HSC’s Community Health Worker Training Center is first on campus to offer Open Educational Resources

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Community Health Worker Training Center at The University of North Texas Health Science Centerr at Fort Worth’s School of Public Health is empowering students who might otherwise lack resources through the use of Open Educational Resources that provide no-cost, online access to textbooks and course materials. HSC’s CHW program is the first on campus to provide this benefit to students.

The center’s open course materials were adopted with assistance from the https://library.unthsc.edu/ and HSC’s Division of Academic Innovation. A link from the online course takes students directly to the textbook with no code or log-in required. There is an option for instructors to make the entire text available or just pertinent chapters.

For the 16-week cohort beginning June 24, the CHW Training Center’s program coordinator, Bobbie Bratton, has already ensured that the open resource chapters to be used throughout the course are included.

The center provides essential certification and education to the rapidly growing workforce of community health workers and empowers communities grappling with inadequate access to care and limited follow-up resources.

The American Public Health Association calls community health workers “the frontline public health workers who are trusted members of and/or have an unusually close understanding of the community served.”

They usually share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status and life experiences with the community members they serve. CHWs can offer interpretation and translation services, provide culturally-appropriate health education and information, help people get the care they need, provide informal counseling and guidance on health behaviors, advocate for individual and community health needs, and provide support services like first aid and blood pressure screening.

CHWs help meet the needs of the approximately three million people living in rural Texas. Their significance is especially critical where rural and remote communities experience limited health care access, insufficient broadband connectivity and a concerning number of uninsured citizens – all factors that can impact patient safety.

HSC's Dr. Teresa Wagner“We try to do everything possible to facilitate success – including offering scholarships and working to secure grant funding to defray registration costs – and being able to also offer these open-access course materials is such a great opportunity,” said Dr. Teresa Wagner, HSC CHW Training Center director.

In addition to giving students job skills and a certification that can serve their communities, the CHW helps reduce health disparities and improve health equity across the state.

“We were fortunate to find, when we brought this question to the library, that staff members had already been working on this move to OER, which is now mandated in the state of Texas,” Wagner said. “It seems as though this type of access to texts and course materials will be the wave of the future for educational institutions.”

The state of Texas higher education strategic plan, and Texas HB 3652, now provide for a public digital library of open educational resources for higher education. Open Educational Resources in Texas, the OERTX Repository, is a joint project funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management. The purpose of OERTX is to help with the creation and adoption of open resources in support of education across the state.

To accommodate students where English is not always their first language, Wagner also consulted the CHW Center’s bilingual instructors Frances Villafane and Annabel Luna-Smith to ensure the materials were culturally appropriate, to help fill the language gap and reduce potential dropout rates.

 “This is huge for our campus, and I am so very proud to have been a tiny part of the process to bring HSC’s CHW Center online with these resources,” said Elizabeth Speer, MLS, M.Ed., Lewis Library associate director of digital scholarship.

From HSC Newsroom - Our People by Sally Crocker