July 18, 2016
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is increasing its efforts to make college more affordable for its students, particularly through the use of free, open access textbooks online and other essential course materials.
The latest example surfaced last week when the university was awarded a $30,000 grant by the State of Oregon for an open textbook project.
Lindsay Biga and Devon Quick, instructors in Oregon State’s Department of Integrative Biology, will use the grant to collaborate with faculty from other state institutions to adapt a biology textbook that will be freely accessible online to OSU students and learners worldwide.
It is estimated the textbook will eliminate $100,000 in student spending each year, and it is one of 16 open textbooks in use by OSU students or in production by OSU faculty.
“Oregon State is proactively developing and adapting open textbooks on students’ behalf because the cost savings are tremendous,” said Dianna Fisher, who coordinated the grant application effort as director of Open Oregon State. “Research shows that textbook costs are a primary roadblock to degree completion. The more affordable we can make course materials, the more likely students are to graduate.”
The findings of a study released in February by the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups show that America’s 5.2 million undergraduate students spend $3 billion of financial aid on textbooks every year. In a 2013 study by the same group, 65 percent of students who responded to the survey said they decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
Oregon State’s attempts to stem the tide include open books that are being used or developed in a variety of subject areas including business, plant science, oceanography, hydrology and computer science.
The grant for the biology textbook was awarded by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission as part of its Open Educational Resources (OER) Grant Program. Open Oregon State, which works with faculty to create OER, will provide some matching funds.
At OSU, the textbook will be used for the Biology 231-233 course sequence on human anatomy and physiology. Biga, Quick and the other faculty partners will work to illustrate course concepts through interactive animations so students can visualize molecular, cellular and organismal processes and improve their content knowledge and retention.
The textbook to be adapted is “Anatomy and Physiology” by publisher OpenStax College. All of its content is licensed under Creative Commons attribution licenses.
“To me, open source textbooks are about flexibility, access and interactivity,” Biga said. “Through this grant program, we have the opportunity to invest time and resources into customizing a resource to fit the schedule and curricular needs of our courses and provide free digital access to every enrolled student.”
Open textbooks are just one facet of OSU’s efforts to make learning opportunities freely accessible to learners. In May, more than 15,800 learners worldwide enrolled in a massive open online course, or MOOC, on permaculture. It was the first MOOC to be developed in-house at OSU.
Due to its far-reaching success, instructor Andrew Millison plans to convert all course materials into an open textbook. The MOOC will be offered again this fall.
The modifications to the anatomy and physiology book will be completed by next summer in time for students to use it fall term 2017.
The project is expected to involve faculty from the University of Oregon, Western Oregon University, Portland State University, and Linn-Benton, Lane and Portland community colleges.
About Open Oregon State: Open Oregon State guides faculty through the creation of open learning opportunities, enabling them to share their expertise with the world. Open Oregon State aims to take advantage of OSU’s national reputation in the field of online learning to establish a competitive open educational resources (OER) program. Open Oregon State is a part of OSU Extended Campus, which also houses Oregon State Ecampus, OSU Summer Session and the OSU Ecampus Research Unit.