Zero cost textbooks available

One program that can help improve student success has been gaining traction, but some faculty don’t know it exists.

Open Educational Resources (OER) strives to provide classes at zero cost for students. It offers books that can be downloaded and printed online as PDF files.

The OER program has been improving by the semester, according to Technology Librarian Clay Gediman.

“Although students can’t get a degree with just OER, we do have more materials now,” Gediman said. “And we are able to integrate Canvas now.”

Gediman is working toward making a degree obtainable with just OER.

“I know it is possible because I’ve seen it in other campuses,” Gediman said. “As more classes get covered by OER, it’ll be more possible.”

Gediman thinks that not all classes will be able to be covered.

“Sometimes there will be material that just can’t be provided for free,” Gediman said. “And it could take time and energy from faculty to transition.”

There are two laws that have been implemented to mandate OER. The first was AB 798, which provides incentive to colleges to think about OER. The second is SB 1359, which requires colleges to clearly highlight which classes are OER.

During the spring semester, 27 classes were offered using OER. The summer sessions will include 8 classes, and the fall will have 36.

Sometimes, the transition isn’t what stops teachers from implementing OER in their classes. Travis Orloff, the Physical Science lead, uses OER as much as he can.

“I use OER for my more lecture-based classes like in my Physical Science 6,” Orloff said. “For my labs, I use a book that is from a research group I’m a part of and the lab materials are already provided to students.”

Orloff said OER is helpful to students and faculty.

“I want to have free resources available for my students that are high in quality and just as effective,” Orloff said.

Some professors are unaware of OER and its benefits. Tom Putnam, an instructor of mathematics, hadn’t heard of the program.

“I use an online course where an access code is the only cost and the textbook comes with it,” Putnam said.

Although it isn’t zero cost, Putnam thinks it is a low cost.

“Although it is not an OER class, the student doesn’t have to buy the physical copy of the textbook,” Putnam said. “This makes it cheaper for them.”

Some programs, such as STATway and Algebra Success at Pierce, have fixed textbooks that can’t be changed, Putnam said.

Gediman wants to help with student success goals.

“We see sometimes students don’t buy the textbook and lots of them have electronic devices,” Gediman said. “Our goal is to help students succeed with zero-cost courses that use online and printable PDFs.”