By The Musselman Library, Theodore Szpakowski
This February, Musselman Library is celebrating Textbook Affordability Week by thanking instructors who have made a difference by using course materials that are zero-cost, openly licensed, or both. A display in the library from February 20th to 24th highlights “superlative” instructors and gives students and other community members a chance to write cards to instructors making a difference, which the library will send.
Why celebrate these efforts? Expensive commercial textbooks can be a barrier to students taking and succeeding in the classes they need for Gettysburg requirements or career goals. They also may not fit what a professor needs. This is a problem the Spanish department has been addressing with open textbooks.
“The textbooks currently published by the big, professional publishing companies do not include components that we would like to see in a textbook. Pronunciation, songs to practice pronunciation, and reading selections are often not up to date or are not included at all. We can easily edit and update an [open] text very quickly without having to wait for a publishing company. Working as a team, we can share resources and improve our teaching skills,” explained Barbara Sommers, who teaches Spanish.
Zero-cost and open course materials are both options to increase equity—marginalized students hurt the most by commercial textbook prices are also those who benefit the most from access to zero-cost courses and openly licensed materials.
A zero-cost course uses course materials that result in no cost for the students. Instructors achieve this using open materials, library-licensed materials, free online materials, or print textbooks owned by the department and loaned to students. For example, ES 400 uses material accessed through the library, and CHEM 203 uses a textbook that is free online.
Open courses are often considered the gold standard for textbook affordability. Students can freely access the materials, and professors can revise them to meet their course requirements. Additionally, their adaptability makes them great choices for accessibility. Some courses use a mix of open and commercial materials, meaning they are not always zero-cost.
“Everybody wins by using OER—students having access to free course materials benefits not only the student, but also the instructor: they’re easy to adopt and use, students appreciate you for it, and I know that every person in my class has access to the same resources,” said Josef Brandauer, who teaches health sciences and is the director of the Johnson Center for Creative Teaching and Learning (JCCTL).
Brandauer is one of several that the library has highlighted as “superlative” in their work toward textbook affordability. Across six categories, these instructors stand out from their colleagues. Brandauer was chosen as MVP for his years of using open course materials in his classes and his support of open and zero-cost initiatives at the JCCTL.
Two other individuals were spotlighted. Rachele Salvini, who teaches English, is the Rookie of the Year for the big splash she’s made in her first year of using open course materials. On the zero-cost side, Tyeshia Redden was chosen as Creativity Champ. She teaches Africana Studies, which has a limited number of open resources available. She has overcome this potential problem by using library-licensed digital materials to build zero-cost courses.
“Finances should never be a hindrance to education and the possibilities of exploration that are open to students,” explained Redden.
The library also highlighted groups making a difference. The math department was selected as Heavy Hitters for teaching thirty class sections with open or zero-cost materials for the 2021-2022 academic year—the most of any department.
Four Spanish instructors—Chris Oechler, María Pérez, Barbara Sommers, and Covadonga Arroyo García—made up this year’s Dream Team. They have developed remixed open books and activities for Spanish 101 and 102, which are taken by many students every year.
“The rising price of textbooks is a barrier to many students’ success, and it can be a clear example of inequity. We all need to work on initiatives that promote inclusion and accessibility from our positions as faculty. This project has helped to develop a tailor-made course to be able to accommodate the different learning styles of Gettysburg College students and the department goals. We have worked together as a team bringing our own experience and expertise together. Projects like this are not only beneficial for the students but they also help to promote teamwork and collaboration,” said Pérez.
Finally, Alice Brawley Newlin and Marta Maras, who teach management, were highlighted as Super Savers. Their textbook remix has saved students over $100,000 since 2020.
“We are so happy that using a freely accessible textbook has made it easier for us to share our love of statistics with students! But we couldn’t have done it without our amazing librarians, especially Janelle and Mary!” Brawley Newlin and Maras commented.
Come celebrate these professors and more during Textbook Affordability Week at Musselman Library!
February 21, 2023
As a Spanish teacher, I am very proud of Chris Oechler, Maria Perez, Barbara Sommers and Covadonga Arroyo Garcia. They are a good example of how bilingual education can achieve new goals for everyone!