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Columbus, Miss. -- Three faculty members from Mississippi University Women’s College of Arts and Science recently received grants from the University of Mississippi’s Z-Degree Initiative to help eliminate the need for students to purchase course materials.

The Z-Degree Initiative aims to aid faculty at Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning in their efforts to identify open educational resources as substitutes for textbooks and other expensive course materials.

“The grants won by our three faculty members will allow deeper exploration of no-cost, openly available learning resources for classes in the college. Nationwide, students and their parents are balking at the cost of textbooks and other classroom materials, and many of our courses may benefit from utilizing free web-based resources from university collections, posted video demonstrations and other online resources,” said Dr. Brain Anderson, dean of the college of Arts and Sciences.

Professors of English, Amy Pardo and Leslie Stratyner, were selected from The W along with Professor of Biology, Ross Whitwam, to receive the grant. Both Pardo Stratyner look to replace the use of textbooks in their classrooms by providing student with online resources of the same book plus scholarly articles, documents and video resources.

“The instructor’s most challenging responsibility is in the individualized attention needed to support students in this freshmen level class, and a variety of learning styles demands the creation of an engaging environment,” said Pardo. “The diversity of web-based offerings supports far more dynamic pedagogy than a textbook can.”

Whitwam plans to use the grant resources to convert the textbook used by his Human Anatomy and Physiology classes to digital textbook and develop a lab manual, student self-testing materials and tutorial materials with the aid of open educational resources. He hopes to align what students learn from the course with the supplemental materials and the activities associated with the course to increase the success of students and the effectiveness of instructors.

“The textbooks and lab manuals for these courses are very expensive. By switching to materials, students can access without charge, at least this part of their education will come down in price. At a time when most other university-related expenses are continually increasing, anything we can do to make university more affordable is good for both the students and for The W as an institution,” explained Whitwam.

Anderson hopes the grant will increase the satisfaction of not only the students, but the faculty by providing materials that specific of content and timeliness.

“The OER movement is transforming certain aspects of higher education, and this grant program is a great opportunity for our College to play a greater role in the transformation,” adds Anderson.


Feb. 05, 2016

Contact: Tyler Wheat

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