University of Hawaiʻi Community College students statewide have saved almost $5.6 million in textbook costs since 2015 through UH Open Educational Resources (OER). The initiative develops and provides no-cost or low-cost online learning materials throughout the UH system.

“The fact that I don’t have to pay for an actual textbook, which is like another $100 per class I have to take, is a whole world of difference,” said Leeward Community College student Jacob Flores, who works full-time as a grocery clerk at Safeway.

Leeward CC is leading the way with 40 percent of the campus’ spring 2019 classes sporting the “TXT0” designation, meaning zero out-of-pocket costs for textbooks and supplemental course materials. The campus has saved students $3.4 million since 2015 through OER.

Infographic on textbook affordability
Full-sized version and accessible version.

Assistant Professor Kelsie Aguilera actually collaborated with anthropologists around the world on the free online textbook her Anthropology 151 class used in fall 2019.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” said Aguilera. “I don’t have to assign an expensive textbook to my students. I have autonomy toward what I give my students in terms of educational materials and I think it’s really democratized the knowledge production process.”

Ghiana Salud, a culinary arts student in Aguilera’s Anthropology 151 class, says she appreciates the textbook’s incorporation of videos, audio and direct references. “I definitely like it,” Salud said. “One, it saves a lot of money, but it offers a different learning ability than just reading.”

OER has flourished at Leeward CC with the support and leadership of Head Librarian Wayde Oshiro and Educational Media Center Coordinator Leanne Riseley.

“I think by localizing and customizing the teaching materials we just help to make the learning experience more engaging for our students,” Oshiro said.

Riseley added, “The main thing that we see and we hear is that we are saving students money. So students are super grateful that they are able to use the money that they would have used for textbooks on necessities like rent and food.”

Besides continuing to increase cost savings to students, another goal of the OER initiative is to have a single website with all TXT0 courses from all 10 UH campuses listed. The initiative also supports faculty in developing OER materials and improving teaching and learning in the process. In May 2019, faculty systemwide collaborated on “sprints” to develop content for English 100 and Economics 131 classes.

Riseley said, “I think the end goal is that UH becomes a major player in this OER movement, where we are contributing to education in a meaningful way so that everybody who are experts in their field are actively participating in the creation of materials in their field.”

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

students in classroom
Kelsie Aguilera and her Anthropology 151 class