Oregon Tech faculty are partnering with Oregon Tech Library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) program to reduce student costs associated with textbook materials, and over the past three years have saved Oregon Tech students $1,216,866 in textbook costs. 

University Librarian John Schoppert

According to University Librarian John Schoppert, OER are freely accessible, high-quality coursework materials made accessible to students to alleviate the high costs of mainstream publisher textbooks. OER describes openly licensed materials and resources for any user to use, remix, reuse, repurpose, and redistribute.

“Fifty-five percent of Oregon Tech students are unable to meet college expenses, so addressing textbook affordability is critical to student success and retention,” Schoppert said. “Oregon Tech and the Oregon Tech Library are focused on alleviating the high costs of textbooks, which is even more impactful for underserved and marginalized student populations.”

OER are available at no cost to the student and, in general, no monetary cost to the faculty for adopting, adapting, or creating an open resource, but it can take time to redesign a course to adopt new materials. To address this, the Oregon Tech Library’s OER program provides grants to faculty who wish to adopt or create high-quality, openly licensed materials for their courses.

The process also allows for sharing of knowledge as faculty modify materials for their courses, adopt materials to the course needs, or enhance materials with text, images, or videos to support different learning styles.

“It’s a very collaborative process,” Schoppert said. “We have a number of faculty who have worked hard on this and are developing lab manuals and open-licensed textbooks where they hadn’t existed before and improved on others’ materials.”

Portland-Metro Library Director Kristin Whitman

Portland-Metro campus library Director Kristin Whitman is Oregon Tech’s OER program coordinator and is participating in the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Open Education Leadership Program this year. According to SPARC, the Leadership Program “blends online, peer-to-peer, and project-based learning to build a comprehensive understanding of the open education field coupled with practical know-how to take action on campus and beyond.”

Whitman said one benefit of OER is that students have their materials on the first day of classes and that materials can easily be adapted to a variety of formats to better suit students’ individual needs. “Research shows the cost of textbooks can be a significant barrier to student success and can disproportionately impact financially vulnerable students,” Whitman said. “Adopting high-quality open-educational resources is one way our faculty increase equity in course material access, which means students can use money that may have gone to a textbook purchase to instead cover childcare, groceries or rent, or use those funds to participate in additional educational opportunities.

“This is a win-win for students and faculty,” Whitman added. “Faculty appreciate the open licensing on OER materials because they can change, remix, and update the content to fit their particular course’s needs. They can increase the diversity of sources used in their course and tailor the content to be more relevant to Oregon Tech students.”

On average, an individual student taking one of the supported classes in the OER pilot program saved $211.89 on text materials. With expanded faculty adoption of open resources, Oregon Tech courses with OER compatibility range from chemistry and biology to respiratory care, sociology, and engineering. 

Since 2019, the Oregon Tech Library has awarded over 30 grants to faculty to adopt, adapt, or create OER materials for their courses. This has relieved textbook cost barriers for over 6,671 students.

Schoppert said the library has committed funding for faculty OER grants for the next three years. “We know the impact it has on student access to course materials on day one,” he explained. “We realize students are already struggling to meet higher education costs, and this is just one way to address those issues.”

Oregon Tech faculty who received OER grants for the 2022 academic year include Dr. Dawn Bailey, Sharon Beaudry, Dr. Rachel Edwards, Dr. Amber Lancaster, Dr. Travis Lund, Dr. Susan Rauch, Dr. Riley Richards, and Dr. Derrick Speaks. These faculty teach a diverse range of topics including psychology, management, chemistry, writing, communications, and manufacturing and mechanical engineering. 

In addition, a multi-institutional group of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) faculty, including four faculty members at Oregon Tech, were recently awarded a $30,000 grant to develop an EMS lab manual from Open Oregon, a state agency with a focus on textbook affordability 

“The great work of these faculty will be showcased during Spring Term’s Open Ed Week and during Oregon Tech’s Spring IdeaFest, which celebrates faculty and student research and academic projects,” Whitman said. “The Oregon Tech Library will also be celebrating Open Education Week, and events and activities will be held to raise awareness on open education, open educational resources, and text affordability.”

More information about the OER efforts at Oregon Tech are available at https://oit.libguides.com/oer.