Aiming to lower book costs through new courses

On average community college students spend $1,390 per year on books and supplies, according to collegeboard.org. To lessen the burden of educational costs, Online Educational Resources (OER) courses have been developed.

OER courses are designed to give students access to free online materials. These OER courses will be available to students beginning next year and will be listed on the class schedules by January 1, 2018.

“I think these courses will be beneficial because many students, including myself, have not bought textbooks that they thought weren’t going to be useful,” ASO President-elect Efren Lopez said. “Sometimes, they end up not teaching from the textbook, and having to buy the necessary textbook for that class is a financial burden to students.”

Ann Hennessey, a psychology instructor and member of the Faculty Position Priority Committee, said she is excited for these classes to begin.  

“A lot of students don’t have the cash to buy the text,” Hennessey said. “Having free supporting text, documents, and resources will increase student success, and I’m for anything that increases student success.”

However, Hennessey voiced concerns about the OER courses in the April 24 Academic Senate meeting. She said that some issues with OER courses involved professors’ academic freedom and what would occur if a professor drops an intended OER class and another professor picks it up.

“If that happens, the new professor can choose to continue with the OER course, or they can decide to bring in their own syllabus for the course,” Lopez said.

Professors will have the academic freedom to choose whether or not they will use OER. They will also have the ability to choose what online educational resources provided will be best for their course, according to OER Taskforce and Professional Ethics Committee member Cara Gillis.

She said that there isn’t a satisfying solution for everybody.

Gillis said that if you’re a student that signed up for a class specifically because it was an OER course, and a new instructor takes over the class and makes the class buy a $250 book, that won’t be good for the student.

On the other hand, Gillis said, if an instructor’s method of teaching is to teach topically, and all of a sudden, another professor takes over for a teacher who’s using a historically-based way of teaching, then they might not necessarily know all that material.

“There’s tension on both sides that we’re trying to reconcile,” Gillis said.

According to Gillis, the instructor needs to make sure the material they’re using is current, relevant and accurate.

“I also think that if there’s some kind of pressure on faculty to only use OER,  given that in some cases the online educational resources aren’t as rigorously vetted, as say a textbook that is coming from Oxford, then I think there’s a problem,” Gillis said.

Other concerns regarding OER courses are in discussion.