2022 Open Educational Resources Grant RFP Released!

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Digital Engagement Initiative (DEI)


Providing ALL Students With the Tools for Success

Textbook costs are forcing many of our students to make decisions that compromise their academic success. Major studies show that 66.6% of students do not purchase the required textbook. Because of this:

37.6% earn a poor grade

19.8% fail a course

47.6% take fewer courses

45.5% do not register for a course

26.1% drop a course

20.7% withdraw from courses

Tennessee is leading the nation in college access and student success initiatives through its suite of Drive to 55 programs, such as TN Promise and TN Reconnect. However, textbook costs continue to be a barrier to student learning and equitable access. 

As part of a statewide, broad-based response to this challenge, TBR launched the Digital Engagement Initiative employing an inclusive access (IA) model to offer electronic course materials to students during the spring 2019 term. The purpose of the project is to:

  • reduce course material costs for students
  • make materials available on day 1 of class
  • employ digital textbook options to maximize student learning


  • A subscription-based model as opposed to the traditional print, transaction-based model.
  • ALL students gain immediate and complete access to the digital textbook for the class through the existing learning management system (just one click!). 
  • Students ALWAYS retain the option of a traditional print textbook (used/new/rental) through the bookstore or purchase through retail store of choice.  

The Tennessee Board of Regents seeks to provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to use instructional materials and technologies that allow them to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as persons without disabilities in an equally effective and equally integrated manner and with substantially equivalent ease of use. 

The Digital Engagement Initiative (DEI) is working to reduce the financial and access barriers often associated with textbooks, resulting in increased quality and functionality of the student experience for those working towards obtaining their educational goals. The accessibility of these digital materials is a critical element in the success of our students in that it magnifies DEI’s purpose in reducing barriers for all students. 

Accessibility Initiative


Impact of Textbook Costs on Students

Digital Engagement Initiative – Phase II

Creating a Digital Campus Culture

Building on the successful inclusive access model in DEI Phase I,  TBR is now setting sights on system-wide use of Open Educational Resources.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines Open Educational Resources (OER) as “…teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

A useful way to appreciate the value of OER is to understand what you, the user of openly licensed content, are allowed to do with it. These permissions are granted in advance, and are legally established through Public Domain or Creative Commons copyrights:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

This material is adapted from original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.

Open Educational Resources Grant Program

The DEI/OER Grant program provides opportunities for teams of faculty and professional staff to transform general education program courses/sequences currently using commercially-published textbooks to courses using open educational resources and other more affordable materials.

The primary purpose of this grant program is to increase equity in access to quality, low cost, and inclusive educational materials through open education resources in order to increase success rates and improve educational outcomes for traditionally underserved students.

TBR’s Office of Organizational Effectiveness and Office of Academic Affairs are pleased to announce the release of the 2022 Open Educational Resources Grant. Detailed information and the application can be found in the grant portal, https://tbrgrants.webgrantscloud.com.

The primary purpose of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Grant Project is to increase equity in access to quality, no/low-cost educational materials. The Project is designed to increase success rates and improve educational outcomes for traditionally underserved students, such as but not limited to students of color, first-generation college students, and economically disadvantaged students.

The OER Grant Project will provide opportunities for teams of Community College, Technical College, and University (LGIs) faculty and professional staff members to transform courses currently using commercially published textbooks to courses using open educational resources and other more affordable materials.

Application deadline is April 2, 2021. Maximum award is $30,000.


DEI Partners with ATD for Student Success

The TBR Community Colleges are part of the Achieving the Dream Network, a national reform movement for student success, created in 2004 to help community colleges close academic achievement gaps for low-income and minority students and assist all students achieve their goals of academic success and economic opportunity.

DEI is designed to address some of the same barriers to access, quality, and success that defines the ATD mission. Modeled after the Achieving the Dream (ATD) OER Degree Initiative, TBR is pursuing an zero-textbook-cost degree (z-degree), which coupled with TN Promise and TN Reconnect, would greatly reduce the cost of attendance at TBR colleges. DEI is not only about affordability, but prioritizes faculty/student engagement and pedagogical innovation. 

Research and Resources

TBR’s Office of Policy and Strategy developed a model for assessing the DEI pilot and scale-up. This assessment utilized surveys and information from TBR’s student information system, including student enrollment and course data. Additionally, the Policy and Strategy team engaged campus Institutional Research and Effectiveness offices to coordinate the assessment with existing processes as the IR offices have the infrastructure and expertise to deploy surveys, track the assessment of student learning outcomes, and communicate with faculty about the assessment process. This assessment also incorporated data from Follett (TBR’s bookstore contractor) about the adoption, costs, and utilization of textbooks and course materials.

  • A mixed methods approach used both quantitative data and qualitative elements. 
  • Process evaluations sought to identify any problems associated with technology integration, faculty development, or print/digital alignment. 
  • Surveys of faculty and student experiences and perceptions were structured to elicit feedback and unanticipated outcomes.

Spica, E. (2020). PERC Report: 2019 Tennessee Community College Student Course Materials Survey. Knoxville, TN: Postsecondary Education Research Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Griffiths, R., Mislevy, J., Wang, S., Ball, A., Shear, L., Desrochers, D. (2020). OER at Scale: The Academic and Economic Outcomes of Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

PDF icon Colvard, N., Watson, E., Park, H (2018). The impact of open educational resources on various student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.


White Paper Published
April 2018
Joint Meeting with Governor Haslam's Office & THEC
July 2018
Faculty Leadership Team formed
August 2018
Bookstore and IT Collaboration/ Software Integration
Sep-Dec 2018
Presentation at We All Rise – Biennial Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Completion
October 2018
First DEI Faculty Seminar

With 100 participants

October 2018
Pilot Launch
January 2019
Second Faculty Seminar

With 150 participants

March 2019
System Scale-up open to all faculty/all courses
August 2019
Collaboration with THEC on Textbook Affordability Task Force
April 2020
Work on DEI Phase II begins
April 2020
First OER Grant RFP Issued
July 2020
First OER Grant Awards Announced
October 2020
DEI Faculty Seminar

Faculty Take the Lead

A 14-member faculty leadership team (1 from each pilot course) was selected from among the participating faculty based on interest and experience in the digital textbook environment. The FLT supported the DEI development and launch by communicating with campus faculty groups (faculty senates, curriculum committees, faculty sub-council), facilitating content and pedagogical best practices, and developing seminar training activities.



Roane State Students

The Pilot

TBR launched the DEI pilot in all 13 Community Colleges and 18 Technical Colleges. Over 100 faculty volunteered to participate, using textbooks they selected, and more than 4,500 students registered for the high-enrollment courses in the pilot. More than a third of the community college participants were low-income students, and almost a quarter were adults over age 25. In the pilot term, students saved $548,000.00 over standard retail price for their textbooks.

The pilot included the following 7 high-enrollment technical college programs and 7 high-enrollment community college courses:

Programs Courses
Practical Nursing
Automotive Technology
Machine Tool Technology
Administrative Office Tech.
Computer Information Tech 
Collision Repair Tech.
ENGL1020 - Composition II
PSYC 1030 - Introduction to Psychology
COMM 2025 - Fundamentals of Communication
HIST 2010 - Early U.S. History
BIOL 2010 - Human Anatomy & Physiology
MUS 1030 - Introduction to Music
INFS 1010 - Computer Applications

During the first scale-up year 2019-2020 academic year, the Digital Engagement Initiative saved students over $10 million in textbook costs through approximately 63,000 course enrollments.

Due to the pilot’s overwhelming success, Chancellor Tydings gave the green light to expand the opportunity to all colleges and all faculty in the System. 

The faculty and staff at all 40 TBR colleges have worked to make DEI a reality for students on their campuses. Any initiative on this magnitude requires collaboration from faculty organizations, advisors, registrars, IT personnel, administrators, IE/IR teams, and academic and student affairs administrators. At the System level, leadership has been provided by the DEI Strategy Team:

Jonathan Calisi, Deputy Chief Information Officer
Dr. Russ Deaton, Executive Vice Chancellor for Policy & Strategy
Dr. Robert M. Denn, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Angela Flynn, Associate Vice Chancellor for Procurement, Contracts, and Payment Services
Danny Gibbs, Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance
Dr. Lana Hamilton, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Dr. Tachaka Hollins, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Lindsey Koch, Research Analyst
Dr. Heidi Leming, Vice Chancellor for Student Success
Dr. Kim McCormick, Vice Chancellor for External Affairs
Dr. Amy Moreland, Director of Policy
Dr. Nicola Wayer, Director of Training & Instructional Design
Kristina Krau Waymire, Director of Student Initiatives
Teresa Workman, Senior Technical Consultant

Digital Engagement Initiative supports the following TBR Strategic Priorities: 

  • Access – TBR institutions will optimize gateways to higher learning through the effective use of technology. 
  • Student Success –The TBR System will explore, develop, and apply new technologies and technology-based delivery methods to enhance teaching, research, service, and student achievement.
  • Quality – TBR will provide high quality academic program, faculty, services, and facilities at all levels and will sustain academic rigor with a commitment to continuous quality improvement processes to help students succeed.
  • Resourcefulness & Efficiency – TBR will achieve its mission through innovation and judicious use of resources. 

TBR is a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Textbook Affordability Task Force

For more information about DEI, please contact:

Robert M. Denn, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs