Workshop teaches professors to make free or low-cost textbooks

A workshop offered through the Pierce College library will teach professors to use free or low-cost materials to create customizable electronic textbooks to ease the burden rising costs have placed on students.

The two-day workshop is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26, and Monday, Nov. 9, in Library / Learning Crossroads 5212 from noon to 1 p.m. both days. It will be taught by Pierce librarian Clay Gediman, who said the high price of printed books may damage student achievement.

“Textbooks have gotten pretty expensive and they are not that flexible in the faculty use of them,” Gediman said. “Student success goes down if they don’t purchase the textbooks.”

Gediman said he aims to help teachers on campus take advantage of incentives provided by AB 798, the College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015. The bill is aimed at decreasing the costs students must pay for textbooks by increasing the use of Open Educational Resources, defined by Gediman as “free or very low-cost materials.” A similar bill has been introduced in Congress but has not been signed into law.

“It’s not just our school, it is a nationwide program,” he said.

The workshop will teach professors where to find free or inexpensive OER materials and how to compile them for use in classes. Not all materials are available for free, however, so it will not entirely eliminate the cost of books.

“There are free textbooks out there, which are copyrighted,” Gediman said. “Some information just is not free. Modern literature is still under copyright.”

According to Gediman, materials available come in several forms, which gives professors options when creating their selection of texts.

“Some textbooks are all online, some are PDFs and some are hybrids” he said. “You can mix and match what you like.”

Not all professors are willing to cease using their own materials and switch to OERs. Philip Stein, professor of Anthropology, has been using his own textbook for over 40 years and said doing so “allows for a more personalized teaching method.”

“Using one’s own book is nice because the book and lecture fit together,” Stein said.

Ashley Tejada, a musical theater major, said that the lower cost of these electronic textbooks may encourage students to take more difficult courses.

“I would definitely take a harder class if the textbook was free or much cheaper than the $160 textbooks,” Tejada said.

Gediman acknowledged that the program may not be a cure-all for the high cost of attending college, it can ease some of the more painful expenses.

“There is a cost to education,” Gediman said. “But we can take some of the burden out of the textbooks.”