New grants expand use of free online textbooks

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PCC’s Open Educational Resources (OER) will receive more opportunities to promote free online resources to every student on campus, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the College Affordability Textbook Act in 2016.

Introduced in 2015, Bill Text AB-798, or the College Textbook Affordability Act, proposed to grant schools $1,000 for each course section that applies OER material in their classes.

Since Fall 2016, PCC has opened several OER workshops and online classes for faculties to encourage teachers to utilize OER as their main course material. The school reportedly has about 20 course sections with a total of 70 professors that utilizes campus’ OER. PCC’s goal is to have 50 sections adopt OERs at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Overall, OER has been saving students about $968,000 total on textbook funds.

“The grant is targeted for professional development and training faculty on how to find these [online resources],” PCC’s OER campus coordinator Walter Butler explained. “We are trying to find ways to bring the physical cost down, but that’s always gonna be a wrench.”

According to a report conducted by the Public Interest Research Group, undergraduate students from the United States spend about $3 billion for textbook per year. Since 2007, textbook prices dramatically escalated about 73%, over four times the rate of inflation.

Most of PCC’s major introductory courses adopted OER as their main classroom material, but not every subject has its book available online. Butler explained that the higher level a course is into a subject, the harder it is to find the matching material because the content is more specific.

“Sometimes finding an OER source comes with a little more work, and it’s always up to the faculty to choose what material they use,” Butler said. “I would like to see faculty give it a try … but it really depends on the subject matter and the OER’s text.”

Associate professor of social sciences department Kiotas “Julie” Agiro applied OER into two of her courses. Agiro addressed that as equity issues, it’s very important that every student must have equal access to their textbooks.

“We are trying very hard to help educate our faculty about OER in the benefit of our students,” Dr. Kiotas said. “It’s great that we got the grant, not everybody did. We are going to make good use of the money.”

Next year, PCC will also apply for the extra funds from the College Textbook Affordability grant, which requires double the original OER course sections, with saves at least 30% in costs for each of the course.

Long-term, PCC is looking forward to offering Zero Textbook Course Degree, also known as Zero Degree, in which requires classes’ material to completely rely on OER. This program promises to open more opportunities for qualified students to get their degrees for zero cost.

“It’s not just tuition price that is climbing; it’s transportation, housings, textbooks, all of that are the cost problems that our students are facing. ” PCC’s spokesperson Alex Boekelheide said. “We are trying our best to help students face the cost of college, and anything that we can do to address that is very helpful.”

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