A postbaccalaureate certificate in transportation planning and policy will include open textbooks created by a multidisciplinary team from The University of Texas at Arlington. The program will be offered through the UTA College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA).
The University is the lead institution on a $582,322 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to support the development of six open textbooks, known as open educational resources (OER). OER are free resources licensed to allow for revision or reuse so they can be available at no cost to students.
UT Arlington will design three of the textbooks. Collaborating institutions Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and University of South Florida (USF) will design the other three.
The grant will operate through CAPPA's Center for Transportation Equity, Decisions & Dollars (CTEDD). Ivonne Audirac, CTEDD associate director for education and associate professor of planning in CAPPA, is the lead investigator on the project.
"Several UTA faculty have used OER to bring down the costs of textbooks and reduce the overall cost of higher education to students," Audirac said. "In transportation planning, there is still little OER content."
The goals of the project include eliminating textbook costs for students enrolled in certain transportation planning courses and expanding OER resources for transportation planning programs at the three partner institutions and beyond.
Audirac said the Transportation Planning and Policy certificate is aimed at professionals looking for additional training.
"People who have been on the job need extra education in transportation planning," she said. "This certification is a viable option for professionals who need the additional education but cannot afford the time needed for a master's degree.
"Plus, if students who earn the certification want to come back to earn that master's degree at a later date, they can. And these courses will count toward that advanced degree."
Michelle Reed, director of Open Educational Resources in the UTA Libraries, also contributed to the grant proposal. Reed oversees OER publishing services for Mavs Open Press, which published its first OER in 2018 and will publish all six textbooks resulting from the grant.
While OER have been around for a couple of decades, they have not really taken root in higher education until recently.
"UTA Libraries supports educators in identifying, using, customizing, creating and publishing teaching and learning materials available at no cost to UTA students," Reed said. "In addition to appreciating the cost savings, students impacted by our OER initiatives have consistently praised the program, noting that OER enable them to be more efficient learners and increase equity in education. These transportation planning textbooks will benefit not just UTA, Cal Poly, and USF students, but students throughout the world."
Ann Cavallo, assistant vice provost and director of UTA's Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence and a member of the project team, will share best instructional design practices for student success in the courses implementing OER.
In addition to Audirac, Reed and Cavallo, Amber Raley, a doctoral student in CAPPA; Roya Etmianani-Ghasrodashti and James Wood, CTEDD researchers and staff members; Qisheng Pan, CTEDD director and professor of planning; Ariadna Reyes-Sanchez assistant professor of planning; and Jay Rosenberger, professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering and CTEDD deputy director, are co-principal investigators on the team.