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Jul 27 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

Free Textbooks? How One College Is Saving Students Money

By Madeleine Williamson - Jul 27 2016

Many students see paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks as a necessary evil. Students at one college will soon have another option. San Jacinto College will test the use of free course materials next spring, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday. The Houston community college will use free online documents called open educational resources. 

Students can download these documents and then keep, share and reuse them. Some students have experienced “OER” in courses already. 

“Having a textbook and complimentary reader included allowed me to focus more on my studies and worry less about finances,” Priscilla Castillo, a San Jacinto student, said.

Students may love the lower costs, but professors praise OER as well. “Instructors actually have higher quality materials. Faculty take the lead role as experts who create texts,” Mark Johnson, a San Jacinto department chair, said. Adoption is slow at four-year colleges and universities. But the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources noted that over 250 community colleges use OER.

For some students, the cost of textbooks may make the difference in affording college. Other colleges using OER have seen higher retention rates. Tidewater College in Virginia offers OER degrees already. Research conducted by the college shows that students in OER courses "are generally more likely to complete the course, and earn better grades than students in traditional classes."

 Eventually, San Jacinto students may never have to pay for a book. The college will monitor its OER pilot program. If it is successful, the college plans to introduce a degree program using only OER.

Lead Image Credit: Rob Wall on Flickr

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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