Affordability comes to FIU

By Lergia Olivo

How much do students spend buying the text and materials for your course? $30? $60? $150? For a full-time undergraduate student taking four 3-credit courses, FIU’s Financial Aid site estimates the cost of textbooks at $731 each term. This number rises to $972 for graduate students. Combined with about $200 in other fees each term, tuition costs, and living expenses, the financial strain of a college degree can prove overwhelming.

FIU’s Beyond Possible 2020 Plan calls for an improvement and increased enrollment in online education, with an emphasis on incentivizing the adoption of low-cost textbooks (Strategy 3B, pg. 20). Similarly, the State of Florida’s 2025 Strategic Plan calls for a reduction on the cost of educational materials for students (Strategy 2.1, pg. 13). In order to address both of these goals, and to help students afford and attain a collegiate degree, FIU Online is leading the effort to reduce the cost of textbooks and course materials in our courses.

The buzz around adopting Open Educational Resources, or OER, has been around for many years, but actually ditching your textbook and designing a course around OER materials can be time-consuming and frustrating. OER are instructional materials that live in the internet’s public domain or are otherwise freely accessible for use by others. These can include full etextbooks, course modules, streaming video, simulations, or other tools which are available online and are free-of-charge to students. However, the challenge comes in finding, vetting, and deciding where these materials can fit in your course.

The market is already responding to the need for affordable resources. With emerging companies like Boundless, Flatworld and PanOpen, and the option of low-cost publishers like Oxford University Press, reducing the cost of course materials without sacrificing quality is now easier than ever. The combination of a low-cost textbook with OER materials, library resources, and open web content can produce a course with a fresh, engaging feel which students will enjoy, learn from, and relate to.

As FIU Online gets the ball rolling with this initiative, keep an eye out for what’s coming up in this affordable course materials series.

  • We’ll showcase a new directory where instructors can contribute and find low-cost alternatives that have been implemented in courses by searching the State of Florida’s common course numbering system.
  • We’ll share stories and experiences from faculty who have adopted lower cost alternatives in their courses, developed their courses wholly around free web content, even others who were unhappy with their textbooks and decided to write their own.
  • We’ll highlight some of the resources available through the FIU Libraries, what is currently available, and discuss how these resources can enhance your courses.
  • We’ll show you how you can publish your own textbook and incorporate creative commons licenses on your work.

Don’t wait! You can start looking into low-cost alternatives right now! Contact your instructional designer so they can work with you to find low-cost alternatives to your pricey text, or help you design course modules and present web content in your course. You can also check out this article from Edutopia where they round up OER resources and provide additional sites to start your search.

Lergia Olivo is a guest contributor with the Insider and was an Instructional Design Manager at FIU Online.