Free online textbooks considered for courses

J’Mari HughesReporter

Approximately five courses currently use Open Educational Resources, a free online textbook system, said Director of the Adanti Student Center Brad Crerar.

“If the university can save someone 50 dollars on a book this semester,” Crerar said, “it’s all that much more, so anytime we can save the students money, we’ve got to see how, and that’s exactly what they’re doing right now.”

Crerar said OER is currently a nationwide trend. When writing textbooks, he said, some authors may be in favor of students saving money than making it themselves, thereby granting their book at no cost.

Crerar is also involved in the First Day program, Barnes and Noble’s; an inclusive access model where digital course materials are provided in a course or program.

Some of its benefits include the convenience of not having to shop around for the lowest price of a book, and consistent book delivery by the first day of class.

“In the First Day program, Barnes and Noble will negotiate with the publisher to get the best possible price you could ever imagine,” Crerar said.

Barnes and Noble Director Larry Gal said faculty are looking for the cheapest way of providing textbooks, and they can help with that process by showing students what their options are.

“I know that a lot of students will still buy actual textbooks, but we also sell a lot of digital just for the semester,” said Gal. “I think the important thing is that we show different affordable options so they can make the determination for what is best for them.”

With help from the Student Government Association, there are plans to increase the usage of OER throughout campus.

“I think the biggest reason we wanna advocate for the Open Educational Resource is because it’s just so much more affordable than the actual books,” said Brooke Mercaldi, SGA vice president of the board of academic of experience, “As long as students have access to a computer, then they can have their textbooks.”

Mercaldi said even with OER, students are still able to purchase tangible books from the bookstore. Despite the simpler and more affordable option, some students may still prefer an actual textbook.

However, Barnes and Noble is encouraging professors to try the system.

SGA is learning as much about OER and that also depends on convincing professors to choose them when possible.

In March, she and other members plan to attend an OER summit to learn more about it and hear students and professors’ opinions.

“Hopefully they have useful information for us to bring back to students’ and faculty,” she said. “We’re trying to have as many conversations with administration about them because open resource has always been a topic student government has been looking into.”

Gal said, years ago, publishers thought everyone would go digital. Although it is true for some people, others continue to use print.

For this reason, he said ,he does not think OER will ever replace textbooks entirely, but a lot of students are opting for digital resources because they are accessible through cell phones.

“I think that once a lot of students now are opting for digital because you can do it through your cell phone,” he said. “I think the digital option is good, but some people are just so used to something they can put their hands on.”

Mercaldi said she thinks students would prefer to pay nothing for a textbook than pay a large amount and carry a heavy book around.

She said it might be easier for some students to read online.

“We’re just trying everything we can to help students with this,” Mercaldi said. “We know that textbooks can get really expensive and we’re just doing everything we can to move forward in the initiative.”

Photo Credit: J’Mari Hughes

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