Open Source

For my final 9x9x25 blog, I wanted to talk a little about publisher material and Open Educational Resources.  In our department (and throughout the college) we have been using expensive materials from Pearson.  My college algebra course costs about the same in tuition as it does for students to buy the text, and with money being tight with many of our students, this is unacceptable.

In Florida, many schools have adopted open source textbooks.  I looked into OER a few years ago, and found the materials to be good, but there are very few practice problems to assign, you have to manually grade everything (tough to do online as students must also figure out a way to submit written work), and the text is not in an order that fits with our objectives.  However, one school put together a text of their own for College Algebra through Canvas.  The creator stated that it was a ton of work, and it was made easier by dividing up the tasks between many interested faculty.  She pulled in a ton of different resources from different places, giving examples like Khan Academy and MyOpenMath.  Many of the homework packets were created by different teachers, homework sets drawn from multiple sources.  One of the interesting things she stated as that many of the open source materials changed (page numbering and content), sometimes in the middle of the semester.  Limitations she stated was the lack of good test generators – many of the exams had to be created from scratch – easier to do with Dev Ed than college level.

The most interesting thing she stated was the point of this blog.  She was not allowed to talk large scale about this topic, but asked us to come up and ask about negotiating material costs with the publishers as they went on a large scale (college wide) campaign to bring down the cost.  They negotiated Pearson and McGraw Hill down to $50 per student per year for text.  For math, she told me to start with Cengage as they are at $50 per license and use this as leverage with the bigger companies.  Be prepared to move if the large text are not wanting to play ball with the little guys (this college was 20,000+ for enrollment).

I talked with a couple of smaller companies that have more adaptive materials, and companies like Cengage, Derivator, and Knewton are willing to sell materials at a much lower price, however they don’t come with all the bells and whistles that the publishers come with (like powerpoints, test generators, videos, and close captioning) so if your people need this stuff, these others won’t work.  But I would love to explore changing over some of our classes, maybe some of the Dev Ed so that students don’t have to absorb such high costs.  One small change could come to our co-requisite course in MAT142/092 – we could try to find enough open source material to do the 092 coursework so we can stick to our current 142 text.  We just need to find where they tie in the supplementary materials.

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