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Opinion: Free Resources Can Improve Education

Pricey Textbooks Add to Already High Living Costs for Students

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By Ana Rose Walkey

Open educational resources are a fantastic way for penny-pinching students to maximize their scarce funds without sacrificing the quality of their education.

Today’s textbook prices are ridiculously high, with some costing up to $300 a pop.

While studying creative writing at Capilano University, I would spend an average of $600 on textbooks each semester. That’s 80 per cent of what one month’s rent cost me at the time. With the cost of living constantly rising in Vancouver, spending so much valuable rent money on textbooks is not sustainable.

OER materials can be built by multiple authors, and can be legally copied and shared for teaching, learning and research. In lieu of purchasing traditional print textbooks, students can access OER textbooks for free.

The idea of free, OER textbooks is a brilliant one. Not only do students no longer have to lug around 80 pounds of paper each day, but the weight of being broke is greatly reduced.

Seth Bergmann, a computer science professor at Rowan University, pointed out in a study that the production of OER resources can also be free if open source software is used.

With the use of open source publishing materials, contributors have no need to spend a penny to share their material.

Despite not being paid for their work, Bergmann wrote that many university faculty contributors are compensated with promotion or a salary increase as a result of textbook publication.

If education is intended to improve the lives of students, access to free learning materials clearly has the advantage over traditional paper textbooks. If faculty members are able to leverage publication of these materials into a promotion as well, everyone wins.

 

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