SRU’s Bailey Library offers open-educational resources

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Bailey Library from a drone

Feb. 21, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When students make the transition from high school to college, the opportunity is often described as an "investment" in their futures. Those investments of course involve upfront costs such as textbooks.

And as any college student will tell you, knowledge is not cheap. But Slippery Rock University's Bailey Library is looking to help combat the higher cost of higher education through the use of open-educational resources or OERs.

OERs are openly licensed texts, media and other digital tools useful for teaching, learning and assessing that are freely accessible.

"What we're doing at the library, and by extension SRU, is raising awareness of OERs among faculty and students so that anyone who might be interested in adopting an open textbook or resource would be able to do so," said Rocco Cremonese, business user experience and outreach librarian at Bailey Library. "One of my roles as a librarian is making access to these resources easier for everyone."

SRU's investigation into OER's began when the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc., began working on "Affordable Learning PA," a grant-funded project that supports OER communities and learning among campuses in the creation and use of open textbooks and related educational resources.

Bailey Library's first push for OER usage began last summer after library personnel attended the Affordable Learning Ohio Conference, a yearly conference that introduces a initiatives meant to lower the cost of college. With the information learned at this conference, Cremonese, Brad Wilson, associate provost of transformational experiences, and Allison Brungard, a STEM librarian at Bailey Library, began laying the groundwork for creating SRU's own OER program.

SRU's program utilizes open textbooks "of the highest quality," including textbooks from Rice University's Openstax. "(Each text) has been written by faculty and peer reviewed. Students can download them for free if a professor wishes to use them for their course. Many of the OERs are also available in print and in that case, the only cost would be the associated printing cost."

While the program is still in its infancy, it has already found its way into classrooms at SRU.

"Things are on-going," said Cremonese. "We're at a stage where we're just trying to inform everyone about OER being available on campus."

"We've all heard about, or know from first-hand experience, situations where students didn't get a textbook they needed for day one of a class or maybe had to wait because it was on back order or had to get it through a library loan or share the text with someone else. Either way, they didn't have access to the book consistently and that can affect performance in a course. OER can help enhance academic success by removing that obstacle."

That enhancement, said Cremonese, can have a positive influence on a student's life outside of the classroom as well.

"One of my personal motivations to encourage the use of OERs as a resource is the fact that the money normally spent on textbooks can go towards addressing a student's other needs. For instance, we know food insecurity is a recent issue that has come to light on campuses, including ours. Students shouldn't have to make the choice between buying food or a textbook. Because of that, when we, as faculty, choose a textbook, we have to make sure it doesn't impact the quality of either education or living for our students."

To encourage and help faculty with implementing OERs into their classrooms, the Office of Transformational Experiences is in the process of developing a grant program so that faculty can receive professional development funding.

"We're not looking to force OER usage on anyone," Cremonese said. "We just want them to know that the option is there and that these are resources that are just as good as any published, hard copy textbook sold through Amazon.

Students can learn more about OERs by visiting the Office for Transformational Experiences webpage.

Faculty interested in learning about how to incorporate OERs into their curriculum can attend Cremonese's All About Open Textbooks: Benefits and Opportunities for Your Courses" workshop, 1-3 p.m., March 21 in Carruth Rizza Hall, Room 211. The workshop will serve as an introduction to open textbooks and the Pennsylvania Library Consortium's Affordable Learning PA initiative. Topics will include how OERs are funded and published, what copyright restrictions apply, the pros and cons OERs offer educators and students, and more.

For more information, contact Cremonese at 724.738.2657 or rocco.cremonese@sru.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lesa Bressanelli | 724.738.2091 | lnb1009@sru.edu