Open Education Resource, or Zero Textbook Costs, is a program that allows students to take classes that have textbooks and other materials ready for them to use at no cost.
The program began back in the spring of 2018 when the state awarded Los Medanos College with a grant of roughly $30,000 to start up this project that other schools have implemented statewide.
“In my own class, I saw this problem… students were struggling on dropping $100 for the book,” said Edward Haven. “We knew this was something students cared about.”
Some students are able to get degrees without purchasing a single textbook for their classes. Those degrees currently include Drama and Philosophy, including the general education classes required for the degrees themselves.
“It really does help. It helped me get into philosophy because it’s cheaper,” said philosophy student Christopher Briseno.
In just one week, 1,122 students responded to a survey about how they feel about the cost of textbooks, how many units they are taking and whether or not they had dropped classes because of the prices.
“42% [of students] said they’ve dropped classes because they can’t afford the textbook, and 52% said they took less than a full load due to the cost of textbooks,” said Scott Hubbard.
The accessibility is not only appealing to students, but it has been studied by the state to work and benefit students across California. The state now requires community colleges to have a program such as this.
“It’s more convenient, easy, more accessible. You can use it [a textbook] on your phone or laptop if you left the physical thing at home or something,” said Michelle Smith.
The program aims to look for ways to create material that is reusable throughout the years, whether that’s using the grant money to purchase calculators or to fund a teacher to put together materials to create a book for their students.
“[the idea is to] pay faculty to create a book or adapt a book for free that’s a long term option,” said Haven. “We want these materials to be just as good.”
Given the student benefits, it also helps instructors take control of the material taught in class.
“[There’s an] academic freedom and control for faculty. Every chapter in my book is there because I want it to be,” said Haven. “It motivates us [as teachers] because we are experts in these subjects and we honor and respect ourselves. There’s a pride to do it.”
Students do have some drawbacks about these textbooks even though it’s, “definitely cheaper,” as student Kyle Martin said.
“It has some limitations, like you can’t cross-reference with other materials online,” said Briseno.
In the coming years, Haven and Hubbard are intending to recruit more instructors to try out this program and intend on expanding from the 99 courses that currently offer it.
“We’d like to move more sections over to ZTC, and continue to save students money,” said Hubbard.
Courses in the Humanities department as well as the CTE department are on their list of recruiting.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a start,” said Haven.