Students save money in classes without traditional textbooks

  Thursday, April 9, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

Students save money in classes without traditional textbooks

A quiet revolution is taking place in education and some Pittsburg State University students are already reaping the financial benefits.

Over the past five semesters, 492 PSU students have saved more than $105,000 by taking classes that use digital resources available for free or at minimal cost instead of traditional textbooks that can cost hundreds of dollars apiece, according to Brenda Frieden, director of PSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

Frieden said the university began piloting the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in some classes as early as the fall of 2013. Since then, Pitt State has partnered with open courseware specialists Lumen Learning to test the effectiveness of OER in a variety of university classrooms.

The early signs are encouraging, according to Frieden. She said a growing number of faculty have expressed interest in learning about using OER in their classrooms.

“It’s gaining in popularity across the country,” Frieden said.

When the OER initiative was announced, Provost Lynette Olson said that although reducing curriculum costs and saving students money were important reasons to consider using OER, there were other benefits.

“Using OER material in place of a traditional textbook is beneficial because there is a wealth of information that can be accessed and we can actually look at building courses around that content,” Olson said. “It’s a free exchange of ideas and information, and it could change the way we teach at the university level.”

Frieden added that because OER material is a collaborative effort of faculty around the world, it can be updated as soon as new information is available and can be customized by faculty to fit their specific classroom needs. She added that the material is high quality because it relies on input from some of the top researchers in any field.

Teaching with OER is different from teaching from a printed textbook, Frieden said, so the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology offers OER informational sessions to faculty who are interested.

This fall, four courses in the Kelce College of Business will participate in the pilot of the Lumen courseware. Frieden said a campus OER task force, which includes both faculty and student representation, will be gathering and examining data on how the OER courses perform.

While information is still coming in on OER courses, Frieden said national data about classes using traditional textbooks is already available.

She cited a Florida survey that showed that 60 percent of students do not purchase textbooks at some point because of cost and as many as 35 percent of students take fewer classes because of the textbook costs. It should come as no surprise that students who take classes and don’t buy the textbooks, Frieden said, do less well than their counterparts and are more likely to drop classes.

“There is the potential that using OER can improve both retention and graduation rates,” Frieden said.

“We are in the development stages of this approach, and we’re excited to see where this could lead us,” Olson said. “We’ll work closely with faculty and students to get a strong sense of the effectiveness of OER in our classrooms.

“With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, I think it’s very important that we begin exploring alternative approaches when it’s appropriate,” she said. “We want to do whatever we can to help keep costs down for our students while not sacrificing the quality education they expect and deserve.”

Frieden said she expects the move to OER will continue.

“OER is here to stay,” Frieden said. “It’s going to be driven by the students.

For more information on PSU’s OER pilot program, including links to resources and definitions, visit the OER page on PSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology page.



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