Students Save Through Free, Affordable Textbook Options

Students Save Through Free, Affordable Textbook Options

July 1, 2021 |

The East Central College library has saved students more than $500,000 over the past two years with free or affordable textbook options.

The college is closing out its second year utilizing open educational resources (OER), which are teaching, learning and research materials that are either copyright free or have a license that allows for reuse, according to Lisa Farrell, ECC Library Director.

Farrell has been spearheading the free and affordable ($50 and under) textbook initiative at ECC since 2018.

She explained that students could spend nearly $1,500 in books each year, and many students use financial aid money or pay out of pocket to cover the costs.

In 2019, the college launched a pilot program to lower textbook costs for student, with the intent to lower — and in some cases eliminate — what students spend on books for class.

In summer 2019 session there were 95 students in five courses who saved a total of $12,000 under the new program.

The number of faculty members and courses utilizing OER and affordable textbooks has continued to grow. In this past spring semester, 22 courses used OERs and affordable textbooks, 1,229 students and $95,530 in savings.

OERs are not only textbooks, they are any type of educational material, typically peer-written and reviewed, that is available through an open access license. And is downloadable.

Emerging Technologies Librarian

Not only has the savings grown, but so has the library staff overseeing the program — Morgan Spangler was hired as the library’s new Emerging Technologies Librarian in May.

“We are excited to have this new position in the Library and another MLS (Master of Library) librarian on staff,” Farrell said. “She will be taking over facilitating the program, and eventually all of the OER curation and cataloging.”

Spangler’s other responsibilities include managing the library’s electronic services and technical aspects of online resource subscriptions, student instruction in use of library resources and maintenance of integrated library system.



Library staff stays up to date on affordable and OER through listservs and a network of OER users.

Spangler explained that the library reaches out to faculty if a free or affordable textbook is located within the network.

“Textbook selection is up to the faculty,” Spangler said. “They are the experts in the field, and we help facilitate the process — it is a partnership.”

Farrell noted that the English Department was first to embrace the OER and affordable book program, and English Instructor John Hardecke received training on OER materials.

“This program started out mostly with English books, and then social sciences began to use them,” she said. “And then biology was quick to jump on.”

Farrell added that she keeps the ECC bookstore informed of the affordable books that will be used for classes


In addition to keeping costs down for students, through the OER program, faculty members can rearrange the digital resources, cut sections, tweak or add to sections of the materials, Spangler said.

“Faculty has an opportunity to customize the materials to the way they want to teach,” Spangler said.

The materials also can be customized to reflect demographics and current events.

“They can pick and create to make it the best they can for their class,” Farrell added, “and without incurring extra cost to students.”