Category Archives: Zero Textbook Cost

OpenOregon and the $100 Textbook Explained

Using student cost ($) savings as a primary metric for gauging success in an OER important is common, as it should be. But a word-of-mouth average is only as good as its supporting information and statistics. How did we get this figure?

Neon Portland Oregon Sign on brick building at dusk
Image by Zack Spear on / CC0

Amy Hofer at OpenOregon went through the trouble of summarizing the supporting evidence for the widely-used $100 per textbook figure.

She writes:

It would be very handy to have an agreed-upon dollar amount that we could all use when calculating savings that result from OER adoptions. Many institutions rely on an estimate of $100 per student, per course. This post explains why that is a fair estimate.

Amy goes on to describe the different methods various folks have used to calculate student cost savings, being sure to mention that the most useful calculation will depend on which data is actually available. Having a reasonable median figure to refer to when discussing realistic cost savings is key, so this roundup of supporting evidence is greatly appreciated.

Open Oregon logo

Thanks to Amy Hofer and @OpenOregon.

OER and Student Success

Recent studies show that Open Educational Resources (OER) may have an impact on student success. The UHCC has adopted OER as a strategy to support student success by reducing educational costs for students. In step with national trends, a Spring 2015 survey of students at Leeward CC revealed that fifty-five percent of the 987 respondents had chosen, at least once, not to purchase a required textbook due to cost. A 2014 Babson OER report showed that cost is the least important factor when faculty select teaching resources; proven efficacy is the most important factor for faculty.  The report also shows that 73.4% of the faculty feel OER is either superior or equivalent in quality to traditional resources.  Based on recent studies, it appears that OERs have a positive impact on student completion, retention, and achievement.

Kapiolani CC Librarians, Susan Kazama and Sunyeen Pai, and Leeward CC Librarian, Wayde Oshiro, shared the results of recent studies examining the impact of OER and student success with attendees at the 7th Hawaii Strategy Institute on March 4-5 at Kapiolani Community College.   A list of the referenced studies is available at the end of the presentation.

Open Educational Resources and Student Success


New Student PIRGs report on the impact of textbook costs in higher education

Covering the Cost (report by Student PIRGs)A new Student PIRGs report (just posted February 3, 2016) looks at the financial impact of textbook costs on students ability to attain a post-secondary education.  From  Covering the Cost, key findings from a sample size of 4, 704 students from 132 schools in 26 states, include:

  • Almost one-third (30%) of students replied that they had used financial aid to pay for their textbooks.
  • For those that used financial aid, the amount of financial aid dollars they put toward purchasing textbooks was more than $300 on average per semester.
  • Textbook prices disproportionately impact community college students: 50% of students report using financial aid for books at community colleges, compared to 28% at 4 year public schools. And, on average, community college students use more financial aid than their peers at 4 year schools.

How OER is saving students money at Leeward CC

Leeward CC starts 2016 with 148 Textbook Cost: $0 classes with a combined enrollment of 2,643 students.   Estimated cost savings for students this semester is $131,334.

A Textbook Cost: $0 designation means that an instructor does not require students in their class to purchase textbooks, supplemental course materials, or access codes.  Faculty teaching a Textbook Cost: $0 class incorporate Open Educational Resources (OERs) and other freely available materials to replace costly commercial textbooks.  Leeward CC faculty use OpenStax and other OERs, library-purchased e-books and streaming videos, faculty-authored materials, and a variety of open web resources to use the Textbook Cost: $0 designation.

The money Leeward CC students are saving through the Textbook Cost: $0 program reduces the overall cost of their education. Students can immediately apply any cost savings towards their living expenses and it reduces the need for part-time jobs or having to work more hours.  Students can even use the savings to help pay for additional classes which potentially reduces time to completion.

Since Leeward CC faculty started replacing commercial textbooks with OERs and zero-cost resources students have saved nearly $300,000!

Leeward CC Textbook Cost: $0 Classes

Leeward CC Student Testimonials and Survey Results

Open Educational Resources @ Leeward CC website

Open Educational Resources @ Leeward CC

As part of Convocation activities two weeks ago at Leeward Community College, Wayde Oshiro (Head Librarian) and Leanne Riseley (Educational Media Center Coordinator) shared Leeward’s progress on the Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative. Here is a recap of the session highlights.

OER-@-Leeward-Convocation-2016-10zumjuLink to Presentation

Student Survey

Last Spring (May 2015), 987 Leeward students responded to a survey on their purchasing decisions for required course textbooks. Data from the survey showed that 55% chose NOT to purchase a required textbook for at least one of their classes. 58% said that the cost of required textbooks determined whether they took a course.

Student Benefits

One of the main benefits of OER for students has been to lower or eliminate their textbook costs. In this video, Leeward CC student Christina Kaleiwahea, describes how OER affects her financially as a full-time student who also works full-time.

ChristinaOER” by Christina Kaleiwahea

This semester, 150 Leeward classes (CRNs) were designated as “Textbook Cost: $0” in the class listing. Additionally, a No Cost Textbook page has been added to the campus website so students may easily access the information.

OER Fellowship Program

In Fall 2015, John Morton’s Office of the VP for Community Colleges awarded Leeward CC and Kapiolani CC $100,000 to further our OER campus initiatives. The initiative is being spearheaded by Wayde Oshiro and Leanne Riseley at Leeward and Sunny Pai and Susan Kazama at Kapiolani.

 The funding for the project has been roughly allocated as:

  • 60% capacity building for the Library and EMC/CELTT (student help)
  • 20% professional development
  • 20% incentives and marketing.

One of the outcomes of receiving the funding was it allowed the team to launch the OER Fellowship Program as a way to recognize faculty’s effort in implementing no-cost or OER in their course as well as to provide a small incentive to do so. The purpose of the program is to increase student success by promoting alternatives in educational resources and creating a community that actively encourages, supports, and sustains the use of no-cost or OER.

 The goals of the program are:

  1. Equip instructors with skills so they can properly integrate no-cost or OER materials into their class.
  2. Provide tools for instructors to assess no-cost or OER materials used in their class.
  3. Examine the impact on the use of no-cost or OER materials on students.
  4. Engage instructors in reflecting on the impact of using no-cost or OER materials in their teaching.
  5. Grow the number of OER champions who will advocate for adoption across the UHCC system.

Leeward/Kapiolani faculty and lecturers teaching at least one 3-credit course and those who completed the Go Open, Go Free Using OER Professional Development Training are eligible to participate in this program. The Go Open, Go Free Using OER was offered last summer as a track of Pacific Region Learning Summit (PRLS). It is being offered this semester as a 7-week flipped workshop series and will be offered again as a PRLS 2016 track this coming summer.

Faculty who choose to participate in the OER Fellowship Program work toward achievement or champion level according to this rubric. Upon completion, faculty are awarded technology in recognition of their accomplishment toward using and promoting the use of no-cost or OER.

OER Fellowship Participants at Leeward CC include P. Jayne Bopp (Sociology), Susan Wood (English), Ann Inoshita (English), Lani Uyeno (English), and Michelle Igarashi (English). Kelli Nakamura (Ethnic Studies) is participating from Kapiolani CC. We look forward to adding more to this list in the near future.

As part of the OER Fellowship Program, instructors encouraged their students at the end of the Fall 2015 semester to complete a survey. 125 students from five different Leeward classes participated in the survey. From that, we were able to draw some preliminary findings on the impact of OER on students.

94% said they saved money by the instructor adopting no-cost or OER resources


92% reported having access to a device and the Internet to access the resources.


87% felt the quality of the no-cost resources were just as good as a traditional textbook.


78% felt they did better in the course because they had access to the resources from the first day of class.


The most powerful part of the session was the sharing of reflections by Susan Wood (English), Ann Inoshita (English), and Jayne Bopp (Sociology). They shared their reflections on the impact of using no-cost or OER materials in their teaching. Below is a summary of their sharing:

Susan Wood

Share, what difference, if any, using open educational resources has made to your teaching.

1) I feel more in control of the material. When I used a traditional textbook, I had to teach whatever was in the chapters. I suppose I could have skipped parts of each chapter, but usually I would not since I felt obligated to use as much of the textbook as possible, so the students would feel like they were getting their money’s worth. With OER, I can adapt materials (as permitted by the license) so that I am including only the material I want to include. I have really enjoyed this part the most. 2) It’s much easier to adapt the course material to meet the needs of my students. If I see a number of students are struggling with some concept, I can modify material or add material or even delete material. Several times over this semester, I modified my course content to make it clearer based on feedback from students. While it is also possible to modify content when using a traditional textbook, for me it meant I needed to find some non-textbook resource to fill in where the textbook was not sufficient. 3) In the past, I was not able to use the textbook until at least the 2nd week of the semester since many students did not have the text until then. Now, we jump right into the course material and everyone has access.

Share comments students have made to you about using of OER.

My students have been very positive about OER. One student recently told me he bought a $100 textbook for a class, but they only used one chapter of it during the semester, so he was so glad he didn’t have to buy a book for ENG 100 as well– it offset the cost of the other textbook. This is an email I received from an online student: “I have completed the OER survey and have attached a screen shot from the completion page. I really appreciate not having to purchase a textbook for this class. Any money I can spend on my family instead of on a book I will use for five months is a good thing.” Here is another email: “I just finished the other evaluation! I hope more classes uses these types of textbooks in the near future.”

If you were to share your “lessons learned” with an instructor new to OER, what would they be?

OER is a lot of work up front. Finding resources can be a time-consuming challenge. But, it’s fun, too, to see what materials are available. I really enjoyed collecting resources and modifying them to fit my course. Also, I never found the “perfect” textbook to replace my traditional textbook. After searching for awhile, I ended up mashing up several sources and creating course content that really fits the needs of the class. I think the “mash up” approach is certainly worth considering when investigating OER.

 Ann Inoshita

Share, what difference, if any, using open educational resources has made to your teaching.

Students are able to access course content from the beginning of the semester. In the past, some students purchased their textbook late due to delayed funds. Although I provided a few photocopies of important text material, some students were at a disadvantage since they didn’t have the text. Now, there is equal opportunity learning because all students, regardless of their funds, are able to access the OER sources.

Share comments students have made to you about using of OER.

Students love OER. They love accessing course materials via “Weekly Modules” and reading the course content there instead of purchasing a book.

If you were to share your “lessons learned” with an instructor new to OER, what would they be?

Start early when finding OER sources. It takes time to find what you need for your course.

Jayne Bopp

Share, what difference, if any, using open educational resources has made to your teaching.

Its given me more freedom and control over my course materials.  I like not having to put in book orders each semester and not having to deal with the numerous frustrations that can come from working with textbook companies.

Share comments students have made to you about using of OER.

Many students are extremely grateful. Lots of them say that they wish their other classes were OER.

If you were to share your “lessons learned” with an instructor new to OER, what would they be?

Like any other kind of new “technology” the area of OER is rapidly developing. Just because you canʻt find good resources for some classes right now, donʻt give up.  Keep checking each semester. I think that soon most fields and disciplines will have access to quality OER materials.

OpenStax announces new open textbooks for university courses

New books!
OpenStax College published the full versions of four new books within the last week!  All of these are peer-written, peer-reviewed, and went through a rigorous editorial process.
The books are online completely free (no passwords or registration required) in .pdf and web view format. Print copies (approximately 10% of students purchase print) are sold basically at cost ($29-$53 depending on the number of pages) and will be available in July for Fall.
When you go to the pages, please also note the “More Resources” tab, which directs faculty to the additional resources to support each book. We will be adding a variety of resources for each title over the summer.
By far, our most requested book!
Algebra and Trigonometry
College Algebra
American Society for Microbiology partnership with OpenStax College
Rice University-based publisher OpenStax College and the American Society for Microbiology Press announced they are teaming up to produce Microbiology, a new introductory-level textbook due for release in spring 2016 that will be free online and low-cost in print.
Content leads/Reviewer recruiting
OpenStax College hires content leads and reviews to peer-write and review our textbooks. They are also put through a rigorous editorial process prior to publication. To ensure we are meeting the standard scope and sequence of courses, we recruit qualified faculty from a wide variety of institutions. Below are our current needs and the contact information for each.
1.       University Physics
·         Chapter Revisers to work with the College Physics manuscript and help shape it into an appropriate calculus-based chapter. Candidates must have recent experience teaching the intro calculus-based course and familiarity with market leading textbooks to be considered for this important role.
·         Contact: Don Whelan, Assistant Editor,
2.       Astronomy
·         Chapter Revisers
·         Chapter Reviewers
·         Contact: Amanda Prestowitz, Editor,
3.       Prealgebra and Elementary Algebra
·         Exercise/Assessment writers (Elementary Alg)
·         Accuracy Checkers (Prealgebra)
·        Solutions Manual Writers (Prealgebra)
·         Sheri Mutreja, Project Coordinator,
Nicole Finkbeiner
Associate Director, Institutional RelationsRice University
Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship
OpenStax College •
Connexions •

Faculty Leaders: P. Jayne Bopp, Instructor in Sociology at Leeward CC

jayne_screenJayne Bopp has been teaching SOC 100, Survey of Sociology at Leeward CC with an Open Educational Textbook for the last two years.

This video highlights how Jayne got started using OER and the results she has experienced since she has adopted OER in her classroom. She also shares how students are grateful and appreciative at not having to spend so much money on a textbook.

The following is a special guest blog post by P. Jayne Bopp.

I’ve always been interested in making books affordable and accessible for my students.  However even when I worked with publishers to customize books the costs never seemed reasonable and students usually couldn’t sell them back.  Today publishers constantly update editions and the bookstore can only order the newest versions.  I didn’t like being forced to order a new version, especially when it hadn’t even been published yet. When I tried sticking with older editions it became apparent that not all students have access to Amazon and shipping for low costs books can often take several weeks.

The homogenization of information started to put me off as well.  I couldn’t help noticing that the introductory textbooks in my field, regardless of the publisher were virtually identical, even down to the chapter topics. I started to feel as if the textbook was a necessary evil.  Having a book was required to legitimize the class and a starting point for learning but I always made the information my own by adapting it to my teaching style and using examples from Hawaii.  I am also not interested in having publishing companies design, implement and grade my students’ assignments; I prefer a more hands on approach.

In the midst of experiencing these frustrations I remembered an email I had gotten a year earlier about free open source textbooks.  I dug it out and lo and behold Open Stax College had, among other things an excellent peer reviewed Introduction to Sociology textbook.  All I had to do was paste the URL into my syllabus and students could view the book online, download it and even print it for free.   I tested the book with online students over the summer and it was it hit.

Like any time we use a new textbook or redesign a course there is a lot of initial work however, its well worth it.  Students have access to the required course materials from day one and are enormously grateful for the free textbook.  There is a lot more accountability because students have no excuses for not having a book.  So far, with the help our Librarians I’ve managed to make four of my classes completely OER.   Now I don’t have to fill out those pesky book order forms each semester!

New Student PIRGs report shows student savings in open textbooks

Open Textbooks Student PIRGsA press release at Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Group) describes the findings of a new Student PIRG research report, Open Textbooks: The Billion-Dollar Solution. The report by The Student PIRGs, edited by Ethan Senack, describes open textbook programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Kansas State University, the University of Minnesota, Tacoma Community College, and the University of Maryland. All support the adoption of existing open textbooks and the use of library licensed materials and all report substantial savings for their students when using open textbooks.

List of Zero Textbook Cost courses through Outreach College, so far…

We now have 42 courses that will be offered through Outreach College that do not require students to purchase course materials:
Class Number
AMST 350
ANTH 313, ANTH 316, ANTH 350, ANTH 481
BIOC 241, BIOC 341
COM 390
ECON 332
ENG 270, ENG 273
ES 318
ETEC 647b
FDM 411, FDM 491
GEOG 101, GEOG 101L
GEOG 151
HAW 100, HAW101, HAW 102, HAW 201, HAW 202
HIST 321, HIST 322
HON 303
HWST 107
ITM 387K
LAIS 380
LTEC 612
MATH 111, MATH 112, MATH 134
PHIL 100, PHIL 301, PHIL 317
SPED 412
WS 151, WS 345, WS 350, WS 453, WS 481