Library Roundup – Lower Columbia College

LCCAlternative Educational Resources at LCC! 

LCC has had a very successful start in Open Educational Resources for the year 2015-16.  We spent 2014-15 working on an Advocacy Plan and beginning to build awareness of OER across our campus.  Two courses worked on migrating from commercial textbooks to OE textbooks.  We made those available from our bookstore as printed copies, where students paid only for the printing – so a 500 page text cost $20.  These efforts kicked off Fall 2015.  

LCC now uses the title Alternative Educational Resources (AER) instead of Open Educational Resources (OER) to include all course resources that cost students less than $30 to use. Some courses may include resources that are not openly licensed but still reduce costs for students, such as used or inexpensive books, library resources, and other alternatives to costly commercial textbooks.

Even before Fall 2015 quarter started, Alternative Education had spread.  Our lead Psychology instructor decided to adopt AER for Sociology as well as Psychology, and brought another Sociology instructor along with her.  Our Economics instructor looked at their textbooks (we were using OpenStax) and found Econ textbooks for all three of his courses at Open Stax.  He adopted those.  One English instructor created modules and an online accessible text for English 101, and that spread to another instructor.  All together, twelve courses ended up with AER this fall who would not otherwise have used them.  

As we printed these textbooks, they were sold in our bookstore.  The bookstore keeps the files of any AER we adopt, and if the instructor wants printed copies available for their students, our bookstore manager forwards those to the print shop.  Once they are printed, we can sell them in the bookstore for a fraction of the cost of commercial textbooks.  While the bookstore does not make much money on any individual AER, far more students are purchasing their textbooks through the bookstore than did in the past.  So, while the bookstore is losing money on individual textbooks, the traffic and volume of purchases has kept those losses down.  And, the student savings are significant.  According to Cliff Hicks, our Bookstore manager, “Students who are enrolled in the [alternative] education resource classes this quarter have saved $93,519! (Compared to the new cost of the last book that was required for that same class)”.  Savings have continued – between Fall 2015 and Winter 2016,   LCC is calculating a student savings of almost $208,000.

Students in the classes that used AER textbooks from our bookstore were asked to complete a short survey on how well these texts worked for them.  We only got responses from 6 of the classes, but they were quite conclusive:  

 How did the cost of materials for this class compare with the cost of materials in other classes you have taken?

3   higher

24  similar

98   lower


Compared with the course material in your other classes, how helpful was this course material?

42  more helpful

77  similar

6   less helpful


How far into the quarter was it before you were able to access a copy of the course material in this class?

109  start of quarter

11     2 weeks in

5     more than 2 weeks in


Given the opportunity, would you take a class with open resources again?  

125     yes

 0     no

How important to you is the cost of textbooks?

101     very important

20    somewhat important

4     not important.

According to our students, then, AER textbooks were at least as helpful as commercial ones, cost less, were available earlier in the quarter, and 100%  of  students said, yes, they would do this again.

–Submitted by Andrea Gillaspy

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