EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Nursing students from throughout the country will soon be able to save thousands of dollars on textbooks as a result of work led by Chippewa Valley Technical College on open educational resource (OER) Nursing textbooks. The first of what will be five textbooks in the series, Nursing Pharmacology, was published this summer.
“The electronic version became available in June and the first print version just became available Aug. 2,” said CVTC Nursing Instructor Kim Ernstmeyer, the lead author, who has been working exclusively on the project since June 2019.
The project is made possible by a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant involving all 16 Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) schools, with CVTC as the lead institution. Gateway, Northeast and Madison Area technical colleges are also working with CVTC in guiding the development of the project. The concept is creating a series of open-source textbooks that students will be able to use without incurring the cost of purchasing books published by private publishers, with the costs often being hundreds of dollars.
In addition, other colleges and universities will be able to adapt the textbooks to their curriculum without concerns about copyright infringement, opening the possibility of the textbook gaining national or even international use.
“This is a game-changer for open resource education,” said Vince Mussehl, CVTC’s director of library services and executive committee member of the state’s open education organization, Community for Open Wisconsin. “There are hardly any OER resources out there for health, especially at technical colleges.”
Based on the WTCS Nursing curriculum used statewide, the textbooks will ultimately be adopted by all 16 schools. The four WTCS schools taking the lead on the project have already adopted it for the fall 2020 curriculum. But that’s just to start. According to Ernstmeyer, health education leaders from around the country have been following this project closely.
“As of mid-August, we have had over 200 colleges from around the country download the electronic version, so they are expressing interest in it,” Ernstmeyer said. “I’ll have more data on those who are adopting the textbook by October. We will get data from college bookstores too.”
Ernstmeyer added that people could track progress on the project through CVTC’s website at www.cvtc.edu/OpenRN, and 300 faculty members from around the country registered on the CVTC website to do so. Those registering receive a quarterly report on what’s being done. “A lot of people interested in OER are watching how we are doing this,” she said.
“We’ve just been astounded by the national interest in this,” Mussehl said. “This is not only going to be impacting Wisconsin technical college students but students all over the country.”
A large part of that impact will be financial. The rising cost of higher education is well known, and the high costs of textbooks are part of that. On average, WTCS students spend over $1,300 on textbooks throughout a two-year associate degree program.
“A lot of students have not been buying textbooks and trying to go without,” Ernstmeyer said.
The project is raising CVTC’s profile nationwide – and beyond. Over 30 peer reviewers from around the country helped in the editing. “They gave us a lot of good feedback,” Ernstmeyer said.
Ernstmeyer has been mentored in her role in the project by Rory McGreal, professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada. McGreal is also involved with the United Nations agency UNESCO, as the distance education chair in OER. Earlier this year, Ernstmeyer was involved in a presentation at a UNESCO international conference, done virtually, for people engaged in OER efforts.
Much work remains. The next two textbooks in the series, Nursing Fundamentals and Nursing Skills, are due next summer, with the final two, on management and mental health, due in 2022.
In addition, the project includes development of 25 virtual reality scenarios that create a personalized experience for students as they practice the skills and abilities needed as nursing professionals. The four partnering WTCS colleges will purchase equipment and develop virtual reality centers.
“Not only will students see a financial benefit as a result of this grant, they will benefit from an educational perspective as well,” said Shelly Olson, CVTC dean of health and emergency services. “This is an innovative and best-practices education, designed and reviewed by faculty throughout the state. It is a real collaborative effort to help strengthen our curriculum.”
With over 155 programs offered both online and on-campus, Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the community. CVTC programs are designed with input of business and industry to prepare graduates for today’s jobs, with 95 percent employed within six months of graduation and associate degree graduates earning an average annual salary of $46,816.