MARCH 9, 2021 – FORT MYERS, FLA – As the cost of earning a college degree continues to increase, many colleges, including Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW), have begun to embrace open educational resources (OERs).
OERs are free, openly licensed online textbooks and other digital assets that can be used in place of physical textbooks in educational settings.
FSW Faculty Librarian and Art Professor Arenthia Herren is just one of FSW’s many faculty members leading the charge to incorporate OERs into classes. Professor Herren uses an OER in her art history course, which not only saves her students $200 on textbook costs but has also increased student engagement in her course.
“Many times, students have to wait for their financial aid to come through before they can purchase their textbooks, and by then, classes have already started,” said Herren. “With OERs, students have immediate access to the information they need for class.”
According to Herren, many OERs are created by faculty who are tired of watching their students struggle to afford the cost of basic textbooks. She has also seen the benefits of OERs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pre-COVID, students who couldn’t afford to purchase a textbook could use a physical library copy of the textbook in an FSW campus library,” Herren said. “Now, they don’t have access to the physical library copy because of the sanitation process required after each use.”
Before an OER can be approved for use, it goes through a review process by subject experts and must meet certain standards to ensure its accuracy.
OERs have also become a worldwide movement. Creative Commons licensing allows them to be translated into other languages, even some lesser known languages, so the resources can be used internationally.
Even FSW’s bookstore, which is managed by Follett, is on board with OERs. It is currently working on a partnership with a printing company so that students who prefer to have a physical copy can print OERs at a reasonable cost.
“It is really hard financially when a professor requires a $200 access code and a $600 textbook on top of tuition,” said FSW student Hannah Higgins. “I personally pay for all my classes myself without help from my parents or anything similar, so when classes use a free textbook, it’s very helpful.”
Herren recently completed a 6-month long certification in OER Librarianship and serves on FSW’s Textbook Affordability OER Committee.
“Our goal is to bring in grant money to help more FSW faculty bring OERs into their classrooms and to eventually begin creating their own,” Herren said.