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Open Educational Resources

MassBay CC Doubles Use of OER

A community college in Massachusetts reported that it has doubled the use of free or open educational resources over the last year. Seventy-four courses at Massachusetts Bay Community College have adopted OER as way to make classes more affordable.

The state's Department of Higher Education OER Advisory Committee has calculated that the average textbook cost per student is $117 per course, based on 2018 information published by SPARC, a global OER advocacy group. The college estimated that fall 2020 savings was around $147,000.

According to one student, the OER savings for his three years of MassBay attendance equaled about $1,250. "When I first came to MassBay, I had never heard of an 'open education resource' textbook," said Vincent Briselli, a STEM graduate serving as a laboratory assistant at the college, in a college press release. "Like many students, I was concerned about financing my education, but determined to make the most of my experience. Over the course of my three years at MassBay, I utilized OERs in multiple courses... I never had to worry about buying the correct books before the first week of class, or paying late fees if I rented a textbook for finals week. OERs are oftentimes digital, so I am able to study on the go from my phone. I think OER prepares students participate in classes equally, alongside their peers, with the added benefit of reducing their financial stress. As students prepare for fall classes, I encourage students starting their fall classes to consider courses utilizing OER."

Currently, while the OER courses are marked in the online catalog with an "OER" designation in the textbook field, students can't filter courses that way. They have to go class by class and click on the textbook field to see whether OER is in use.

"We know that [OER increases] access to course materials, and as a result, students enrolled in OER courses tend to have higher completion rates," added MassBay Assistant Provost, Chris LaBarbera. "Students in OER courses save money by not paying for textbooks, and faculty like the fact that students are provided with open access to the materials they need on the first day of their courses, which improves academic performance. It's a win-win."

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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