College of the Canyons has been selected to participate in a strategic partnership with OpenStax to encourage the increased use of free, peer-reviewed textbooks that will help make college more affordable for all students.
COC is one of 11 institutions from across the nation selected to participate in the strategic partnership program, with selected schools now eligible to receive individualized support from OpenStax in order to help implement the widespread use of Open Educational Resources (OER) on campus.
Initiated by Rice University and supported by several philanthropic foundations, OpenStax provides free textbooks that are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure readability, accuracy and adherence to scope and sequence requirements of most introductory college courses.
The announcement comes after a rigorous application process that included a demonstration of the college’s willingness to drive adoption of OER — teaching and learning materials that have been released in the public domain or under an intellectual property license as a no-cost alternative to traditional textbooks.
“The partnership between OpenStax and COC reinforces our ongoing commitment to student success, retention, and completion,” said Brian Weston, director of Distance and Accelerated Learning at the college. “OpenStax will help COC with support, OER adoption, and community advocacy. The enhanced support will reduce the cost of education for students and allow faculty the option to customize course materials by adapting, remixing, and sharing materials with other faculty to use in their courses.”
According to the non-profit organization College Board, college students should budget between $1,200 and $1,400 per year for textbooks and supplies. This additional cost not only impacts students’ ability to attend college but also their ability to continue and successfully complete coursework.
A recent report by the United States Public Interest Research Group found that 48 percent of students surveyed said textbook costs impacted how many or which classes they took each semester.
“With OER, students can have access to the course materials before the class even begins,” added Weston. “Instructors have the ability to customize the course materials for a more local flavor of information that can engage students.”
OER, including the free, peer-reviewed textbooks offered by OpenStax, eliminate cost barriers for students and allow every student immediate access to learning materials.
OpenStax textbooks are comparable to textbooks that cost $200 or more, but are available for free electronically online, or can be printed as a PDF at a very low cost. Texts also meet standard scope and sequence requirements and are peer-reviewed by educators to ensure accuracy and ease of use.
“OpenStax is thrilled to partner with College of the Canyons as it expands its OER initiative,” said Nicole Finkbeiner, associate director for institutional relations at OpenStax. “The college has already seen tremendous growth in student accessibility and affordability through their OER initiative. By consulting with institutions on strategy and by facilitating a network of institutions, each partner school is poised to offer tremendous savings for their students.”
COC is committed to increasing student success by reducing barriers such as high textbook costs for students while still protecting academic freedom and ensuring quality instruction. In June, the college announced plans for an OER-only degree program that is set to debut by fall 2017. The new academic pathway will allow students to earn an associate degree in sociology by completing only OER-based courses.