Open educational resources lower costs for students at Boise State

Posted at 3:48 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 19:25:41-05

BOISE — Sixteen groups from across campus received funding to develop open educational projects for their classrooms.

“Some of them just took an existing textbook and put it into their class and just made changes to it, and other faculty are building textbooks from scratch," said Rob Nyland, research and innovation team manager at Boise State.

One of those is professor Teresa Focarile’s Theater History class.

“One of the assignments we’ve been doing is allowing them to add their own annotations into this document," said Focarile, "so, taking the historical context that they have and adding it to the play where they see connections, which has been really fun to watch them do that."

She’s creating a free, online textbook for her class, and her students contribute to it each semester.

"Previously we used two textbooks, we had an anthology, and we had a theater history textbook written by a theater scholar, which had a lot of information in it and it was really informative but also really expensive," said Focarile.

Textbooks can costs students hundreds of dollars each year. The price for course materials, along with general tuition costs, can be a hurdle to accessing education.

“Each semester, I would have students who struggled in the course because they couldn’t afford the textbook, so they were either sharing it with people or going to the library and reading when they could, so it was really affecting their ability to be successful," said Focarile.

Students collect information and submit work throughout the course, and Teresa gathers it up to decide how it best works in the collaborative textbook, with students' permission.

“Their final project is actually to write an introduction to the plays that we’ve read, so, future students will have the kind of historical context and information about the play that would’ve come if we had purchased an anthology, but this way it’s written by other students," said Focarile.

She didn’t personally write any of the prior textbooks for her course, which could potentially dissuade other professors from trying out open educational resources. However, the students in her class appreciate the effort.

“My initial response from students has been very positive; I’ve had them unprompted reach out to me to say they really happy this course has this OER and has saved them money and also made it so they can access the material whenever they can."