Reducing textbooks costs through OER adoption

By Marian Taliaferro, digital scholarship librarian

Marian Taliaferro, digital scholarship librarian, will be leading two December workshops for faculty interested in adopting open educational resources.

Did you know that the average student attending a Virginia public institution of higher education needs to budget approximately $1,300 dollars per year for textbook and course materials? With the increasing costs of higher education on the minds of many, open educational resources are becoming a topic of discussion at universities across the nation.

Since 1980 the cost of textbooks has increased at three to four times the rate of inflation. All the while tuition prices have risen as states decrease funding to public colleges and universities. Currently, the average student in a Virginia public 4-year institution takes out over $26,000 in loans to pay for their education. According to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the cost barrier kept 2.4 million low and moderate-income college-qualified American high school graduates from completing college in the last decade. It’s for this reason that many institutions are now focusing on Open Educational Resources or OER’s.

OER’s are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital files that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. A few states like Minnesota and Louisiana have extensive programs to explore and implement OER’s, and VIVA (the Virtual Library of Virginia) is actively seeking state funding to bolster efforts for its member institutions such as William & Mary Libraries in promoting these resources. Some institutions, such as the John Tyler Community College, have even created entire “z-programs,” where textbooks associated with the required courses are entirely free to students.

For faculty interested in learning more, there are two faculty workshops scheduled for Friday, December 1, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (with lunch) and from 3-4:30 p.m. (with snacks) in Swem Library’s Ford Classroom. Faculty who attend the workshop and write a short review of an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library may be eligible for a $200 stipend. Applications for stipends are being accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28. Not all applicants will be eligible for a stipend (depending on their courses taught and availability of open textbooks for them) but all faculty are encouraged to attend the workshop.