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Designing Culturally Relevant OER for Liberal Arts

Bunker Hill Community College: Imagine the Possibilities



Since its inception in 2016, Bunker Hill Community College’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative has enabled the college to enhance its student success agenda by designing and integrating OER into the Liberal Arts Program of Study, in which more than 4,000 students are enrolled. To date 19 faculty have been trained to develop and use OER; 18 sections were offered in spring 2017, 8 sections in summer 2017 and 31 sections are being offered in fall 2017, which will enable approximately 1,800 students to enroll in OER courses.

Authors: Clea Andreadis, Associate Provost; Lori Catallozzi, Dean of Humanities and Learning Communities

Published on August 25, 2017


The Initiative is developing faculty expertise and driving institutional culture change around the design and use of OER by focusing on three important goals.

  • The first objective is for faculty to deepen their curricular development and broaden their technological skills by creating fully OER courses in the Liberal Arts major.
  • A second goal is to reduce textbook costs for students and promote student success by ensuring that students have course materials on the first day of class.
  • The Initiative’s final aim is to develop OER that is aligned with our institutional focus on culturally relevant teaching and place based learning, which furthers Bunker Hill Community College’s (BHCC) commitment to achieving equitable outcomes and fostering the success of diverse student populations.


Two challenges have stood out while developing the OER Degree.  The first one is finding OER that is representative of BHCC’s diverse student body and the second involves handling a greater than anticipated faculty desire to adopt OER.

Culturally Relevant OER

The biggest challenge the team has encountered has been finding appropriate source material that represents the diverse perspectives, experiences and identities of our students. To meet this challenge, faculty have enacted a number of strategies, including integration of open multi-media resources and curation of primary and secondary source material from OER sites, including the Digital Public Library of America, OER Commons, Digital Commons Network, and Directory of Open Access Journals. As faculty have grappled with the challenges of finding culturally relevant source material, they have increasingly turned to open educational practices. As a result, the OER Degree Initiative has emerged as a wellspring of learner-centered pedagogical innovation.  For example, OER faculty are engaging students in research to co-create the curriculum and are collaborating with Boston area cultural institutions and community-based organizations to integrate local resources and scholarship into OER courses.

Scaling Professional Development

Another unexpected response has been that interest in scaling the use of OER is growing more quickly than anticipated. For example, math faculty are enacting a training program designed to scale the use of Lumen’s Online Homework Manager across all developmental math sections. Given that BHCC offers approximately 250 sections of developmental math each year, this will impact about 4,000 students annually and save them more than $250,000. This has necessitated an accelerated plan to offer more professional development for faculty who wish to adopt OER that has been adapted or designed by their colleagues. This has also meant that the College must decide upon a financial model to sustain and fund this work more quickly so as to build upon the momentum we are seeing.


Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) has used a number of strategies to engage key stakeholders in this work.  Building a successful OER degree involves faculty engagement and student awareness but also requires leadership  from key functional areas such as student advising, academic records, library, marketing and communications.

Faculty Engagement

While a few faculty have used OER for a number of years, the growth of OER at BHCC really began when the College received ATD’s OER Degree Initiative grant in 2016. Our proposal identified four cohorts of faculty to participate in an ongoing community of practice. Before applying to join a cohort, faculty are encouraged to attend one of a number of listening sessions facilitated by OER faculty leaders. The cohorts each engage in the same scope of work, which includes training, design, implementation and assessment. A two-day OER Institute provides a strong foundation in open educational practice and ongoing sessions engage faculty in designing OER content for their identified course with technical support from Lumen Learning and in collaboration with OER faculty leaders and BHCC library and online staff. To date the first three faculty cohorts have developed more than 20 OER courses, many of which are being offered in multiple sections.

Administrative Buy-in  

The OER Leadership Team initially came together during the grant proposal planning process, with a number of team members attending the grant kick-off meeting last year and continuing with the project since. The Leadership Team has remained the guiding force behind the project and includes administrative leadership from various functional areas (Advising, Academic Records, Library, Marketing and Communications) that are instrumental to the success of the project, along with faculty leaders and key support staff.

Student Promotion

Students are learning about OER in a number of ways. Student promotion began during the early stages of grant development with a student focus group lunch that took place as part of our first OER Institute in June 2016. Since that time the college has developed printed materials that are available to students in the LifeMap Commons, academic division offices and a host of student support service areas. The college has also established an OER web presence –  New students are told about OER as part of their new student registration and orientation program. Finally, students can search for OER courses within our student planning tool to assist them in selecting course sections that use OER materials.


Wide scale OER adoption at BHCC is just beginning so we do not have specific results to share at this time. From an economic standpoint we do know that in fall 2017 BHCC is expected to enroll approximately 1,800 students in OER sections. If we assume an average of $150 in course material costs per student the result is a total student savings of more than $250,000. This amount will grow exponentially as more faculty choose to adopt, adapt or design OER courses.

Bunker Hill Community College Profile

  • Two campuses, three satellite colleges and several instructional centers
  • 13,000 Students
  • Publicly funded community college in Massachusetts

Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), located in Boston, Massachusetts, was founded in 1973 and is the largest community college in the state. It offers a wide range of learning options to suit the diverse needs of its student body.  It is proud to be the most affordable community college in Massachusetts and offers more than 100 academic programs, including associate degree programs, certificate programs and programs designed to allow students to complete their first two years of a bachelor’s degree before transferring to a four-year university.