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Open Educational Resources

Grossmont College OER Use Grows 1,700 Percent in 3 Years

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California's Grossmont College has grown its use of open educational resources from six instructors in 2016 to about 100 this spring. To accelerate continued growth, recently the school also appointed two student interns to promote the use of OER. And now the professor of counseling who initially pushed the use of OER on campus will be recognized for his work to provide free learning content to students.

Last June, three OER digital textbooks containing material Dave Dillon compiled for his counseling classes were published. The texts are being used by 13 California and three community colleges in other states. One 456-page title, Blueprint for Success in College and Career, published by the Rebus Community, has been selected among 17 chosen for the Textbook Excellence Award by the national Textbook and Academic Authors Association (TAA). According to the college, it's the first time an OER textbook has won. The award will be presented during a reception at the June TAA conference in Philadelphia.

Grossmont, along with 25 other community colleges, received grants to develop associate transfer degrees and career technical education certificates earned completely through free textbooks. Grossmont now offers a pathway for students to complete an associate degree for transfer in geography and in sociology with zero textbook costs.

Since the introduction of OER, the resulting savings at Grossmont have added up to almost $1.3 million.

Dillon was joined in his early efforts by anthropology instructor Lara Braff and librarian Nadra Farina-Hess. Together, they set up an OER workgroup to help faculty understand how to convert to the use of OER in their courses. By last year, 46 instructors had adopted OER, helping 8,000 students. For the current semester, there are about 100 OER instructors and 285 classes — nearly 15 percent of the total — that have been identified as having no textbook costs.

In the time Dillon has added the use of OER in his courses, he has seen the student class completion rate climb from 72 percent to 91 percent, compared to the years when he used traditional textbooks. In a campus article about the project, he attributed the improvement to students being able to obtain their books on day one, rather than the two weeks many students had waited to purchase books because of financial aid delays or add/drop deadlines.

"With statistics showing that 50 [to] 60 percent of students are not purchasing textbooks due to cost, I would expect these kinds of increases in success and retention because now all students have access to the learning material," Dillon said. "OER solves an equity issue."

Dillon acknowledged that certain disciplines, such as math, economics, business and the natural sciences, have been challenging to move to OER since the ancillary materials, including online homework, aren't as well developed in those subjects. "We are not there yet, but we're getting there," he said.

Now, two students, Edwin Hernandez Armenta, Grossmont College's student trustee, and Carlos Espinoza, a student government representative, will work through OER internships to advocate on students' behalf for free textbooks. Both said they've been hard hit by textbook costs.

"It's hard to pay for books while attending college," Armenta said. "I've had to look for various resources available from [student services]. Sometimes there hasn't been enough voucher money to cover the costs."

Espinoza said that there have been times when he's had to share a textbook with a classmate, "or "I'd borrow it from the library for two or three hours to get by."

Their internships are being covered by a grant from the nonprofit Michelson 20MM Foundation, which promotes innovation in higher education.

And for those students who would prefer printed editions of their course materials, the college has got them covered too. Hard copies of the OER texts are available in the college book store and online for less than $13 each.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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