College of DuPage's human services program adopts open educational resources to lower textbook costs for students
Eager to expand access to educational opportunities, the Human Services program at College of DuPage is taking advantage of the college's Open Educational Resources (OER) program.
To date, more than half of all Human Services classes at COD utilize OER to make attending college more affordable for students.
"Our goal is to reduce costs for students and to ensure that everyone has access to materials from the first day of a course," Human Services Program Chair Jason Florin said.
COD has embraced the Open Access Scholarship movement in higher education, and the OER program prioritizes low-cost and no-cost, day-one access to course materials for all students, particularly those who are taking general education courses.
The creation of the OER program stems from a desire to close the opportunity gap and to provide equitable education for all, said President Dr. Brian Caputo.
"When high-quality, no-cost resources are accessible to everyone -- independent of one's socioeconomic status, it brings all students that much closer to reaching similar standards of education," Caputo said.
With a goal of creating more opportunities for students, Florin is collaborating with National Louis University to develop a bachelor's degree transfer pathway that utilizes OER.
"If we are able to significantly minimize or eliminate textbook costs in this program, I believe we will be offering one of the most affordable four-year degrees anywhere in the country, equal to the cost for one year of tuition at most Illinois public institutions, and a single semester at private universities," he said. "And importantly, we are not sacrificing any quality by doing this. In fact, most of the time the quality of the curriculum actually improves when faculty adopt an OER because they are intimately involved in finding relevant materials, updating assignments and ensuring that the course objectives are fulfilled. I've found that in the courses where I've adopted OER, the students are more engaged than before."
The new pathway would complement the existing 3+1 Bachelor of Arts in Human Services partnership with National Louis University. Through the partnership, students take their first three years of study through COD, while the fourth year is taught by NLU faculty on COD's campus at a reduced four-year tuition rate of around $26,000.
COD Reference Librarian Denise Coté said access to OER is just one example of how COD is bridging the equity gap for students in regard to access to technology and resources -- a gap made ever wider by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"COD faculty and staff are always thinking innovatively to help students succeed from day one," she said. "I continue to be motivated by my fellow faculty who work tirelessly to help students be successful and are dedicated to the constant improvement of teaching and learning at the college."
With COD's OER program proving successful, Coté said the long-term goal is to develop OER materials to fully support all of COD's degree programs with the goal of improving educational outcomes, an initiative called the zero-textbook-costs program.
"We are making great progress expanding OER to other academic areas aross the college," she said. "Feedback from students about these materials is not only that they're grateful for the price barrier to have been removed but also that they feel the course materials have been designed specifically for them."
Learn more about OER opportunities at codlrc.org/OER.