Open Educational Resources Benefit LBCC Students

LBCC Open Educational Resources and Textbook Affordability
Librarian Michaela Willi Hooper, left, works with second-year
education student Jazmine Cariate to explore OER’s options for
her LBCC courses.
Students across Oregon’s 17 community colleges are benefiting from efforts of faculty and staff to make course materials more affordable through the use of open educational resources, with students in transfer degree programs saving over $1 million in textbook costs in 2017. 

Open educational resources, more commonly known as OER, are freely available to download, edit, and share to help all students succeed. Available typically as digital resources, OER are also available in print, and reduce or eliminate costs to students through providing open access to materials in place of purchasing traditional textbooks.

OER allow instructors to choose and modify open licensed materials to best fit their courses, including textbooks, course readings, simulations, games, syllabi, quizzes and assessment tools produced by educators and experts in their fields.

Data from a two-year study headed up by Amy Hofer, coordinator of Statewide Open Education Library Services, shows that the average cost of course materials at Oregon community colleges has fallen statewide for each of three degree pathways studied: Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT), Associate of Science (AS), and Associate of Science Oregon Transfer-Business (ASOT-BUS).

In 2015, Hofer gathered baseline data on the cost of textbooks for transfer degrees at Oregon community colleges.

That first study found that the College Board’s national average cost for course materials was slightly above Oregon’s average cost. An overall goal was then set to save students 10 percent over the next two years.

In 2017, the follow-up study showed that statewide the use of OER helped bring the average cost for transfer degree course materials down by 16 percent since 2015.

Of the 3,464 students who completed AAOT degrees in 2017, each saved approximately $332.58 from 2015 costs, for total savings over $1 million.

In addition, 116,468 students in the highest-enrolled 10 courses statewide saved almost $2 million from 2015 average course materials costs.

Lowering textbook costs allows students to redirect funds to help pay for additional courses or living expenses such as food, housing, transportation or childcare. Designating no-cost and low-cost courses in the college schedule also allows students to make more informed choices as they plan their term.

The two-year study also showed that the number of hours that a student must work at minimum wage to cover course materials costs has fallen by approximately 25 percent across all three degrees studied due to lower prices and higher wages.

“Having this data on a very local level offers insights into why textbook costs are often correlated with other student success metrics,” says Hofer. “When we know that buying textbooks is like paying tuition for an entire extra course each quarter, we have a potential explanation for why these costs have an impact on retention and time to degree. Translating the savings into fewer work hours and a lower percentage of cost per credit hour shows how affordable course materials truly remove obstacles to student success.”

The no-cost and low-cost schedule designation mandated by the 2015 bill HB 2871 offers exciting directions for new research not available when the first study was undertaken, with the lowest-cost degree pathway offering a potential savings of 75 percent over the 2017 average materials cost, Hofer found.

Most Oregon colleges have now implemented no-cost and low-cost course material designations in the schedule as a result of HB 2871.

“Analyzing the schedule with this lens shows which courses can be redesigned around no-cost or low-cost materials for the highest immediate impact on student spending from a degree perspective. For colleges that are still working on their implementation, the data in this study shows why the course designation is high impact and worth prioritizing,” said Hofer.

At Linn-Benton Community College, faculty efforts to increase textbook affordability have saved students up to $1,051,924 in 2017 alone, and since winter term 2015 efforts have saved students up to $2,106,405 in course materials.

This outcome is more than double the LBCC Textbook Affordability Steering Committee's original goal of saving students $1 million by fall 2017, and the committee has set a new goal of saving students $5 million by fall 2019.

LBCC faculty are finding many ways to lower textbook prices for students, including adopting OER, library e-books, and freely available web resources. LBCC supports these efforts through grants for the creation and adoption of OER and other no-cost resources.

Oregon’s community colleges are doing high-profile work to reduce costs for students, with faculty taking the time to thoughtfully redesign their courses around lower-cost materials.

Efforts around affordability are already having a significant impact on the cost of college for students throughout Oregon, and in the coming biennium colleges are planning to continue to work to lower costs, especially for high-enrollment courses.

Open Oregon Educational Resources website ( showcases textbook affordability efforts in Oregon including statewide initiatives in support of this important work, which are funded by the Community Colleges and Workforce Development office of the Higher Education Coordination Commission and Linn-Benton Community College.


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