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Supporting OER Adoption

March 5, 2019
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OER_Logo_Open_Educational_ResourcesThe cost of college textbooks is a growing problem in academia.    In 2017, the average student spent $1,200 on textbooks.  At community colleges, like the one I work at, this extra cost is especially difficult for students to bear.  High costs cause many students to not purchase their textbooks, which hinders their academic performance.

Libraries are trying to improve this situation by helping faculty adopt open educational resources (OER) to replace traditional textbooks.  OER are freely available learning materials that replace or supplement the textbook for a course.  So, what are some of the methods librarians can use to help faculty adopt OER?  Below I will outline my own experiences helping faculty at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

  • Replace the textbook with an open textbook – This is the simplest way to adopt OER. Faculty at several intuitions are making textbooks and publishing them online for anyone to use.  Openstax is one example of this.  They have excellent textbooks on most general education subjects.   By comparing the previous textbook or syllabus for a class to the open texts available I’ve been able to suggest replacement textbooks for faculty.  Of course, not every subject is covered and there is no guarantee that an instructor will approve of the available open textbooks.
  • Replace the text using the Library eBook Collection: Online eBook collections may also be an option to replace textbooks.  I worked with a history professor who required students to read a monograph on WWI as part of his course.    I used my library EBSCO eBooks Collection to find a suitable replacement book on WWI.  We verified that the book allowed for unlimited concurrent access so that the whole class could use it at once.   By embedding a link to the eBook within the course LMS page students had easy access to it.
  • Replace the textbooks with several different materials – One instructor reached out to me about the possibility of using an OER textbook for her class. Unfortunately, no open texts were available for this subject.  Instead, I was able to help the instructor adopt OER by working with them to find journal articles, websites, videos, podcasts, book chapters, and other materials they could use to replace the text.  This variety of materials was grouped by subject and placed in the course LMS page to allow student access.  This method requires more work by library staff and faculty involved, but it does give you an extra option to use OER in courses where no open textbook exists.  Using a variety of learning materials may have pedagogical benefits as well.
  • Create a copyright free collection – I worked with an English professor who required students to purchase a collection of poetry. The entire text was made up of older works that were out of copyright.  I ended up creating a large PDF which included all the poems required and could be easily posted on the course LMS page.  Resources like Project Gutenberg were helpful for this particular project.  I also used this method for a history class that featured a collection of readings from primary texts dating to the 1700s.

These are a few of the methods I have used to encourage OER adoption at my college.  Have you tried similar things at your library?    Do you have any questions for me?  Let me know in the comments.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2019 12:45 am

    I worked as a textbook specialist for nearly seven years at my local community college, and I can tell you, it was so difficult justifying the cost of course materials to students and their parents. I tried my best to lower the cost of materials, such as purchasing used books and standing up to publishing representatives, who are trying to keep afloat themselves, and who often custom-designed packages to “reduce costs,” but also made it difficult for students to sell their materials back, especially if the book was a loose-leaf version.

  2. Alex K. permalink
    March 6, 2019 4:21 pm

    Sounds like you made the best out of a tough situation. I’ve talked to our bookstore about the costs of books, and they do try to help, but their hands are tied, as yours seem to have been. It’s really a case of publishers taking advantage of a captive student audience who are forced to buy specific books.

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