April 19, 20: Alternatives to expensive course materials

By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

Open-Education-WeekPULLMAN, Wash. – Rising tuition isn’t the only burden college students face; textbook costs also have increased. Washington State University will host a webinar and educational technology open house April 19 and 20 detailing high-quality, low-cost alternatives to traditional course materials in honor of Open Education Week.

Between 1977 and 2015, textbook prices increased 1,041 percent, according to an NBC review of Bureau of Labor statistics (http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/freshman-year/college-textbook-prices-have-risen-812-percent-1978-n399926). The College Board recommends that students set aside $1,200 per year on books and supplies (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/college-costs/quick-guide-college-costs). So it’s no surprise that 65 percent of students (http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/fixing-broken-textbook-market) trying to make their financial aid stretch farther decide not to get a textbook.

Alternatives, called open educational resources (OERs), are openly licensed textbooks and learning materials that can be adapted, remixed and reused by instructors at little or no cost to students.

“One of the challenges in providing access to quality open educational resources is the sheer number of options available online,” said WSU scholarly communication librarian Talea Anderson. “Libraries are becoming involved in open education because we spend a lot of time thinking about how to find, assess, organize, license and preserve resources to best support the students and instructors in our local communities.

“Because of this background, libraries are well positioned to facilitate discussions about how open educational resources can help alleviate the rising cost of course materials in higher education,” she said.

OpenStax College webinar

OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University that offers students free open textbooks that are peer reviewed and written by professional content developers. Texts are available for general education courses in biology, sociology, physics, economics, history, mathematics, chemistry and more.

Nicole Finkbeiner of OpenStax College will present a webinar 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, in Terrell Library 20E at WSU.

Educational technology open house

An educational technology open house to introduce visitors to the latest OER innovations will be 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in Terrell Library’s Quiet Study Lounge. Refreshments will be served. Resources include:

Ed_tech_open_house• Licensed e-books: WSU Libraries licenses large collections of e-books and electronic journals that can be used in WSU courses. Contact a subject-area specialist at the libraries for more information (http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/about/subject-specialists).
• Open Textbook Library (https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/): More than 200 openly licensed textbooks freely available to students.
• MERLOT (https://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm): More than 40,000 freely accessible resources in various formats, including assessments, simulations, exercises and openly licensed texts.

• OpenIntro (https://www.openintro.org/): This company provides free access to textbooks, including “OpenIntro Statistics” and “Introductory Statistics with Randomization and Simulation,” as well as to practice labs for applied data analysis.
• Simulations and 3D designs: These are available for use in several repositories, such as ChemCollective (http://www.chemcollective.org/), PhET Interactive Simulations (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/category/new) and Teaching Commons (http://teachingcommons.us/).

• MyOpenMath (https://www.myopenmath.com/): Free access to textbooks, videos and exercises to support mathematics courses ranging from algebra to calculus.
• Flat World Knowledge (http://www1.flatworldknowledge.com/): College-level texts for many disciplines, including biology, chemistry, health sciences, geosciences, communication, business administration, psychology and more.
• Scalar (http://scalar.usc.edu/scalar/): A free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online.

Event cosponsors include WSU Libraries, University of Idaho Libraries and WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation.

ASWSU, university focus on reducing costs

Open Education Week dovetails with recent efforts made by the Associated Students of WSU and the WSU Provost’s Office to reduce costs of course materials.

In the fall, ASWSU submitted a report to the Faculty Senate outlining issues WSU students face with respect to course materials, including: the purchase of new textbooks with no guarantee of resale at the end of the year; lack of available used/rented textbooks; the necessity of buying other instructional media, such as iClickers; and lack of available free open-source material.

The ASWSU initiative called for development of a university task force to investigate and implement effective cost reduction strategies, which WSU Interim President Daniel Bernardo convened in mid-March.

An initial report from the task force will be submitted to co-provosts Erica Austin and Ron Mittelhammer by May 15.


Talea Anderson, WSU Libraries, 509-335-2266, talea.anderson@wsu.edu
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries communications, 509-335-6744, letizia@wsu.edu