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Textbook affordability has emerged as a potential barrier to academic success nationally. Data shows that as textbook prices rise, average student expenditures for these textbooks does not, indicating that more and more students are simply choosing not to purchase the required texts. Putting the textbook on reserve on the library will help somewhat, but the limitations to access are significant (open hours, competition for materials, costs). To address this issue, the WCSU library has been encouraging faculty #GoOpen and explore Open Educational Resources (OER), which are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute.
In practical terms, OER range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. Variations of OER concepts can also include mixing open resources with library-licensed content. The Alternate Textbook Project at Temple University encourages faculty to “mix resources from existing textbooks, licensed library collections, primary research content, open textbooks, multimedia or faculty’s self-authored material. What the final product looks like and how it is used is entirely up to the individual faculty member, but librarians are available to help with identifying and organizing resources.”
Thanks to generous funding from the Davis Foundation and the WCSU SGA, the Library is expanding our Open Educational Resource (OER) grant program we started last year (see flyer below). So if you think you are ready to #GoOpen, or you just want to learn more about it, reach out to your friendly librarians! We are here to help.
Open Educational Resources, as defined by the Hewlett Foundation, are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.
Students can access OERs for zero cost, download and keep a digital copy, and print or purchase a low-cost hardcopy. Educators can curate, tailor, and share OERs to perfectly suit their curriculum and share their innovations freely. Authors can disseminate their work to a worldwide audience while still receiving attribution. Creative Commons Licensing facilitates flexibility in usage of OER. David Wiley created a framework (5Rs) that allows authors to retain copyright while encouraging/allowing reuse, revision, remixing, or redistribution.
There is significant financial benefit to students and university. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from January 2006 to July 2016 the Consumer Price Index for college tuition and fees increased 63 percent, compared with an increase of 21 percent for all items. Over that period, consumer prices for college textbooks increased 88 percent. The US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) reported that students spend average of about $1200 annual for textbooks, about 65% of students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive, and 48% of students said that the cost of textbooks impacted how many/which classes they took each semester. Research shows open textbooks, compared to traditional texts, have equal or better student performance/learning outcomes and equal or improved student retention rates/graduation rates.
An Open Ed Group summary of 25 studies focused on efficacy, perceptions, or both efficacy and perception stated that “a general finding seems to be that roughly half of teachers and students find OER to be comparable to traditional resources, a sizeable minority believe they are superior, and a smaller minority find them inferior.” Studies conducted at Virginia State University (Business) and Houston Community College (Psychology) found that students who used open textbooks tended to have higher grades and lower withdrawal rates than their peers who used traditional textbooks
Open textbook collections have peer reviewed text books freely available for use in a class. The University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library has over 300 open texts. OpenStax, a non-profit publisher of open textbooks, offers a collection of about 30 online texts with option to acquire print copies at low cost. These are customizable to institutional preferences in collaboration with OpenStax. Over 840 institutions worldwide are using OpenStax.
For more information, visit the WCSU Libraries’ Open Education Resources Guide or contact your WCSU librarian.
UNESCO Image used under Creative Commons License
WestCollections is Western’s digital institutional repository, an online environment where WCSU members can submit their work, making it available for others to find, read, and utilize. The homepage provides a menu of content and a global readership map. For students, WestCollections can be used to store and showcase dissertations, master’s theses, capstone projects, undergraduate research, and more. For faculty, WestCollections can be used to store or link to a variety of publications such as books, journal articles, and conference papers or presentations. For everyone, WestCollections offers the opportunity showcase Western’s academic, scholarly, and creative output, allowing us to play an active role on local, national, and global levels.
The Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership program is using WestCollections to store and make available students’ dissertations going back to the first cohort in 2008. Students or their advisors submit the final dissertation copy, as a Word doc or PDF, with an abstract and keywords to enhance discoverability. They are discoverable via Google or other search engines. There are now 74 dissertations available and, since starting to do this earlier this year, there have been nearly 3,000 downloads. This has allowed students to make contributions to the academic record, nationally and globally, while providing visibility for the program, department, and WCSU overall.
Though it has not been utilized a great deal in this capacity, individual faculty may also submit papers to WestCollections. Examples are papers co-authored by Biology and Environmental Sciences faculty member Tom Philbrick, such as Developmental Morphology of New World Podostemaceae: Marathrum and Vanroyenella, which has been downloaded 711 times since being placed in WestCollections back in 2011, with 42 downloads in 2017. Additional examples are works submitted by History and Non-Western Cultures faculty members, such as Women and Mythology in Vietnamese History: Le Ngoc Han, Ho Xuan Huong, and the Production of Historical Continuity in Vietnam, by Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox, which has been downloaded 1,656 times overall and 200 times in 2017.
There are also three journals hosted in WestCollections, one being an undergraduate student journal, Social Sciences Journal. The articles in the SSJ are original research papers written by current and former undergraduate WCSU students. The journal also provides information about programs and activities of the Social Sciences department students (current and alumni) and faculty. For the time period January through August 2017, there have been over 9,000 downloads from Social Sciences Journal. SSJ is also a part of Undergraduate Research Commons, a portal created by WestCollections’ host entity Berkeley Press, showcasing outstanding published works authored by thousands of undergraduate students at over 700 institutions.
Authors of documents submitted to WestCollections retain full copyright to their work. They grant a non-exclusive license to Western to distribute their work. In the event an author does not want the actual work available to the public, there are ways to keep it private, so that the title, abstract, and author are available but not the full-text. One manner of doing this is to place an embargo on the document. Generally this is done for 1-5 years, after which the text would become available. This gives students and faculty time to develop their work further for other purposes, such as submitting to a journal as an article or writing a book.
For more information about, to become involved with, or to submit work to WestCollections, contact your library liaison or Tom Schmiedel in the library.
Public Services Librarian
Librarian for Chemistry, Education & Educational Psychology, Health Promotion & Exercise, and Nursing