According to the College Board’s website, a student’s annual cost estimate for books and supplies is almost $1,300. The 2014 PIRG Education Fund Report, found that over 50% of students surveyed decided not to buy their textbooks due to high costs. As a result, students are finding creative ways to handle textbook expenditures by sharing costs, purchasing old editions or not buying them at all. The results of a survey of 20,000 Florida Virtual Campus students demonstrates that students suffer academically when they do not have access to the required classroom support materials. Students take fewer courses, earn poor grades, or drop, withdraw or fail a course, which results in a delay in completion of their degree programs.
Northshore Technical Community College (NTCC) introduced its Open Educational Resource (OER) Initiative at its annual convocation in 2017. Using eLearning Innovation grants obtained through LCTCS and the Louisiana Board of Regents, NTCC Learning Commons librarians and grant coordinator, Dr. Kim Roberts, collaborated with the first cohort of interested faculty to create OER courses that can be shared through the college’s learning management system, Canvas. From the initial cohort of faculty, NTCC courses and/or OERs have been adopted for Business, Sociology, English, College Success, Biology, Environmental Science, and ELA Civics. A total student savings of over $176,000 has been realized. Over 2,600 students have not had to purchase a textbook for these courses, and the number continues to grow each semester. We salute all of our NTCC OER Faculty Champions!!
Here are some of their stories:
The opportunity to build an Open Access course has been challenging but has helped me to grow as an instructor. Building an OER, as well as studying the materials already available, has reinforced my attention to clarity and detail in my lessons, as well as the availability of resources to students.
~Natasha Foret, College Success Instructor
We would like to share our journey and experiences with the OER project. We got interested in the OER project after our Director of Library Services, Margaret Keller, came to one of our convocation meetings and shared how OER resource materials could help make college more affordable to our students. While that sparked our interest because we know college can be a big financial burden to some students, the main thing that caught our attention was the quality of the OER textbooks and ease of accessing them. We were not happy with the content quality of the traditional textbook we had been using in our introductory non-majors biology courses, because we did not feel like the educational level of the textbook matched our standards. In contrast, the OER textbook that we chose was beyond our standards; we felt it could actually be used for a science majors’ course.
While the content of the OER textbook we chose was great, explaining the major concepts of biology in great detail, it did not have PowerPoints that could actually be used for a lecture class. It also did not have ancillary resources, such as homework or study guides, associated with it. That is where we contributed our expertise, by creating PowerPoints and other assignments that could be used for any non-majors biology course.
The other major problem that our students faced prior to implementation of the OER book, is difficulty in accessing the textbook and resources through the publisher's site. With the OER textbook, we can literally give our students a website address to click on and they have instant access to the textbook. This caught our attention because we have many students who are into their third or fourth week of the course before they have access to their textbook because of issues like financial aid, locked accounts, and incorrect passwords/access codes. In fact, close to one-third of our students NEVER download their textbooks because they get frustrated and quit trying! With OER, our students now have access to their textbooks immediately, on the first day of class, without any problems, frustrations or stress. It gets the semester off to a good start!
Once we signed on to the project, we started feeling overwhelmed by all the requirements, especially the ADA compatibility. We were very fortunate to have had a great support system: Margaret Keller (Director of Library Services), Dr. Kimberly Roberts (OER Coordinator), and Emily Frank (Affordable Learning Program Administrator). They were all there to answer our questions, and even met with us one on one to walk us through some the requirements. In hind sight, one thing that we learned that we would suggest to others starting an OER project, is to complete one chapter or unit, and then talk with your advisers. We had completed all the PowerPoints presentations (thinking we had met all the ADA requirements) before meeting with Margaret and Kimberly. Once we met with them, they showed us a few ADA requirements that had not been met, meaning we had to go back and rework all the PowerPoint presentations. The changes were not difficult to do, just tedious.
Knowing that creating an entire course is a very time consuming project that takes a lot of work, we knew we wanted to share our work after completing it. As teachers with 16-20 years of experience, we have often been frustrated by spending time creating materials that we knew others had already created, but we just didn't know where to find them. We love the idea of the OER website where teachers can go and find everything they need for an entire course. That is an extremely valuable resource to teachers! Since creating the Introduction to Biology course for our students, we have found A&P I and II courses created by other instructors and we are looking forward to switching those courses to OER textbooks and materials in the near future. We are very proud to have contributed to this amazing teacher resource website, and look forward to contributing to and using these resources in the future!
“You will spend much time gathering information from various sites. You will be faced with difficult choices and will have to create your own content to suit the course goals. Make your efforts available for others to share. When you are building your course by linking open content web pages, consider the basic source reliability, the website's font, organization, and other user friendly criteria.”
~Chris Chandler, English Instructor