Press Release:

Say so long to those expensive textbooks, says Georgia Highlands College.

Almost half a million dollars’ worth of student savings was yielded for Fall 2015 with GHC’s recent introduction of Open Educational Resources (OER). GHC recently joined the University System of Georgia’s Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) initiative which promotes student success by providing alternatives to expensive textbooks.

The new OERs don’t just provide free textbooks either. Students also get video resources, software, labs and an enhanced textbook experience with hyperlinks to many other resources.

For Fall 2015, GHC was able to save students $487,170.50 in textbook costs.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Renva Watterson stated it is imperative that students have access to these free OER textbook alternatives.

“Nearly 70 percent of students don’t buy textbooks,” she said. “There are many reasons for this, but one fundamental reason is they can’t afford them. When you have students sitting in class and they don’t have a text, which is the fundamental learning tool, then you put students at further risk of academic disaster.”

The average textbook cost for each class is between $200 and $300.

“We are saving our students a lot of money,” Watterson added. “We are here to educate, and we want to know all the ways we can best keep money in our student’s pockets, so they can continue to go to school and complete.”

Watterson stated that the GHC faculty are the real champions of this program, as they have been hard at work implementing OER in their courses.

Director of Faculty Academy and Senior Instructional Designer Jesse Bishop said many faculty members remember what it was like to spend a ton of money on textbooks while attending college.

“Our faculty has worked really hard to implement OER. It’s not easy work either,” Bishop said. “Some folks think you pick a textbook out of OER and you have it, but it’s a complete course redesign to match the OER textbook. It’s a process.”

Bishop said that hasn’t kept the faculty from working hard to make sure OER becomes a staple for courses at GHC.

“There’s this feeling when students walk into a classroom and see that there’s a $300 textbook they can’t afford that makes that knowledge seem reserved for a certain class of people,” he said. “OER textbooks say this is for everyone—and it’s no longer hidden behind a paywall.”

Dean of Natural Sciences and Physical Education Greg Ford stated that his department has become really excited with the new OER program, noting the particularly high quality of the peer-reviewed OER sources.

“We expanded OER into each of our areas,” he said. “Our faculty is working diligently to redesign as many of our courses as possible for OER. By 2017-2018, 90 percent of our science courses will be OER.”

Since OER is open to anyone for free, students, potential students or even the public can view these resources at any time. OER textbooks can be downloaded to any smart device, phone or tablet. GHC plans to continue to offer OERs and expand into as many areas and courses as possible moving forward.