Professor Benjamin Bergey is one of eight recipients of this year's VIVA Open Course Grant. (Photo by Randi B. Hagi)

Music professor earns grant to develop free course content

Professor Benjamin Bergey has been awarded $5,000 to develop music theory content that will be accessible to students free of charge. Bergey is one of eight college professors out of 31 applicants across the state chosen to receive a spring 2021 VIVA Open Course Grant.

VIVA, the academic library consortium of Virginia, awards these grants to instructors to create open, free-of-charge course content, thus removing one of the financial barriers between students and success. Three EMU professors in a range of disciplines have been awarded similar grants over the past two years.

Bergey’s project will build upon an existing digital resource, Open Music Theory, and add information on aural skills and sight singing. 

“I’m excited about this first and foremost because it saves our students a lot of money,” Bergey said. “Music theory does not need to be taught from expensive textbooks. This grant also allows me to tailor our unique curriculum which combines written theory with aural skills in a more integrated and intentional way.”

The Open Music Theory digital textbook is designed for an “inverted” or “flipped” course, according to its website, meaning that students explore a topic organically and then ask the educator questions, rather than listening to a lecture and then trying to apply it. The book’s topics range from the basics of key signatures to the structure of sonatas to the syncopation in pop music. 

Resources generated by the grant program are also stored in VIVA’s own online collection, available for use by faculty in Virginia and beyond. 

The eight projects chosen for VIVA’s spring 2021 grant cycle will receive a combined total of $155,885. The resulting educational materials are expected to save college students in the state approximately $1.9 million over the next five years, according to VIVA. Other projects include a composition course for English language learners, special education teacher training, and materials on race and racism in the U.S. 

Last year, VIVA developed a sister program to the Open Course Grants: the Open Adopt Grants, which pay for the time it takes individual instructors to adopt a pre-existing open resource and assimilate it into their curricula. The Open Grants are funded by the General Assembly and sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education. Since its inception in 2019, the program has awarded over $748,000.