Students Save Big As Nicolet Expands Free Instructional Materials
Nicolet College is well on its way to hitting the $1 million mark in textbook savings for students by continuously expanding the program that eliminates costly textbooks and replaces them with educational materials students can get for free.
Since starting the program in 2018, students have saved $856,200 in textbook costs, said Penny Kuckkahn, director of Instructional Effectiveness and Flexible Learning.
“Textbooks can be quite expensive which adds another financial challenge for students,” said Kuckkahn. “Our goal is to reduce and remove as many barriers as possible to students getting a college education. By using these free materials, known as Open Educational Resources, we are able to open the door to college a little wider for students to get the skills and education they need to get further ahead in life.”
When the program was first launched in the 2018-2019 academic year, student textbook savings totaled about $69,000.
That number has jumped to $261,487 annually for the recently completed 2020-2021 academic year.
“We’ve put in a lot of effort to expand this to as many classes as possible and it’s rewarding to see those continue to grow,” Kuckkahn added. “To date, more than 6,850 students have saved on textbook costs by using these free materials, and we expect that number to continue to grow as we expand OER even further.”
The majority of the instructional materials come from oercommons.org, a vast, content-rich website where educators from across the globe openly share a wide variety of instructional material that is available at no cost.
“This is a major shift in how students access learning materials they need,” said Cindy Domaika, who first brought OER to Nicolet and is the manager of Open and Educational Resources at the college.
“Sources range from electronic textbooks to videos and PowerPoint presentations to a wide variety of other content that is available entirely in an electronic format.”
Domaika stressed that all of the material that makes it into a Nicolet OER class goes through a rigorous review process to ensure it meets academic standards.
“We make sure that all of the material is peer reviewed by faculty at other colleges and universities,” Domaika said.
Every Nicolet class has a list of course competencies that outline the subject matter to be learned in that course.
To gather the educational material that covers all of the competencies, Nicolet instructors and Domaika work hand in hand to find course materials.
“What’s nice is that I can customize the content to exactly what students need,” said Ellen Mathein, Nicolet Business Management instructor. “I can take the chapters I want from an electronic textbook, delete the rest, and then add in other instructional material that teaches to the specific competencies in the course.”