Barton instructor emphasizes low-cost or no-cost textbook options

Oleg Ravitskiy

September 25, 2020
Story and photo by Joe Vinduska

A dozen different courses at Barton Community College are now offered with no textbook costs thanks to an effort by instructors to shift to other types of resources. The movement in higher education is called Open Educational Resources (OER). At Barton, it’s referred to as Low-Cost (LC) and No-Cost (NC). Low cost means there might be fees for materials or a book, but it would be less than $50.  

OER are educational resources that are openly licensed or are in the public domain that can be retained, modified, and redistributed. 

Barton Department Chair for Life Science and Math Oleg Ravitskiy has transitioned some of his courses to the OER format to help his students.  
“OER can offer drastic savings in the cost of education,” he said. “Some students, who otherwise cannot afford to buy expensive textbooks or other course materials appreciate this more affordable setup.”  

However, Ravitskiy said it’s not just about the cost savings.  
“Students who take challenging science courses often like to look over course materials before the term begins, and with OER they are able to do that and it helps them make more informed decisions in choosing their courses,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to prepare themselves because they can access digital course materials on the first day of class at no cost.” 

Ravitskiy said there are also many benefits for the instructors. 
“OER course content can be edited and updated frequently and simply, personalized for various teaching styles and accessed by students on the first day of class into perpetuity,” he said. “It also offers students increased interaction with course content. My students spend less but learn more due to efficient study tools and engaging courseware features. Students that want to revisit their course materials after the class is over to refresh their memories can do so because the material is always available.” 
Ravitskiy said the experience of switching to OER has been positive.  
“I have greater freedom in my teaching methods and course content,” he said. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Lee Miller, Director of Innovation and Compliance, who guided, supported, and mentored me in this journey. Colleges and universities regularly embark on new initiatives that ensure students have the best options for learning. However, some schools are more forward-thinking than others when it comes to making changes. Barton continues to explore instructional strategies that can improve success outcomes for students.  Barton is committed to meeting the needs of all students to help them succeed in college-level courses and beyond.” 

Barton Director of Innovation and Compliance Lee Miller agreed that there are many advantages with other opportunities yet to be explored. 

“We are now about a year and a half into the Barton OER initiative and its success is directly a result of the faculty’s willingness and hard work to transition courses to OER. I have appreciated Dr. Ravitskiy’s patience and willingness to work through and pilot different opportunities for instruction through the use of OER materials. It is exciting to see how excited faculty get when they realize new ways of approaching their course by utilizing OER.”   

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