State law pushes free textbook initiative

A state law will go into effect in January 2018 that will give students the opportunity to choose classes based on open educational resources (OER), a free textbook initiative.

The Academic Senate discussed the costs and benefits of the new OER courses in Monday’s meeting.

Sections in the class schedule catalogs of all LACCD schools will now have a symbol that will let students know if the class requires the purchase of more expensive tools, or if it is a part of OER.

“Ideally, it’s what is best for the students. It works for the faculty as well,” Technology Librarian Clay Gediman said. “We are creating a process for understanding, in which faculty members are using OER within the departments. Right now, it is a little vague.”

Instructors voiced their concerns about the signup rate for classes that require costly materials. They were concerned that certain classes might be cancelled if most students registered for those that do not require purchasing materials.

Another concern was if an instructor, for whatever reason, can’t teach a course anymore and another teacher takes on the course instead, will the instructor have to teach with the OER materials that the previous instructor was originally going to use, or could they require the materials that they would prefer to use.

The Academic Senate decided that the course will be terminated and an instructor will open a new section for that class.

Gediman said OER course options should be available for students when they register for classes.

“Say you have a budget for books, and you’ve already spent it on your psychology books, you might look at OER as an option,” Gediman said.

This presents a problem with faculty, Gediman said. Instructors may lose students because they chose a class that would save them more money on course materials.

Gediman also said students may select their professor of preference instead of the OER option.

“They’re not interested in that as much; if they like the instructor they will pay for the class,” Gediman said.

Gediman said OER courses will work well for faculty because they can drop the costs of the required class material, and students benefit from not having those expenses.

“I kind of got the impression that they aren’t putting a lot of pressure to create these kinds of courses, and these courses will be very beneficial to students that are struggling with finance,” said ASO President Efren Lopez. “I’m sure some faculty feel bad that these students have to pay so much for books, but it isn’t good to promote any type of hesitance from what should be happening, which is providing students with resources.”