Published on Thu 03/05/20
What if top-quality books, notes and other educational resources were made available – for free – by the professors who teach university courses? Texas A&M University has embraced that idea as a novel, high-quality way to reduce the cost barriers to college, said officials in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.
Once completed, free online learning resources will save Texas A&M students more than $1.5 million in textbook costs, and those savings will expand as new courses are added.
Each semester, thousands of students access Open Educational Resources (OERs) and shed the burden of paying for some books, giving them a fiscal boost particularly helpful for lower-income and historically underserved populations. March 2-6 marks national Open Education Week, with the goal of lowering or eliminating barriers to student success, which can include the cost of textbooks. Reducing such barriers is a fundamental goal of the Texas A&M Student Success Initiative.
Faculty from the Departments of English, Mathematics, Biology and others have partnered with University Libraries in a program called Open Access for Student Education Success (OASES) to adopt, adapt or create OERs. The OASES team partnered with the Student Government Association (SGA) to celebrate innovative faculty members who are leading the creation of free online resources. The resulting SGA Open Education Materials Award concept has been duplicated by universities across the U.S. and has been recognized by national student advocacy organizations.
The Department of Mathematics is creating OERS for two high-need courses, which enroll about 6,500 students each academic year. Free online resources will save Texas A&M math students nearly $640,000 each year in textbook fees, Provost’s Office officials said.
They said resource texts for BIOL 111 and BIOL 112, two first-year gateway courses that enroll nearly 3,000 students each semester, have saved more than $1 million in new textbook costs. As an added benefit, faculty can continuously update texts and illustrations to continue refining classroom resources quickly, rather than waiting years for new editions of textbooks to be published. English 104 and English 210, both high-enrollment, high-need courses, are also implementing OER textbooks using internal grants or a combination of internal funding and grants from Texas A&M’s University Libraries.
“The cost and accessibility of textbooks has been found to be a major barrier for historically underserved students,” said Tim Scott, associate provost for student success. “Open Educational Resources essentially remove this barrier and improve academic performance and retention, which are vitally important gauges of student success. The Provost and her leadership team are committed to expanding OERs at Texas A&M and are working closely with the faculty and Student Government Association to encourage the creation of many more OERs—particularly for large courses with expensive textbooks.”
Media contact: Brandon V. Webb, 979-845-4016, firstname.lastname@example.org.