Maricopa Millions and OER plans to save students on textbooks

As the next semester approaches at Glendale Community College, most students will yet again find themselves facing the sometimes difficult decision of whether or not to purchase the textbooks and course materials that the majority of their classes may require. This can prove to be a problem for some lower income students as certain textbooks can cost upward into the $200 price range. However, not purchasing the required textbook for courses can leave students at a horrible disadvantage, at worst making it impossible to complete graded assignments.

Looking for solutions to this very real problem, some GCC professors have begun seeking out and implementing affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks for their courses. One such professor is Hannes Kvaran, who teaches two separate economics courses at GCC. Upon entering one of Kvaran’s classes, students might be surprised to discover that rather than assigning a traditional textbook to his students, he assigns his students with an open educational resource (OER), through a website of his own design. “You could literally, I think, get through this whole class, and spend nothing”, said Kvaren, who feels he’s taking his own alternative approach to the traditional textbook industry. On his website, students will find a wide assortment of PowerPoint presentations, PDF files and a few Excel models, all of Kvaran’s own creation, and all completely free of charge to his students.

Aside from saving students from the cost of having to purchase a textbook, Kvaran says that there are many other benefits to issuing out all of his course material to his students online.

“Every semester, I do things differently”, said Kvaran, believing that not being bound to a textbook allows him more freedom to teach current events and speculation to his students, along with his course requirements. “It’s hard to put speculation into writing”, he said “A textbook is supposed to be composed of what we know. I’m not sure I want to limit myself to what we know.”

Kvaran isn’t alone in his efforts to offer OER and other alternatives to traditional textbooks. Educators from all across the Maricopa Community College District have been pooling their efforts into low cost and no cost class resources since as early the fall of 2013 through a project named Maricopa Millions. Maricopa Millions, which is chaired by GCC’s Dr. Alisa Cooper, as well as other faculty from across the district, has a planned goal of saving all MCCCD students a total estimate of $5 million over the course of five years. They estimate that by convincing increasingly more instructors to offer low cost, or in some instances free OER, that they’ve saved students across the district a total of 3.5 million dollars in just the first two years of the project.

As Maricopa Millions says on their website, textbooks expenses “comprise approximately 30% of college expenses in Maricopa.” However, there are more benefits to OER than just cost alone. With free online resources, students have the ability to access course materials and even the textbook itself from the very first day of class, which could allow for instructors to assign coursework to all of their students immediately with far less setbacks. Maricopa Millions has seen steady growth in their projected savings with each passing semester. They estimate that they saved MCCCD student just over $1 million in just the spring 2015 semester alone.

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