Research shows that the cost of educational materials can have a significant impact on student success. In a 2018 survey of Florida students, around 20% said they had dropped, withdrawn from, or even failed a course because they couldn’t afford to purchase the textbook.
The open educational resources movement has formed in response to the high cost of course materials: open educational resources (OER) are free or low-cost learning materials that are used and shared under an open license.
To express gratitude and appreciation for those working to make course materials more affordable at ISU, Open and Affordable Educational Resources (OAER) Committee honor them as “Textbook Heroes.” These are members of the ISU community who have promoted or adopted low-cost or free course materials including OER, showing an outstanding commitment to student success.
Samantha Blatt (Anthropology)
Darci Graves (Social Work)
Gesine Hearn (Sociology)
Yunrong Zhu (Mathematics & Statistics)
Rob Lion (Organizational Learning & Performance)
"For about 5 years now, I have committed to lowering the cost of course materials and textbooks in ways that do not lower the quality of the course. I most frequently use an OER textbook and self-authored lab manual for the introductory Biological Anthropology course (ANTH 2230/2230L). The text cost for students in the class is effectively $0, compared to $150-200 in the past. I also use articles and chapters instead of full textbooks in upper division and graduate Anthropology courses and resources which provide pdf or interactive full texts at little to no cost to students that integrate collaborative annotations and comments among the students within the texts themselves. Writing my own materials for labs and choosing supporting materials outside of textbooks has also allowed me to design them more inclusively for students with vision and hearing impairment, students of diverse genders, and with decolonized/diversified examples. I have not seen any decrease in student performance when using OER materials as compared, in fact, if anything students gain research skills in searching for and identifying primary resources that further enhance projects in the class and makes resources more available for distance learning.” - Samantha Blatt, Anthropology
“In collaboration with multiple members of our faculty, and some of our graduate teaching assistants, we recently accomplished a full course redesign of SOC 2201: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality. This redesign accomplished two major goals. First we wanted to update the curriculum in response to student feedback that the course needed to include more contemporary content on both gender and sexuality. Second, we sought to eliminate the use of a textbook to save students money. SOC 2201 is a very popular undergraduate course, and we typically teach 3-4 sections each semester with between 175-200 students enrolled. We also offer one section every summer. The redesigned course has been implemented across sections to maximize impact on the student experience. Our previous textbook cost $99 to purchase new from the bookstore, so eliminating this requirement for the course will save approximately $40,000 in student expenses each year. This allows students to focus their financial resources on other costs related to their education. These savings have been accomplished while simultaneously enhancing the learning experience for students through the implementation of current and culturally relevant reading materials that are available through open education resources. Students are already reporting they appreciate both the new content, and the reduced cost of attending the class. .” - Darci Graves, Social Work
"I redeveloped the following course with all its sections into an OER course: SOC 4421/SOWK 4421; SOC/SOWK 5521 Families in Social Context. The course is an elective for sociology and social work majors, but many students with other majors are also taking this class. It is a required course for the concentration in criminology (with a major in Sociology) and for the minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. The course is taught as an asynchronous online course. In the past, I have used a textbook for this course plus a variety of materials from government sources and research organizations. The course now utilizes only free resources. For each weekly section, I have assigned one or two readings in the form of scholarly articles authored by leading scholars in the field of family sociology or family demography. For each week, I also added articles from news outlets or magazines on current issues and on international perspectives on the topic. Apart from being a cost saving for the students, the course is now also even more on the cutting edge of scholarly work as well as current developments.” - Gesine Hearn, Sociology
“Since Spring 2017, I adopted an open access textbook that I found online for my Differential Equations course (Math 3360). The textbook covers all the required materials for this course. The textbook and the solution manual are made available for the students to download freely. In addition, I posted my own lecture notes as pdf files on Moodle, so the students can review the lectures. For the students who need additional help on certain background topics, I also provide the links of videos/lectures on Moodle so the students can view them when necessary. This allowed me to customize the course materials to help students to learn more easily. I believe that adopting OER materials in math courses would have tremendous positive impact in higher education." - Yunrong Zhu, Mathematics & Statistics
“In an effort to help my students manage their time and finances, I made the decision to shift to integrating OER materials. For several years, I taught the 16-week OLP 6661 Performance Improvement course. This was one of our most demanding courses, partially due to the size and scope of the course project. In an attempt to streamline the course, which included moving the course to an 8-week course format, I turned to OER and reduced the teaching material requirement of three books, down to one, plus OER materials. The OER materials I use in this course are peer-reviewed case studies that I assisted my past graduate students in creating. These OER materials were essential in allowing me to re-conceptualize the course flow and major project while maintaining key course objectives. These materials also resulted in saving students approximately $70 per semester in course material costs.” - Rob Lion, Organizational Learning & Performance
See the ISU Textbook Heroes page for full quotes, and to learn more about the course material affordability work of our 2022 Textbook Heroes.
ISU Instructors interested in learning more about adopting OER in their courses can contact the University Libraries to request OER search assistance or the Instructional Technology Resource Center (ITRC) at email@example.com for course design help. To nominate a future Textbook Hero, look for our next call for nominations in fall 2023.
By Spencer Jardine
Coordinator of Instruction