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Students Save Nearly $250K Thanks to OER Efforts at Hudson Valley Community College



Spurred on by the possibility of making college even more affordable for its students, Hudson Valley Community College is now in its third year of adopting open educational resources.

Also known as OER, open educational resources are open source instructional materials, written by experts, that faculty can adopt and adapt based upon their curriculum, often negating the need for students to purchase a textbook. The use of OER not only saves money for students but also allows faculty members to provide customizable content for their classes.

During the Fall 2019 semester, 16 different academic departments used OER, with 40 faculty members teaching 26 different courses.

“When I adopt an OER, I feel that I am doing what I can to make education more affordable for my students,” said Assistant Professor Nicole Arduini VanHoose, who teaches psychology at the college. “Textbooks for my subject area are often $150. That savings can really make a difference for a student who needs to pay for transportation or rent or food. If students had an entire semester of faculty that adopt OERs, they could easily save $500-$700 in one semester.”

Library Director Brenda Hazard, who is heading up the effort on the campus, estimated that Hudson Valley students have saved almost a quarter million dollars in textbook costs through OER usage this fall.

“We see this effort as directly related to accessibility, which is one of the core tenets of our mission as a community college,” she said. “Libraries are all about creating access to information and making materials available to students. We are working directly with faculty to explore what we can provide to not only save students money but to make the learning experience stronger and more meaningful.”  

The Mathematics and Engineering Science Department is one of the leading adopters of OER on campus, Hazard said, and Department Chair Sue Kutryb is hoping to encourage full adoption for some of the department’s entry-level courses.

“More than two-thirds of our department’s full-time faculty are using OER for at least one course they are currently teaching,” she said. “That includes 24 sections in a variety of mathematics course this fall. We are hoping that all of our sections of College Algebra with Trigonometry will use OER starting next fall rather than traditional paper textbooks. This will remove a barrier to students' learning as the text will then be at low or no cost.”

The college’s OER effort began in 2017 when New York State first offered grants to SUNY and CUNY colleges to explore the implementation of OER. Hudson Valley received a grant to offer an introductory workshop that encouraged faculty to explore implementing OER. Sixty two faculty members attended the workshop and 33 proposals to adopt OER were submitted in 2017. The following year, more than 100 faculty members attended a similar workshop on campus, and the number of OER proposals more than doubled.

Hudson Valley students are the primary beneficiaries of the ongoing adoption of OER on campus. In the past, many students relied on “reserve” textbooks, available for loan at the Marvin Library if they felt they could not afford a textbook. Hazard said textbooks on reserve are the most borrowed books in the library and saw 16,000 loans this past academic year.

“Many of my students can't afford to buy the required textbooks for my class, and they are forced to use the copies on reserve in the library,” said Instructor Elaine Friedman of the English Department. “This is not only a major inconvenience to them but can negatively impact their grades. This semester, I was able to replace one of my textbooks with an OER I created. The original textbook cost $60, while my OER cost $6. When I shared this with my students, they were very appreciative.”

Student Rebecca Richmond, who is studying to become a teaching assistant, appreciates the cost savings of having a faculty member adopt OER for one of her classes. “Being able to have the OER available for one class is extremely helpful since I am a continuing education student with a limited budget. It’s easy to use and access the texts electronically. It has made transition to being an online-only student easier.”

Elissa Baker is an adjunct faculty member for the Teacher Preparation Department. This year, she decided to adopt OER for her online course, Technology in the Classroom. Baker is a natural for OER adoption since her primary role on campus is to train faculty on how to find and develop online resources for teaching.

“The text I used previously for this course was an e-book that cost about $70,” Baker said. “It was good, but I felt like I could find the materials and resources that could match what it offered. It took a while, but I was able to compile materials that exceed what was offered in my previous text. Since my subject, technology in the classroom, is always changing, creating teaching materials through open educational resources makes it easier for the course content to stay current.”

Hazard said the college will continue to promote OER by looking at new ways to support faculty who hope to adopt OER as well as those who want to contribute their own teaching materials to the OER community.

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