Open Access Textbooks, Free Scantrons Coming to NDSU

Seniors, sell extra Scantrons while you can. North Dakota State Student Body President Mason Wenzel is accomplishing his campaign promises, making Scantron documents free for students in the coming school year.

Wenzel’s administration has made this possible through a deal with the Provost’s Office, in that the Provost’s Office will cover the entirety of the approximately $12,000 bill.

He said the move will not impact the NDSU bookstore as Scantrons are “not really a revenue generator.” The store is not re-stocking Scantrons for the coming year.

NDSU Provost Beth Ingram said she was approached by Wenzel and his then running mate Katie Mastel about the Scantron idea prior to the student body election as most candidates usually talk to her before running.

“When they came to me after the victory, I said ‘Yeah let’s do it,'” Ingram said. She added her department will buy Scantrons in bulk so they are cheaper as well.

Students will now acquire Scantrons through professors bringing them to class on test day.

Open Educational Resources

Scantrons are not the only free materials for students in the coming years.

Psychology 111 classes, as well as Biology 150, 151 and 252 classes will be the first to implement open textbooks under a new student government program. The program begins in Fall 2017 with psychology courses taught by Jared Ladbury, an associate professor of psychology. The biology classes will implement the program in the Fall 2018 semester.

Wenzel’s administration aims to have Open Educational Resources (OERs) have a large impact on students as well as have professors actually want to use open textbooks.

Biology and psychology were selected as the first subjects as they are “very different” and seen as pro-active and progressive, Wenzel said.

Ladbury is the only professor in psychology opting to use OERs.

“It’s always nice to get some summer compensation to actually make the change,” Ladbury said.

He ran a survey in his introductory psychology course this semester in which he learned approximately half of his students say the cost of a textbook is the most determining factor on if they will get the book or not. Ladbury said if the cost will prevent half of his students from getting textbooks, “we need to find a way around that.”

A Tuesday Two survey sent in mid-November, 2016, found 73.83 percent of students have refrained from purchasing textbooks due to cost.

The psychology textbook was easy to get behind as the American Psychology Association has a document in which what should be taught in an introductory psychology course, Ladbury said. “It’s fairly easy for these open educational resources to look at documents like that and build a textbook that fits what I need it to be.”

When biology will be implemented, every professor teaching Biology 150, 151 and 252 will use OERs.

Biology is taking longer to be implemented as there will be open supplemental material in addition to textbooks which include graphs, figures, graphics and pictures.

Wenzel said the concept of having open textbooks is not a new idea, but one which has lacked dedication to accomplish it.

“From the moment I told Spencer Moir that I want to take on open textbooks to the first grant that we approved and distributed was probably about a five, six month long period,” Wenzel said.

In the future

Mathematics, chemistry and engineering are three areas which Wenzel and Michael Russell, student government’s executive commissioner on academic and student affairs, said they aim to have covered by OERS.

Wenzel added the day he will know OERs have made it at NDSU is when calculus courses adopt the program. “Once you get into calculus courses and other areas in the math department, I think you are really selling it,” Wenzel said. He added his reason is that between applied calculus, Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Calculus 3, Calculus 4 and business math taught at NDSU affect 90 percent of NDSU students.

“The goal of this is to impact all students,” Wenzel said.

“It’s a selling point,” Wenzel said. He further added he wants tour guides to be able to tell prospective students they will not have to pay for textbooks in their general education courses.

“I hate buying textbooks,” Wenzel said, adding, “I refrain from buying them at all costs solely because I think they’re expensive and professors don’t use them.”

Wenzel, Russell and Ladbury all said they are “really excited” about the future of the OER program.

Costs

The open textbooks will be based through openstax.org, an organization partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which aims to provide open access textbooks to anyone. As such, the initial cost to use the textbooks will be free to students and professors alike.

A $10,000 fund created by student government has been allocated to compensate professors for buying into the OER program. Wenzel said they would like to get more funding from reserves, though.

He added compensation to a professor is a one-time payment, with each professor being compensated receiving on average between $1,000 and $3,000 on a case-by-case basis.

Russell said the largest hurdle to overcome is getting professors to buy into the program.

“We’re going on like sales pitches, as Mason calls them,” Russell said, adding he meets with different heads of departments to ask if they would be interested in the program.

“A lot of instructors are like, ‘Oh, you’re willing to pay me? Sure,'” Russell said.

Open Educational Resources Board

Student senate has created the OERB to help sustain the program forever, Wenzel said.

The board will provide student influence to administrators, but also add legitimacy within the program as administrators will sit on the board to help it continue.

At press time, there is no set positions for who will be on the board aside from student government’s executive commissioner of technology and executive commissioner of academic and student affairs.

Editor’s Note: Other professors at NDSU, such geosciences professor Kenneth Lepper, have already used OERs in their curriculum prior to student government’s OER program.

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