JWU Students Save Big with Open Educational Resources

The Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative (RI OTI) — which began in 2016 — challenged RI’s higher education institutions to reduce college costs by using open-licensed textbooks. This initiative, coupled with JWU Library’s own efforts to provide resources, has already saved JWU students nearly one million dollars.

A student studying on a computer in the library 
The JWU Library has always played an active role in helping to reduce student out-of-pocket costs for commercially published textbooks. Since the initiative began in 2016, a JWU librarian has served on the RI OTI Steering Committee. This year, it’s Kerry Caparco, who is very passionate about helping faculty find the best resources to replace expensive textbooks.

“The RI Textbook Initiative is a state-wide effort to encourage higher education to adopt Open Education Resources (OER) in order to reduce the cost of textbooks for students,” Caparco said. “But at JWU, we are not going to stop at OER to realize student savings — faculty and librarians are continually collaborating to find the best alternatives to textbooks, which might include library resources and/or freely accessible resources online.”

Rosita Hopper, the dean of libraries at JWU, also agrees that OER is just the beginning of how JWU Library is working to save students money.

“I continue to look for new ways to support faculty who want to assign course readings from open educational resources or library-purchased resources, as alternatives to student-purchased textbooks,” she said. “Through WorldCat, JWU Library’s information discovery portal, even more open content will soon be available with the ultimate goal of becoming a “one-stop shopping” experience for the discovery of open educational resources.”

The shift away from traditional textbooks has proved to be beneficial for more than just financial costs. It has also provided faculty with ways to easily update and individualize their coursework and appeal to a variety of learning styles. And, moving from printed materials to digital alternatives is more environmentally friendly, which is in line with the university’s sustainability efforts on campus.

Professor and students

Here’s what professors are saying about the impact OER has had on their courses:

“Sometimes, as an introductory question in my online ILS 2090 class, I ask students to comment on something they see in the syllabus that they like. I always have students who point to this part of my syllabus. It makes them feel that professors are taking into account the difficulties they face in trying to afford a college education. Some also mention that they learn better through video than through written text.” -Wendy Wagner, Ph.D., Professor, John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences

“I have found that students are much more likely to have needed materials early in the course.  And, the universal availability of course materials has led to more dynamic and meaningful discussions during class time.” -Ryan Tainsh, Ed.D., Associate Professor, John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences

“What I find the most beneficial for both students and myself is that the materials used in class discussions, activities and journal reflections are all the most current topics and publications.  It allows me to update my teaching materials every term and gear discussions and assignments based on my students interests and current events, which change each term.” -Carla White Ellis, Ph.D., CFD, Assistant Professor, John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences

“I am a novice at OER, but if it goes well enough, the Social Sciences department may expand it to all Providence sections of SOC1001 next year, which reaches over 500 JWU students!” -Jessica Sherwood, Ph.D., Associate Professor, John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences  

Want to learn more about JWU Library’s mission to provide Open Educational Resources for students and faculty? Visit their website or email Kerry Caparco.