The project is part of the federal Open Textbooks Pilot Program, funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Participants from Nicholls are:
- Elizabeth Batte, director of the Ellender Memorial Library
- Brandy Burbante, cataloging librarian
- Dr. James Gilley, assistant professor of political science
- Dr. Kevin McQueeney, assistant professor of history and geography.
Batte and Burbante are among 25 Louisiana academic librarians to lead faculty cohorts on the Interactive OER for Dual Enrollment project.
The goal of the project is to create 25 general education courses using OERs. OERs are teaching materials – such as textbooks and lesson plans – which are available for free with an open license. By using OERS, this will reduce the cost for over 250,000 dual enrollment students across the state. “Through this program, we can provide access to high-quality materials at very affordable prices,” Dr. Gilley said. “It is important to provide affordable options for educational resources so that everyone has a chance to learn and grow as full people.”
Batte will assist a faculty cohort in developing Fundamentals for Communication, while Burbante will do the same for the Computer Applications cohort. Dr. Gilley will work with faculty on the Introductions to American Government team, and Dr. McQueeney will work with the team for American History II.
Chosen courses have high enrollment, but poor outcomes and low passing rates. Besides identifying OERs, cohorts will also design interactive and diverse courses for students.
“This program addresses the equity issues involved in dual enrollment and access to higher education,” Burbante said. “In the end, this will create more opportunities for students to earn college credit. And those students who find success early on have a better chance to become college graduates who become productive members of our community.”
Since 2006, textbook prices have risen about 88 percent, according to the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.
“As a university that serves a population with a majority of students coming from low and moderate-income backgrounds, and a high percentage of students of color, this issue is particularly pressing,” Dr. McQueeney said. “Hopefully, these courses can better meet the diverse learning needs of all students.”
Almost two-thirds of students have skipped buying a required textbook for class, according to a 2019 survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Additionally, 19 percent of students choose their classes based on the cost of textbooks, while 11 percent say they have skipped a meal after purchasing books for the semester, according to the survey.
“As a first-gen student, I understand the value of every penny spent on education and how hard it can be to pay for expensive textbooks,” Batte said. “Every little bit counts and if there is something I can do to make higher education more affordable and accessible to students, then I am going to do it.”
The U.S. Department of Education established the Open Textbooks Pilot Program in 2018. LOUIS was chosen as part of the program in 2020.
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