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 $107,000 has been realized. Over 1,600 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!
Katie Cali, Instructor of Sociology and Criminal Justice
To those considering joining the OER initiative,
Over the past few years I have embarked on several OER journeys, each being different in their own way. Each time I wondered, how would this work benefit me at all? What if I create these materials and then they are never used or seen?
My first experience was quite bumpy and a bit of a struggle as I learned to navigate my way through this new method of building courses. I had a textbook. That was it. A textbook. There were no supporting materials to use to get started. No guides, additional resources or instructors manual; just me and a textbook that I couldn't even touch since it was an e-text. Nonetheless, I built an OER Introduction to Sociology course.
My second experience involved a textbook review for an OER Social Problems text. This task involved an enormous amount of reading; nonetheless, it was not nearly as challenging as building a course from scratch using only a textbook
The idea of getting a doctorate has been bouncing in my mind for years now. The fear that I am not capable is overbearing. Then I received a grant to build an OER course for Criminology and started to assume that a dissertation may have been easier. My third and most recent experience was a challenge that I originally would have never agreed to had I known.
Remember my griping from earlier when I told you that I only had a textbook to build a course? Well, this time there was no open textbook to be found to build this course. This time, I had to build a course without a textbook; meaning, hunting down each individual open-access resource for all of the subject matter to be included in the course. I was sure I was in a nightmare that I could not wake up from.
Now ask me: "Would you do it again?" My answer is "Absolutely". I gained more than a stipend. I gained the confidence of working among fellow members of the Sociology field. I felt this powerful feeling when I saw many other educators were using these OER textbooks and were fighting the same fight.
There was so much beauty in this journey as I watched myself learn and grow. I accomplished every task put before me, no matter how difficult. I learned that I am capable of more than I realize, if I only put my mind to it. As educators we strive to encourage confidence in our students so they can be successful. How can we do that if we need to find our confidence as well?
Building an Open Educational Resource is as beneficial to the builder as it is to the rest of our academic community. Adding a resource seems as though you're simply adding a single straw of hay to a haystack, but when we each add those straws we can create more than a simple bale of hay. We create a functioning baling farm producing a plethora of materials needed to continuously feed the minds of our students with a wealth of knowledge.
Creating OER's is more than just extra work on my plate. I joined a community of individuals who want the best for our students. I joined a circle of folks who are looking towards new alternatives for a more affordable education for the leaders of our future. I joined a family of instructors that strive to build each other higher rather than tear each other down as we work together towards a similar goal. I gained an amazing support group who helped me endure when I thought all hope was lost.
I cannot tell you that participation will always be easy; believe me, I have experienced the challenge. However, I was greatly rewarded despite the struggle.
OER's are not only enriching to instructors, they give us the opportunity to impact many students who might not have access otherwise. Once your OER is released, your hard work will be available for any and every student across the country to have an equal opportunity at a high-quality education without the impact of socioeconomic or demographic oppression. Education can finally be considered equal for our students.
TM Last spring, our NTCC Librarian, Margaret Keller, put out an all call to faculty for an opportunity to review OER materials. We are trying to build a more economical avenue for our students to pursue their future goals. The particular students that I work with are learning to improve their English, learn more about civics and citizenship. We do not have an official textbook that meets our needs, so I naturally jumped at the opportunity to find a free resource that would benefit these students.
TM Honestly, the determining factor had two components, the availability of the resource offline and online, as well as, the price of the open access material. My students do not always have internet access once they leave campus.
TM First, I needed to learn more about the resource, so I reviewed the material, taking notes as if I were a student. After reviewing the textbook, I reached out to the author about some items that I noticed while reviewing the text. I felt drawn to the material, however there were some grammar components that I felt needed to be added to the material, as well as a teacher’s guide. The author did say she was not going to be writing an addendum but would be interested in maybe another text compilation. With this information, I was able to adapt and plan a small curriculum based on the textbook. I created a teacher’s guide, specific units for deeper concentration, and then implemented the resource for our summer session.
TM The easiest part was playing the student. Reviewing the text with a fine-tooth comb was the most difficult, because I was purposely trying to fault the text.
TM The OER team was a great resource.
TM Definitely look into OER materials. While it is time consuming at first, the outcome is very beneficial, not only to you, but more importantly for your students. They will be able to have access to their materials on almost all technology available, offline and online.
TM I do feel that it was worth it from the students’ perspective. I actually surveyed my students at the end of the summer term to get their response from the OER material. One student stated “I was able to study no matter where I was. I did not need the internet.” Another student said “I like that we have a textbook that I can go back to at any time, wherever I am.” While these may seem simple comments, these are from students who have never had an ELA Civics textbook before. I did have one student who said he felt “the book was ok, it was just more work.” For me, that means, the material is a successful aid in helping them learn! Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful research. My students will benefit from the OER materials for semesters to come.
“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
2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey: Results and Findings. Florida Virtual Campus Office
of Distance Learning & Student Services. March 8, 2019. Link to Survey Results Report.
Create Your Road Map. The College Board. 2019.
Fixing the Broken Textbook Market. U.S. PIRG. January 27, 2014.
NTCC OER Savings 2018-2019 Table. Margaret Keller, NTCC Director of Library Services, and Kimberly Roberts,
NTCC Grant Coordinator.