Community Colleges Doing Away With Textbooks


Printbook prices have escalated in the past decade, and so school authorities are looking to help students spend less by making use of open-source materials.

Achieving the Dream, a non-government reform group that helps community colleges, reached out to various institutions and schools in Virginia and Maryland to participate in a program that does away with textbooks for some of their college courses.

Karen Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, said in a conference call with reporters,

“This effort is designed to accomplish two things that are crucial to completion rates for first-generation, low-income and students of color: Remove financial roadblocks created by textbook costs… Offer a new vehicle for using technology and course materials in dynamic and engaging ways.”

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free, downloadable materials for students. Achieving the Dream believes that using these OER will help cut down on the cost students spend on textbooks that sometimes amount to $1,300 in a year.

Montgomery College Foundation, Lord Fairfax Community College, Tidewater Community College, and Northern Virginia Community College, are just some of institutions that the reform group aims to help by granting financial aid so that the college administration can obtain OER for their students to use.

Open educational resources have already been in use in other universities, but they are not often accessible to other colleges.

The Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has several courses using OER through the school’s Extended Learning Institute like:

  • English – ENG 111
  • ENG 112
  • ENG 125
  • Communications – CST 100
  • CST 110
  • Science – PHY 201
  • PHY 202
  • Humanities/Fine Arts – ART 101
  • ART 102
  • MUS 121
  • REL 100
  • and others

Other NOVA Digital Open courses (the ones that use OER) include several subjects in College Math, Communications, Economics, History, Information Technology, Physical Education, Social Sciences, and Student Development.

All over the United States, colleges and universities are seeking to help bring down the cost of tertiary education.

One of those ways is the use of OER. In fact, Arizona State University Libraries use a comprehensive OER guide. California state bills have been passed related to the creation of a library of 50 open resource textbooks.

Florida employs Orange Grove Text Plus, “a joint initiative of the University of Florida Press and Library Press” in an effort to gather open source materials that the students can use. The website allows users to search collections of e-textbooks related to their course.

Resources- (places to get e-text books)

Not everyone agrees with the popular use of OER, though. Vineet Madan, in a Junction article, notes:

a textbook replacement only model severely limits opportunities to improve student engagement and learning performance as our research demonstrates student preference for consuming learning material has a high bias towards video and rich media.

Indeed, aside from the use of OER, the school administrations across the country should also look into other ways to provide better learning opportunities through other media.

Last year, the Menlo Park-based William & Flora Hewlett Foundation had been curating open education resources for several schools.’

One of the first few to employ the use of OER in its curriculum was the Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California.

Print publishers of textbooks, however, aren’t threatened by the rise of OER usage. Jennifer Berlin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had said,

“We don’t believe that OER can replace the standards-based curriculum that schools want and need.”

Open educational resources are not going to replace all textbooks anytime soon, but the option is there for those who are having a difficult time finding money for education.

With college loans and rising prices, these resources are many students’ best chance of completing a degree without spending so much.


Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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