The Academic Senate is expected to adopt a resolution in their next meeting that would make PCC eligible for an Open Educational Resource (OER) grant that could replace pricey textbooks with free online resources for students in some course.
According to PCC Online, “the OER includes teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.”
With this grant, textbooks would not be mandatory for students, who would instead have free access to the online materials including “full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, software and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support open access to knowledge.”
The decision on whether to implement OERs in the classroom will be left at the discretion of the professors to choose the resources that would most benefit their students. Instructors will be allowed to alter materials to best meet the needs of their students by using the most up-to-date technology and multimedia content.
When an instructor chooses to implement OERs they must assess the resources to see if they are 508 compliant, ensuring the technology is accessible for people with disabilities.
According to assistant professor of social sciences and Faculty Accreditation Coordinator Lynora Rogacs, the grant from the state of California would allow faculty to be trained on how to make the shift to open educational resources. Training will be offered over the summer in the hopes of going live with the process in the fall. And as of now there are roughly 50 different course sections that will be adopting OERs.
AB 798 is the College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015 and would create the OER Adoption Incentive Fund (AIF), which would help finance and accelerate the adoption of OERs on campus.
“The grant process requires a resolution from the Senate (which was approved on 4/11) and a broad Professional Development plan, which also has to be approved by Senate,” Academic Senate President Valerie Foster said in an email to faculty.
If approved by the Senate, the campus would be eligible for an initial AIF grant. Then each year the campus will receive an AIF grant for meeting established performance standards.
Susan Bower, chair of the faculty development committee, presented at the EOR forum on Tuesday to the campus community.
One of the downsides is that not all courses have an environment or course conducive to OERs, and even courses that could benefit from OERs may not have sufficient or satisfactory online materials available.
At the accreditation forum held last Friday, Rogacs and Scott spoke on OERs, what they anticipate for the future and stated that PCC estimates the grant to be around $50,000.
“I’m shifting to OER in the fall so I need about a year to figure out what’s working and what’s not before I can feel comfortable advertising it to students,” Rogacs said.
There are already instructors implementing OERs in their courses including social sciences, psychology, sociology, political science, critical thinking, and math.
“We’re trying to hit the areas that are most in need based on high demand courses. We can start offering them there and then trickle down from there,” Rogacs said. “But like I said, that’s a lofty goal that is way down in the future. We’re really happy just to get this ball rolling.”
“The idea is five years down … if you have a BOG waiver, you can basically take that class without having the fees associated with it and then they’re all free in terms of the textbook requirement,” Rogacs added.
Faculty Association President and associate professor of social sciences, Julie Kiotas was introduced to EORs over a year ago, and after assessing the resources available she decided to implement it into two of her courses.
“I knew how good it would be for my students,” Kiotas said.
According to Associate Vice President of Student Services and Affairs Cynthia Olivo, OER is extremely important as it levels the playing field for students who cannot afford books.
“Of our 28,000 students, 22,000 students utilize the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver which covers the course registration fees,” Olivo said. “Qualifications for BOG is based on federal poverty guidelines and this is an indicator to us at the college that our students need us to continue to figure out how to go beyond financial aid to help students afford the costs associated in achieving your goals.”
The PCC Student Equity Committee has been working on this since the Chancellor’s Office announced the opportunity in the fall.
“This opportunity will once again bring people together to collaborate to help students, teachers, librarians, Information Technology Services and Students,” Olivo said. “Projects that bring people together are a wonderful way to create a very supportive environment for everyone involved.”