Due to the rising costs of higher education, textbook affordability is a particular area of hardship for many students. With limited funding, students may have to choose what is essential to their well-being and education and because of this, many students forgo buying required textbooks or other course material. This often results in poor grades or failing or dropping out of the course (Yano & Myers, 2019). To combat this issue, Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives have been growing among many higher education institutions, including Indiana University East.
In support of Open Education Week (March 6-10th) 2023, the Campus Library is highlighting IU East faculty who currently use OER textbooks and resources in their classes. Humanities and Social Sciences faculty members share reasons to pursue OER in place of traditional textbooks.
Aaron Comstock, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
“When possible, I strive to use OER to keep costs down for our students. In recent years, notable anthropologists have collaborated on high-quality open-access textbooks that provide the background material and exercises necessary to effectively teach introductory level anthropology courses. For example, Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology is an excellent peer-reviewed textbook that allows students to engage with topical cultural anthropology readings. Similarly, Explorations: An Open Invitation To Biological Anthropology offers both textbook and laboratory materials that can be used with in person or online format.
I use these options in my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH-A 104) and Bioanthropology (ANTH-B 200) courses, respectively, and each has received strong student feedback about being free (which is important) and approachable resources. Each offering is written by practicing anthropological specialists and is sponsored by the American Anthropological Association. I continue to use these OER and search for more to integrate into my courses because it is important to offer quality resources for students at no cost.”
Edwina Helton, Professor of English and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies
“My use of OER, no purchased formal textbook courses, has a long history and began during my MA program years. OER enabled shaping courses to themes and issues. Going with self-designed OER also led to more timely themes and topics being in focus that were not yet captured in conventional textbooks.
Designing courses without textbooks provided a creative outlet for my research in literary and art archives. In the early years, the form might include printouts and/or self-created texts in ring or spiral binder for purchase in a local print shop. Today, OER takes many forms. In my course designs, digital publications and texts are provided within the LMS [learning management system, like Canvas, Blackboard, etc.]. Reflecting on 30+ years of creating no textbook classes, the benefits that rise to the top for students are engagement and financial savings.
Texts are largely made with tiny print and thin pages, disadvantaging many students with vision issues. OER strategies enable larger fonts and more accessible texts. That said, I also feel strongly about the importance of physical texts, sending students out to physical and virtual texts beyond the course through their own selection and research.
Looking back at a decade of presenting on OER at conferences, the greatest hurdle to OER among faculty is time. Aligning OER to research plans and using as a tool for shaping courses to specific topics can help.”
The IU East Campus also has several faculty members from the School of Natural Science and Mathematics who use OER in their courses or are pursuing ways to adapt their course to a zero textbook cost course.
Sam Krerowicz, Visiting Lecturer of Chemistry
“I use a wide variety of open educational resources to supplement my teaching in both organic chemistry lecture and lab, but the main one I use for lecture is Tim Soderberg’s Organic Chemistry with a Biological Emphasis, and Lisa Nichol’s Organic Chemistry Lab Techniques for organic lab.
The main reason I use OERs is because there is a lot of information on the internet that my students are going to look for regardless of what I do, some of it good and some of it bad, so I would rather provide my students with resources I know are good, instead of having them spend time looking for resources that may or may not be good. The internet is also the first place I go to in order to learn about a topic, and it will be the first place my students will go after they graduate to learn, and I think that showing them a variety of reliable, freely available internet resources to learn from is an important part of building their digital literacy.
Finally, there is also the cost factor. I have heard from a number of students at multiple different institutions who barely used the textbooks they bought, and so I find it difficult to require students to spend hundreds of dollars for a resource that they may or may not even use, and even if they do use it, they will use it for 8 months at most. I would rather provide them with free resources that they can choose to use and come back to at any time that can’t be damaged and can’t be lost.”
Jill Schweitzer, Assistant Professor of Biology and Biochemistry
“I search for Open Educational Resources to use in my biology and biochemistry courses for many reasons. I want all students to have access to updated and reliable course materials without additional financial burden. Also, I also know that having access to course materials on the first day of class helps students be more successful in the course. These two reasons have motivated me to search for OER and other lower-cost resources.
Recently, I adopted Biochemistry Free For All 1.3 by Ahern, Rajagopal, and Tan as the course text in BIOL-T571/CHEM-T550, an introductory biochemistry course for M.A.T. students. This text presents high-quality information and figures in a readable and accessible format. The authors link to interactive study modules, YouTube videos, and practice questions throughout the text as well. I look forward to using this text and discovering more OER to use in the future.”
Do you use OER?
We will continue to highlight and recognize IU East Faculty who adopt and create OER and engage in open pedagogical practices. If you or someone you know engages with OER, please let us know! You can contact Assistant Librarian of Access and Technical Services Beth South at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your own OER use or ask any questions related to open educational resources and practices. Follow us on Facebook for more faculty features!
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Yano, B., Myers, C. (2019). “Stakes and stakeholders: Open educational resources—framing the issues.” A. Wesolek, J. Lashley, and A. Langley, Eds. OER: A field guide for academic librarians | Editor’s Cut. Pacific University Press. https://boisestate.pressbooks.pub/oer-field-guide