Students study in the Ketchum Library at the University of New England on the Biddeford campus. UNE has received $80,000 in grant funding from the Davis Educational Foundation to increase access to free learning materials for students — with the aim of enhancing equity, alleviating student financial burdens for textbooks, etc., and allowing professors to customize course materials at no cost. Contributed / University of New England

The University of New England has received $80,000 in grant funding to increase student access to no-cost educational resources.

The grant from the Davis Educational Foundation will support the advancement of campuswide open educational resources (OER) initiatives over the next three years. The foundation was established by Stanton and Elizabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Through the foundation’s generosity, the grant aims to promote the adoption of open educational resources — such as textbooks, videos, and other learning tools — among faculty, increase accessibility to materials, and reduce student financial burdens while increasing student success.

According to Beth Dyer, M.L.I.S., M.S.Ed., AHIP, dean of UNE Library Services, over 90% of students who responded to recent informal surveys did not purchase a required textbook due to costs.

The grant funding, she said, presents opportunities for faculty to contribute to student success by allowing students to access course materials at no cost. UNE is working with various networks to achieve this, including the Open Education Network, an alliance of colleges, universities, and other organizations collaborating to promote the use of OER materials.

UNE joined the Open Education Network in 2023.


“We know that the cost of textbooks is a barrier for students, but we also know that open educational resources are a great tool,” Dyer remarked. “This funding will help Library Services create mini-grant opportunities for faculty to adopt OER resources and find free, high-quality options for students to use while meeting course requirements.”

Dyer said OER mini-grant opportunities will allow faculty to customize their course materials to keep costs down for students and increase student engagement. This customizable option also makes OER resources more accessible for students with specific learning accommodations, such as the need for enlarged text.

“The freedom to adapt and to modify these resources is one of their greatest benefits,” remarked Oak McCoy, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics in UNE’s College of Business. “OERs allow us to customize the content to meet the specific needs we might have and also to deliver the most up-to-date content, as well.”

Sonya Durney, Ph.D., M.L.I.S., scholarly communication, research, and teaching librarian at UNE, said that increased OER access supports a more equitable learning environment in higher education by ensuring all students have the necessary learning materials from day one.

“This funding will increase inclusivity and belonging among our students, such that everybody has access to the same materials on the first day of class,” Durney said. “This will help level the playing field for our students.”

McCoy echoed Durney’s sentiment, saying that, because OERs are freely available, they help to democratize knowledge.

“One of the primary motivations for me to support the use of open educational resources has been the promotion of knowledge of a public good,” McCoy said. “By removing any sort of additional financial barrier or burden on the students, we’re also serving to greatly increase the accessibility of the learning environment.”

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