Hostos Expanding Its Open Educational Resources (OER)

Expanding on its efforts to save students money on expensive textbooks, increase their exposure to high-tech learning tools, and improve graduation rates, Hostos Community College is offering Open Educational Resources in more classes for the 2017-2018 school year.

Last year, Hostos shared a $300,000 Open Educational Resources (OER) grant that provided these free educational resources for the College’s Early-Childhood Education associate degree program. The funding offered substantial savings to students, as well as enhance classroom curriculum. This year, Hostos has been awarded additional funding from the state to expand these materials to other disciplines. The expansion of OER will include 14 new courses in the Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences, which will replace expensive textbooks with free, mainly online, learning materials. The program will save approximately 1,000 students between $150 and $300 per course.

Studies show that the annual cost of textbooks is about $1,300 per year for a full-time community college student and amounts to about one-third of the cost of an associate degree. This cost is a significant barrier to college completion. Students who don’t complete college are over 50 percent more likely to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to a study by the research firm Public Agenda.

Equally important, using digital and interactive OER, such as open courseware, will encourage faculty to teach students in more engaging and dynamic ways and invite students to become more actively involved in their own learning.

Christine Hutchins, an Associate Professor of English at Hostos, is utilizing OER exclusively in her classes, including Shakespeare, English 101, and Writing Skills and Composition.

After surveying her students, she found they overwhelmingly favored using OER over textbooks, due to the savings and convenience.

Hostos student Corey Richards is majoring in Electrical Engineering and took advantage of OER materials.
“The online materials are great, not just because they are free but also because they are very convenient,” Richards said. “It is easier to carry than books, so I can read the materials on the go, like on trains or in my spare time. They are also always available and impossible to lose.”

The overall CUNY-wide effort was made possible thanks to a $4 million grant from the state. The CUNY Office of Library Services, including Hostos’ Chief Librarian Madeline Ford, helped secure the grant and expand the effort to all CUNY campuses.

Ann Mester, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Hostos, said the benefits go beyond monetary savings.

“Textbook costs are notoriously high, and these courses will be attractive to students for economic reasons,” Mester said. “However, we also intend to bring added value to our course materials through the use of virtual labs, animations, and other materials that go beyond what a print textbook can provide.”

The effort began with the formation of the CUNY OER Consortium in 2016, comprised of Hostos, Borough of Manhattan Community College and Bronx Community College. It was spearheaded by Achieving the Dream, Inc., and was designed to help remove financial roadblocks that derail students’ progress and spur improvements that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.

About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities for nearly half a century. Since 1968, Hostos has been a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs.

Hostos offers 27 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.