A program for free textbooks has come to UND, and both students and teachers can benefit from it.
With much discussion at UND being devoted to budget talks, students are looking for places to save money in the upcoming years.
Buying textbooks is one of those things that makes college even more expensive.
A program at UND called Open Access offers free online educational resources (OERs), which are college textbooks that are free to students. Instructors can sort through published works or write their own for the classes they teach.
UND sophomore and Student Senator Kaleb Dschaak was involved in the program’s recent push to get on campus.
He said that a few departments and entry-level courses have begun using OERs leading to student savings of over $1 million. He said that it’s in the students’ best interests to use OERs rather than paying for a book and that some professors are paid stipends to incorporate OERs into their classes.
“There’s not a lot everyone agrees on,” Dschaak said. “OERs is one of those things.”
There have been concerns about textbooks with a bias entering classrooms. Without proper vetting of the resources, textbooks with an ideological bias can be used and affect the students’ education. To combat these concerns, committees were established in the UND library system to check the quality and prevent biased materials from getting on campus.
“We’re not too concerned with a poor quality OER getting into our campus,” Dschaak said. “We’ve put fail-safe mechanisms in place for that at the library.”
There are instructors who support OERs and there are some who oppose the change in resources due to concerns of biased work. Dschaak said the materials are not only similar to what instructors already use, but it allows teachers to choose which OERs they want for their courses.
Sheryl Broedel, instructor, said she not only has input in what texts are used in class, but she is also part of the text-collection process.
She is an associate editor for texts regarding the history of science and technology, which is supported by UND and the University of Maryland. She and a colleague were awarded a $10,000 grant for that project from NDUS.
“I can go in onto Open Access text, take what I need, delete what I don’t, reduce the cost, save a few trees, and adapt it to specifically what I want to have adapted to my kind of teaching,” Broedel said.
She said they do not affect how she teaches because her role in the room is to supplement the text and engage students with the content.
She also said that students may become more engaged because many students don’t buy the textbooks to start with.
If a student thinks the textbook is too expensive, they may choose not to buy it. This leads to less interaction with the coursework and teachings. If the book is free, they are more likely to get the book, leading to the student being able to follow along.
“Students find it prohibitively expensive,” Broedel said. “And so students opt not to read the text, which makes faculty members teach the text. This ought not to be the case.”
Kallia Rinkel, sophomore, used an OER for a French course and said she wishes OERs were used more frequently. She said what she likes about them are how affordable they are.
“Even just the difference of fifty bucks can make such a difference,” Rinkel said.
Senior Peter Monsrud said he prefers to hold a physical book rather than reading from a screen, but sees lower student costs as a great thing.
“For someone who can’t easily afford textbooks or just someone who doesn’t want to pay, this is a great option for them and it allows more people to access (books) who wouldn’t otherwise have it,” Monsrud said.
Student Senate and the university are moving forward with the integration of Open Access.
“It’s a really strong decision,” Dschaak said. “It helps the students. It helps the professors. It helps the university.”
This spring, entry-level courses in sociology, language and math courses will be implementing OERs. There are plans to bring in OERs for entry-level chemistry and fine arts courses in the upcoming semesters.