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OERs Saving SUNY Orange Students Money

November 15, 2019

SUNY Orange OER Integration video

Dr. Kristine Young Shout-out to Math OER Team

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – A College-wide, faculty-led investigation into Open Educational Resources over the past 18 months has helped SUNY Orange students save more than $670,000 in textbook costs.

These savings were realized by SUNY Orange’s careful adoption of Open Educational Resources or OERs, which are freely accessible, openly licensed textbooks, media, and other digital assets, in the public domain, that can be utilized for teaching and learning. The College’s implementation of OERs is indicative of a national higher education trend toward helping students contain textbook costs. During the current Fall semester, faculty members teaching approximately 80 course sections at SUNY Orange are employing OERs.

At SUNY Orange, the Mathematics Department has been thoughtfully evaluating the quality and content of available OERs, and recently became the first department at the College to adopt an OER department-wide for one of its developmental math courses.

Math professor Dr. Christine Leroux got involved in piloting an OER textbook with other faculty members after discovering the cost of the traditional textbook. Leroux supplemented the OER with her own material.

“The (OER) textbook itself is excellent, and approaches topics in more than one way, however it doesn’t have homework exercises. There were worksheets that went with textbook, but they weren’t enough. So I developed some additional homework assignments to give our students that additional practice we felt was necessary.”

Josh Lavorgna, chair of the Mathematics Department, described the direction his department is taking with respect to OERs. “Fundamentals of Arithmetic (MAT 010) is a developmental math course, and this course felt like the right step to move into an OER exclusively, so starting in Spring 2020, all of our Fundamentals of Arithmetic courses will be using this OER.

“We are excited about moving forward with OERs, but we are doing so very cautiously. We have other faculty evaluating OERs, and we will look to expand where it makes sense.”

Leroux also explained why traditional textbook costs could be a potential educational barrier to education for some students.

“I had been teaching MAT 010, and it came to my attention how expensive the textbook was, and what an equity issue that was for our students,” she said. “We have students with a lot of math (courses) in front of them, who often have had poor experiences with math in the past, or are coming in with math anxiety. Those are the most at-risk students, so using OERs was just an issue of removing one of the barriers.”

The assessment and evaluation of Open Educational Resources have also continued within other departments at the College, with academic Associate Vice Presidents Anne Prial and Dena Whipple offering “faculty academies” to provide training and guidance to faculty who are interested in evaluating and considering OERs for their courses. To date, the acaemies have been attended by 26 faculty members, who have in turn shared their academy experiences and best practices with fellow educators across both campuses.

“Students are very excited to see OERs as an option," Prial said. “It represents a tremendous cost savings to them.”

But OERs also have the additional benefit of being more flexible than a traditional textbook.

“With OERs, the sky’s the limit,” Prial added. “The simplest way to explain it is going from a traditional textbook to an online textbook, but it's really so much more than that. There's video content, there are interactive exercises. OERs can really be anything.”

Faculty integration and development of OERs received a boost in January of this year, after SUNY Orange received a $25,000 grant from the State University of New York (SUNY) to expand the College’s commitment to Open Educational Resources.

For the upcoming Winter Intersession (beginning Jan. 2) SUNY Orange is offering OERs in two Behavioral Sciences courses and an English course.  Students have the option of searching for these courses by selecting “Open Educational Resource” under “Attribute Type” when using the Online Course Search on the Course Schedules page here: https://sunyorange.edu/schedules/.

For more information, contact Prial at (845) 341-4286.