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Clemson librarian pushes for cheap alternatives to textbooks

There is currently a petition to have Clemson start using open educational resources (OERs) in order to ease the financial burden of textbook costs faced by students.
Kirsten Dean, undergraduate experiences and open educational resources librarian, started the petition. She believes that free OERs will help to cut down textbook costs.
“There’s a spectrum of openness and the OERs we’d be implementing fall in between. It would still go under the five R’s of a Creative Commons (CC) license.”
Open education resources are teaching, learning and research resources that are generally free of cost and access barriers and with legal permission for open use.
The permissions fall under a CC license and are defined by “five R’s,” making it so that users can retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute educational materials.
According to Dean, there are many other universities using OERs. “The big example is Tidewater Community College. They have a Z Degree ­— Z being zero extra costs. That’s a full implementation,” she said. “We’d be doing a bit less than that. We joined the Open Textbook Network. There are tons of colleges in that network like North Carolina State, all of Oregon. It all seems to be through libraries.”
At Clemson, if implemented, it would work as a variety of options in addition to the standard textbooks and would depend on the professor. There may be an online option, which would be free, or a print option that would cost between five to 10 dollars. The goal is to be flexible.
Dean does warn that there may be a few downsides associated with OERs at the moment.
“There’s a community aspect to it, so to have high quality resources, there needs to be more people contributing. This relies on content creators being willing to share for free,” she said. “Sometimes, the quality may not be there. It’s one thing to approach a professor and want to replace a textbook but when we look for an OER with them, they can’t find what they want.”
A separate concern is with textbook publishers themselves. There is a large business model and legislative system built around textbooks, and OERs would have to compete with it. Dean, though, while acknowledging the publishers, stresses that she doesn’t wish to see legislation around OERs.
“At the moment, OERs are local. If there were suddenly legislation to force professors to use them, it may not be beneficial. Right now, this still gives people an option.”
To sign the petition, which is nearing its needed number of signatures (200), go to:

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