In addition to higher tuition and general fees, East Central College also will offer a pilot program this summer to help students save money on books.
The program will introduce open educational resources (OER) to the institution.
“Basically, open educational resources are teaching, learning and research materials that are copyright-free or have a license that allows for reuse,” explained Robyn Walter, interim vice president of academic affairs. “Students will get the same resources for little or no cost.”
Educators at ECC were previously concerned about the quality of the resources through the program.
“This is not exactly a new idea,” said Instructor John Hardecke, noting in the last couple of years the program has gained quite the following, which has increased the quality.
“It’s become a national movement,” he said. “At first the quality wasn’t there. That has changed. It’s better now.”
Hardecke incorporated the OER into the ECC English Department this past year.
Before OER, English students were paying roughly $130 for the required textbook. Through the OER, a new resource is offered that provides the same quality of education for less than $50.
It was the same story for the required handbook, which also was roughly $130. Now students have access to a free handbook.
With OER, students in general psychology, public speaking, general biology, college algebra and English composition who generally pay approximately $900 for books would only have $100 in book costs.
“It’s easy to get overly excited about this,” Hardecke said.
Right now, the OER only offers online resources. If a student wants a hard copy, Hardecke said they will have the option to print the PDF at a low price.
The college will offer OER materials for five courses this summer as part of the pilot program.
“We’re going to take it slow and do it properly,” Hardecke said.
In the 2019 fall semester, the college will take it a step further by adding two more courses.
Additionally, Hardecke said all of the resources would be available to students on the first day of class. He noted that sometimes the bookstore runs out of stock for a book and many students end up a week or two behind depending on how long it takes to restock.
It also was stated that the OER shouldn’t be expected in every class. However, there is an open textbook available for most general courses.
The open textbooks will be available to students through ECC’s student learning platform, Moodle.