Professor recognized for embrace of open educational resources

May 24, 2024
Professor Kisha Tracy at podium
Cover of Heritages of Change ROTEL book by Kisha Tracy

Fitchburg State University Professor Kisha G. Tracy is a true believer in the power and importance of open educational resources, known as OER.

“The cost of textbooks has gotten out of hand, and our students deserve to have access to the best materials without additional financial stress,” said Tracy, a member of the university’s English Studies Department and chair of the General Education (Gen Ed) program area.

With other faculty from Fitchburg State and other public institutions, she has embraced the Department of Higher Education’s OER ambitions and this year helped create two new digital textbooks that are now available for students at no cost.

This month, the Massachusetts Open Educational Resources Advisory Council gave Tracy first place in the third annual OER Faculty Awards. Winners were judged to have gone above and beyond the call to create, adapt or adopt OER for academic use institutionally, regionally, and nationally. 

Tracy’s books were published through the Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL) project, which seeks to create culturally relevant open textbooks for high enrollment general education courses and career and professional courses at six public campuses in Massachusetts.

Cover of Kisha Tracy GenEd ROTEL book

Tracy’s book Heritages of Change: Curatorial Activism and First-Year Writing, designed for use in first-year writing courses, incorporates diversity and equity concepts that broadens students’ perceptions and understanding of disability and ableism. Incorporating open pedagogy into her course, students develop their writing skills through the creation of exhibitions on cultural  heritages. Her textbook teaches students how to write and demonstrates to them that their writing has meaning and purpose when shared with a broader audience.  

Her second ROTEL book, Why Do I Have to Take This Course: A Guide to General Education, invites readers to contemplate connections, the potential reasons for developing certain learning outcomes and skills, and the applications to other courses as well as their professional and personal lives. 

The latter title explores timely topics like book bans, COVID, LGBTQ+ issues and the rise of artificial intelligence. “What’s great about OER is I can update the book to include examples that are current and keep the book relevant,” said Tracy, whose photography is also featured in the books. “I’m a storyteller by trade.”