Over the past five years, Aims Community College has focused on moving more classes to their Free-to-Student (F2S) initiative. This initiative prioritizes the use of learning resources that are freely available to educators and students. It has now saved students more than $1.5 million on textbooks.
“I'm very proud of the work that our faculty and staff have done so that we can support students not just to save money but also to address equity challenges that students face,” Doug Strauss, program director of the Learning Commons, said in a press release.
Aims offers approximately 60 classes that utilize Open Educational Resources (OERs) each semester. Through the use of no-cost and low-cost textbooks, Aims hopes they can reduce inequalities in education by providing access to high-quality materials to all students.
A 2019 U.S. PIRG Education Fund survey found that 63% of students skipped buying textbooks. The same study found that 90% of students worried that not having the books would negatively impact their grades. Aside from the cost, there are other barriers for students getting materials on the first day of class, such as a publisher or bookstore running out of books.
Aims works to prioritize OERs, this can look like not requiring any outside textbooks, having low-cost options under $30, or for courses that still require traditional textbooks, pulling from the selection that is available for checkout at the Learning Commons at no cost to students.
The creation and adoption of OER materials often leads to a change in the structure of courses. Aims provides resources for faculty to work with a learning experience designer and a librarian to help collect materials and assist with publishing OER materials.
Jim Hutchinson, a Learning Experience Designer at Aims, works with faculty throughout the college to redevelop courses. “When we become more purposeful about the materials we use, it's a much more aligned and engaging course,” Hutchinson said. “Museums curate their collections, and instructors when they develop courses, curate materials. It’s a more involved process, but the outcome is so much better.”
Hutchinson sees frustrations in students when using traditional textbooks. “They often have to buy these $300 textbooks and are often not utilized heavily. Very few of us keep those books and you go and sell them back and sometimes you don't even get your money back because they came out with the new version.”
Aims Community College values affordability, equity and student success, which will help propel the use of more OER materials moving forward. The college's open educational resources implementation team is exploring ways to grow this movement at Aims and continue obtaining funding to ensure these initiatives will endure.
To learn more about the Aims Free-to-Student (F2S) initiative, please visit aims.co/free-textbooks.