraced open pedagogy and a culture of sharing more than a decade ago because I believe that students are capable of so much more than just being consumers of knowledge. I am committed to designing learning experiences that allow them to create and share what they learn with other learners across the globe. I also want my students to learn how to thrive in a digital world. I want them to curate, critically analyze and collaboratively use content that is published in books (that they borrow from libraries), journals, newspapers, websites, blogs, social media etc. In addition to making learning affordable, OER and Open Pedagogy have helped enhance my students’ digital, media and global literacy skills and prepared them to be digital citizens. 

Name: Natalie P. Flynn

Title: Assistant Professor of Instruction

Institution: Temple University

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Professor Flynn has received two Textbook Affordability Project awards to adopt open or zero-cost resources for students, saving them $7,760. She also received a North Broad Press award to publish open lab manuals for two Geology courses: Geology of National Parks and Physical Geology. She advocates for and supports the use of open resources on campus through volunteering for committees, panels, and presentations.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? 

Accessibility of learning materials for all students is a fundamental tool in education. Too many students have to make choices between daily necessities and learning materials for individual classes. Using affordable and open resources will make sure that all students can access the necessary materials to be as successful as possible. I support helping faculty to explore the myriad of affordable and open resources in order to make the best choices possible for their classes. The library staff have a skill set that is well developed to guide all disciplines in this task.

Name: Dr. Marta Maras

Title: Assistant Professor of Management

Institution: Gettysburg College

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Along with Dr. Alice Newlin, Dr. Marta Maras redesigned a required statistical methods course around OER. Initially motivated to eliminate a $300 textbook, they adopted an existing open textbook and made minimal edits. In subsequent semesters, they made more significant changes in order to respond to student feedback and further customize the book. This course enrolls 120 students per year.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? 

When we opt to use open resources and to build a more affordable learning environment in our classes, we create a more inclusive learning environment for all of our students. By lessening at least part of the financial burden our students are facing in higher education today, we are removing one obstacle that is potentially standing in their way of taking a seat, having a voice and being successful in our classrooms. Sometimes free access to materials is instrumental in opening doors to such opportunities. As educators, one of our key roles is to disseminate knowledge and we should aim to make our audience larger. Ensuring fair access and equity in opportunities is another, especially in disciplines, such as business studies, that have historically been closed or not easily accessible to students of all backgrounds. An added benefit of open resources is also the opportunity to further include and empower our students by contributing their research ideas and feedback to new editions of our textbooks, having them start to make that difference. 

Name: Jennifer Schneider

Title: Assistant Professor, Paralegal Studies

Institution: Community College of Philadelphia

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Paralegal studies instructors have few choices when choosing textbooks and other course resources for students. Conventional materials are limited, costly, copyright-protected, and tend to feature voices, authors, and cases reflective of long-standing challenges and biases that have persisted in judicial and educational systems. In addition, most are aimed at law students rather than paralegal studies students. Within this context, Jennifer has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to improving access and engagement in her field by developing OER for several courses. Her OER include The Feedback Bank, the Feedback Finder Chrome extension, and a legal case brief repository, which are used in courses on Paralegal Studies, Legal Technology, Legal Internship, and Intellectual Property Law. She is a PA GOAL Grant recipient.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? 

Supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources in curriculum and instruction design and delivery is a critically important component of overall efforts to support the success of all students in equitable and inclusive ways. As an educator teaching in the social sciences and legal-related programs in particular, I have become increasingly aware of the limitations associated with traditional instructional materials. For example, there are presently very limited textbook and resource options for paralegal studies courses. Many existing options are both high priced and copyright protected, thereby limiting both access and customizability (including, for example, to regional and state-specific needs and information such as state and local law). Available resources are also often lacking from a diversity and inclusion perspective, with many of the featured voices, authors, and cases reflective of long-standing challenges and biases that have persisted in our courts and judicial systems as well as educational systems. Available resources are also often not designed for paralegal studies students (distinct from law students) and can be inaccessible including and beyond issues of cost to include the aforementioned concerns as well as concerns associated with scaffolding, accessibility, engagement, and relevance. A commitment to Affordable Learning and the use of open resources reflects a commitment to celebrating diversity, increasing access, and promoting the likelihood of success of every single student in our classrooms.

Name: Katie Yelinek

Title: Research/Scholarly Publishing Librarian

Institution: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Katie has created research guides, working groups, and workshops that encourage OER adoption and use. As part of her OER advocacy, she earned a Creative Commons Certificate in November, 2020. Katie immediately shared her growing expertise in a workshop for faculty and staff at Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield Universities, as well as another workshop open to the entire Affordable Learning Pennsylvania community (create a free account to view). Her active promotion of OER makes her an Affordable Learning Champion! 

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? 

It really is about equitable access to education. As a research librarian, I’ve had students contact me during finals week to see if we had a copy of their textbook. These students went the entire semester without access to required course materials. With open educational resources, a student has access to the course materials on day one without needing to worry about whether they can afford them or not. I also feel it’s important to give faculty the power to alter course materials to best suit the requirements of individual courses. The faculty know their courses and their students best, and OER give them that power.

Name: Dr. Alice Brawley Newlin

Title: Assistant Professor of Management

Institution: Gettysburg College

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Drs. Newlin and Maras redesigned a required statistical methods course around OER. Initially motivated to eliminate a $300 textbook, they adopted an existing open textbook and made minimal edits. In subsequent semesters, they made more significant changes in order to respond to student feedback and further customize the book. This course enrolls 120 students per year.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? 

Using OER means that all my students have Day 1 access to their course materials, but this also means there’s a level playing field in terms of equal and consistent access to course materials, too. It’s also been so empowering both for me and my colleagues as instructors, as well as for students in my classes, to realize that we can continuously edit, add to, and improve an existing textbook.

Name: Janelle Wertzberger

Title: Assistant Dean and Director of Scholarly Communications

Institution: Gettysburg College

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Working with the Center for Teaching & Learning, Janelle and her team created a local grant opportunity to support faculty transitioning to OER. They also helped faculty complete successful PA GOAL applications, one of which will result in students savings of over $400,000 in the next five years. In addition, Janelle’s team manages The Cupola, Gettysburg’s College open access institutional repository, where Gettysburg scholarship (including many open textbooks) has been downloaded over two million times from around the world.
Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? The work of promoting and supporting the use of Open Educational Resources and other zero-cost course materials is rooted in Musselman Library’s equity mindset for supporting student success. It’s important to me that all students have access to everything that helps them take full advantage of the educational program at Gettysburg College. We work closely with faculty on this initiative, but the ultimate goals are student-centered!

Name: Dr. Brian Kronenthal

Title: Associate Professor of Mathematics

Institution: Kutztown University

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: Dr. Kronenthal has been using Open Educational Resources in his Calculus and Abstract Algebra classes since fall 2019. He also participated in the UTMOST Project to assist in researching student use of a designated OER and promotes open source platforms like WeBWorK to his colleagues.

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? Supporting affordable learning is important to me as a way of helping students succeed.  By using zero-cost or low-cost materials, students have access from the first day of class and are less likely to fall behind.  Moreover, they can use the money they save to purchase materials for their other classes, thereby enhancing their overall potential for academic success.

Name: Christina Riehman-Murphy

Title: Sally W. Kalin Librarian for Learning Innovations and Reference & Instruction Librarian

Institution: Penn State University – Abington Campus Library

Notable contributions to Affordable Learning: A grant-funded OAER adoption program, the Affordable Course Content Faculty Fellowship (ACCFF), at Penn State University’s Abington campus, which has saved 726 students in 17 courses  $78,000 in the first instances of the adoption of materials. 

Why is supporting Affordable Learning and the use of open resources important to you? For students to succeed in school they need to have their basic needs met and they need access to their course materials. Open resources make this possible while also allowing for students and instructors to open up their pedagogy by sharing knowledge with the much larger public.