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Free online textbooks help OSU-OKC concurrent students

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

Students who take general education courses at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City are saving significant money through an online textbook initiative launched in 2018.

“This year we are on pace to save students more than $1 million on textbooks,” said Joey Fronheiser, vice president of academic affairs at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC). “This is huge.”

The initiative started as a way to enable more high school students to take concurrent courses and get ahead on their college education, Fronheiser said.

The state pays tuition for up to 18 hours of college credit for eligible high school seniors and nine hours for juniors, but the students are responsible for fees and books.

“Even though the tuition is free, textbook costs are an issue for many students,” Fronheiser said.

Now, instead of paying for the “Introduction to Sociology” textbook, students are getting the content free. It’s one of 15 textbooks students no longer have to buy.

“Our faculty members know our students the best and are better able to find and develop content students need,” Fronheiser said. “OERs have been a huge success with our students and faculty.”

Fronheiser said the savings are partly responsible for the growth in OSU-OKC’s concurrent enrollment, which has increased significantly over the past three years.

The no-cost or low-cost online textbooks – known as open educational resources (OER) – were offered to concurrent students last academic year and extended to the rest of the OSU-OKC campus this year. The OERs are making a big dent in the cost of the general education courses all OSU-OKC students are required to take, Fronheiser said.

OSU-OKC faculty use a number of content sources to package free content and customize it with presentational material, supporting videos, and discussion boards. The result are an engaging “textbook” that costs students nothing or a small amount, but never more than $25, Fronheiser said.

Piedmont High School began partnering with OSU-OKC in 2017 to make concurrent courses available to as many students as possible, said Trinity Johnson, Piedmont’s executive director of instruction and student services.

College instructors are teaching 13 classes this year at the high school campus, Johnson said. More than half the senior class and about 80 juniors are taking courses.

“They provide as many instructors as we need. We never have to turn a kid away,” Johnson said.

Not having to pay for textbooks encourages students to take more classes than they did when their families had to buy books, he said.

OSU-OKC President Brad Williams said offering OERs is the right thing to do for the school’s students.

“This effort is just one of many ways that our campus family is working to help students manage costs of attendance as they navigate the pathway toward a certificate or degree, and the career they have dreamed of.”