According to the College Board, community college students spend an average of $1,400 on books and supplies each year. Many students have to use financial aid money or pay out of pocket to cover the costs.
East Central College is launching a new initiative this summer to help lower textbook costs for students. By utilizing open educational resources (OER), students will potentially save hundreds of dollars each semester.
“Open educational resources are teaching, learning and research materials that are either copyright-free or have a license that allows for reuse,” said Robyn Walter, interim vice president of academic affairs. “Students will get the same quality information at little or no cost.”
It’s an idea the East Central College English Department has already embraced. Instructor John Hardecke received training on OER materials through MOBIUS, the collaborative partnership of libraries that provides access to shared information resources in Missouri. He has been the “go-to” person for any East Central College faculty member interested in exploring OER materials.
“Before we started using OER materials in the English Department, students were paying about $140 for a required textbook,” Hardecke explained. “Now, we’re using one that only costs $34. Additionally, we had a required handbook that cost another $130, and now it’s free. It makes a real difference for our students.”
Hardecke says the English Department alone has lowered textbook costs by nearly 70 percent for their students, according to sales at the East Central College Bookstore.
“This is a pilot program,” said Walter. “We are starting small, but we really hope to expand moving forward. According to a recent national survey, nearly 65 percent of students report not purchasing a textbook because of its high price. We want to break down that barrier.”
Five courses will take advantage of OER materials during the Summer 2019 semester. Two more will be added for the Fall 2019 semester.
Previously, an East Central College student taking general psychology, public speaking, general biology, college algebra and English composition would pay roughly $900 for books. Under the new OER initiative, the same student will only have $100 in book costs – a difference of $800!
Besides cost, there are many advantages to open educational resources, also known as open-sourced books.
“Rather than relying on one book that might have older references or examples, our faculty will have the flexibility to find newer content for their students for free. This will also allow faculty to utilize several textbooks at once, choosing chapters they feel are the most relevant to their curriculum,” said Walter.
The free or low cost material will be uploaded to the student learning platform, Moodle, for easy access. The East Central College library will also develop a resource page for all the materials.
“Each OER is developed through a rigorous production and peer review process that mirrors traditional textbook methods,” noted Walter. “Our faculty will still continue to use their same departmental processes for selecting appropriate learning materials for our students.”
While internet access is required to access the materials initially, they can also be downloaded to a device for offline access. For students who want a physical copy, the materials can also be easily printed at a low cost.