Funding announced for affordable course materials infrastructure projects

May 10, 2023

Four affordable course materials proposals receive first-round funding. The projects build sustainable infrastructure to support and develop open educational resources (OER) and immediate-access materials in undergraduate high-enrollment courses to ease textbook costs for students. This is a priority investment identified by President Wendy Wintersteen in the new Iowa State University Strategic Plan.

The second CFP is open now, and funding will support affordable content development and use. Specifically, funds will aid in the development and/or integration of no-cost course materials across Iowa State University and concentrate on proposals that impact multiple courses across a sequence or even whole degree programs.

The initial round of funding will support the following projects:

  • Sustainable OER and AI-Based Infrastructure for Research Writing, Elena Cotos (PI), director, Center for Communication Excellence and associate dean for professional development, Graduate College, Iowa State University.

Description: This project aims to establish a sustainable infrastructure around two related Open Educational Resources (OER) for scientific writing: 1) Preparing to Publish e-book and 2) Research Writing Tutor, artificial intelligence (AI)-based software. Focusing on communicative strategies for effective scientific argumentation, both these OER are designed for use as materials in formal and informal learning contexts supporting the development of research writing competence. We foresee their use in graduate-level courses as readily accessible instructional or reference materials as well as materials for autonomous learning and practice. Campus-wide adoption of these OER aligns with ISU’s strategic aspirations and will contribute to attaining the success factors through innovation in curriculum and increased publication of research outputs.

  • Enhancement of the Course Materials Book List for Students, Heather Dean (PI), assistant director, Iowa State University Bookstore.

Description: As the textbook process and robust technology have evolved over the past decade, the book list system and navigation are due for enhancement and modernization. In 2022-2023, 81% of course materials at Iowa State were delivered digitally to students through the Immediate Access program, with an average of 3.5 items per undergraduate student. Our partner, VitalSource, has released a tool called Launch Complete that allows us to integrate the traditional book list system with Canvas, the Immediate Access program, and the ISU Book Store’s eCommerce system, NetSuite. The implementation and utilization of this tool will bring increased visibility and transparency of all course material requirements (print and digital), in a centralized location, and paired with the Immediate Access program technology. Students in courses with Immediate Access materials saved over $2 Million for the 2022-2023 academic year, with a total program savings of $15 Million since the program started in 2012.

  • Data Dashboard for Affordable Course Materials at Iowa State, Abbey K. Elder (PI), Open Access and scholarly communication librarian, University Library, Iowa State University.

Description: This project will support the development of a data dashboard that tracks the cost of course materials across Iowa State University’s courses. Specifically, the dashboard would showcase how many courses across Iowa State are using free or affordable course materials, in proportion to all courses across the university. The development of a workflow for collecting and organizing this data will be integral to the project.

  • Improving Infrastructure for Publishing Open Educational Resources, Harrison W. Inefuku (PI), scholarly publishing services librarian, University Library, Iowa State University.

Description: The proposed project will seek to improve the Janeway Books Plugin that our catalog is built in and integrate it with linked ancillary collections to ensure that readers are able to find the resources they need. The proposed platform development will support the visibility of ancillary materials for open textbooks, increase the impact of open textbooks authored by Iowa State faculty by facilitating their adoption at other colleges, and add value to these textbooks by allowing the authors and other textbook adopters to share educational materials ancillary to their textbooks. It will also allow the Digital Press to manage textbooks and ancillary materials on a unified platform, streamlining the management of OER published by Iowa State University.


M. Monica Gillen, interim external relations director, 373 Parks Library, 515-294-1442

Abbey Elder, Open Access and scholarly communication librarian, 204 Parks Library, 515-294-5753