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OUSC president’s report: The benefits of open educational resource textbooks

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OUSC president’s report: The benefits of open educational resource textbooks

Ryan Fox, OUSC President

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Dear Students,

One of the most unnecessary and exorbitant costs for any student today is textbooks. I am almost certain that all of you reading this know someone, or have yourselves personally, purchased a textbook for $100 or more. Even worse, you all probably know students who avoid buying the textbook due to the high cost. If you didn’t before reading this, you do now.

I have, for multiple semesters, forgone buying textbooks for classes based off of the cost. I did this because I would not have been able to afford rent, or groceries, if I had purchased these books.

The worst part of this problem is that professors at this university have the ability to alleviate this cost in many instances, however many choose not to.

Open Educational Resources, or OER, refers to a wealth of free and low cost educational materials that can be used in place of traditional textbooks. To explain it simply, a professor will write a book to teach intro to physics, and then wave their copyright to the text. That way it is totally free or low cost for a class to utilize.

Now there are not OER books available for every class, like 4000 level classes in any major will likely not have an OER alternative. However for intro level courses there is typically a free alternative. You can find free books for french, physics, biology, psychology, and many other courses that cover general education credits.

Many professors avoid using these new low cost resources, due to habit and stigma. Many professors have used the same textbook for many years, and thus do not want to switch books after so long. Many also believe that these free textbooks cannot possibly be as high quality as traditional books, which is simply not true. These books have been so successful that schools around the world have begun using them.

Another issue is that representatives from major textbook companies will meet with professors at OU, in an effort to sell their company’s books to professors. The textbook companies then take in the profits  off the backs of students. This cycle also makes introducing OER difficult. However, these difficulties and challenges can be overcome.

If you are a student reading this, please ask your professor if they could offer these lower cost books. Tell them you cannot afford to keep buying traditional textbooks, and you would like them to look into lower cost options. Make sure to reach out to your department chairs as well, and see if they can be helpful in instituting a change.

If you are a professor reading this, please consider looking for free or low cost textbooks when designing your courses. The cost of textbooks is overwhelming many college students, and often times students will do poorly in your class solely because they were never able to afford the book. With the extreme cost of college, anything that you can do to help makes a world of difference.   

If you are interested in getting involved with Student Congress, we currently have many positions open on our Legislature and on our many committees. Our Research and Review Chair Halle Haneckow is our first point of contact to get involved. Her email is [email protected]. If you would like to reach out to OUSC about any pressing concerns you have about campus life, feel free to reach out to [email protected].


Ryan M. Fox

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OUSC president’s report: The benefits of open educational resource textbooks