An all too common financial hurdle in higher education can be the cost of textbooks.
As UNO continues to find ways to make college more affordable for students, the Online (or Open) Educational Resources (OER) program, which reduces or eliminates the need for UNO students to purchase textbooks and other course materials for their classes, became available gain momentum – and show impressive results.
Implementation of the OER program in UNO has saved students more than $2 million since inception. From the first scholarship cohort in Spring 2019 to January 2022, 45 scholarships were awarded involving 54 faculty from all colleges and a total of 21 departments. Grants awarded total $84,000. 12,705 students were affected, saving an estimated $1.14 million
Even more exciting for the future, starting in Spring 2022, courses that have transitioned entirely to free or low-cost (less than $40) will be featured in UNO’s online catalog as part of the Open Nebraska (ONE) initiative students can make more informed decisions about their lessons.
Still not sure how you fit into the OER conversation? Here are some tips for teachers and students for Fall 2022:
Where to start
A good first step is to visit the OER page to the Criss Library website to learn more about OER. If you would like to speak to someone about transitioning your class, you can reach out to the campus OER coordinator, Craig Finlay, or your own subject specialists.
Resources to convert
Both part-time and full-time faculty members are welcome to apply for class conversion grants. A one-part course may be awarded between US$1,000 and US$2,500, and larger scale, multi-part conversions may be awarded up to US$10,000. Here you will find the funding section, application questions and application information. To start converting, there is one canvas side which can be used by anyone curious to find open resources and start building an open resources course. Further information on the development of the degree program and funding opportunities can be found here.
Also, consider partnering with the UNO Bookstore to provide these Access on the first day digitally to your students for the required course materials.
What faculty say
“My students were very grateful that they didn’t have the additional expense of a book. Three students told me that they were less stressed about starting class because they knew they wouldn’t miss any content because they hadn’t received any books yet. Another comment I had was that each day they were more encouraged to participate as there was no book to refer to.”
Gabrielle Tegeder, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geography at the UN.
“Students enjoy the up-to-date materials such as podcasts and videos. With rapidly changing content, the textbook felt outdated and dry compared to the materials we are using now,”
Derek Babb, Cybersecurity Instructor at the UN.
“It’s a free resource that rivals any textbook review we’ve ever done. We checked dozens of OER options to find just the right one. In addition to the free text, we’ve included additional chapters, articles, readings, videos, TED Talks, and more.”
Stephanie Larsen, communication trainer and winner of the Textbook Mavericks initiative in the fall of 2021.
For students by students
Find low-cost and no-cost classes
Since Spring 2022, students can find low-cost and free courses when registering for each semester while doing a class search. Students can explore courses through MavLink by toggling the Enrollment button in the menu and clicking Class Search. Students can also use to search for classes Class search page on the UN website. Remember: you can’t sign in without using MavLink.
Once you start a class search using MavLink or the UNO website, you can find low cost and free courses by toggling the program option, clicking on “Open Nebraska” and hitting the search button to only show low cost and free courses and free course listings . During the regular search, you can also look in the Class Attributes section, where classes can be labeled “Inexpensive”, “Free”, or “Open Nebraska”.
Tips for teaching
There are many different ways professors can incorporate inexpensive and free resources. Depending on your class, you may have a free online textbook, access various resources online, or use a combination of both.
Julia Ehlers, a student who took an OER lecture course this fall, recommends accessing the materials early so you can get the most out of the class right away. She also recommends asking professors for help or information if you have a question, concern, or problem.
“I thought the facility of the free textbook and resources was excellent for public speaking… I’ve been in classes where what the teacher does for the lesson doesn’t match the textbook at all, and that wasn’t that — it.” It was much easier to understand the material when it was available to me in multiple forms.
thoughts from other students
“I usually waste money buying expensive books that are rarely used in class. I would say that having no or cheap material is better than expensive books. I have to work full time to get through school. Not having to buy expensive textbooks saves me money that I can use to pay bills. I would rather take a course with free or low-cost materials. Being a full-time student is tough, this is a way to make it a little easier.”
“I feel that free/low-cost materials lead to a higher quality of learning than traditional textbooks. It allows the class to be more creative and really understand the concepts we are trying to learn through real life examples and projects.”