Free Educational Resources Encourage Student Success

Wednesday, December 12, 2018
andru gonzalez

In response to the skyrocketing cost of student textbooks, Raritan Valley Community College has launched a pilot program to provide students in 10 different classes with free access to textbooks.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of college textbooks increased 181 percent from 1998-2016, compared to an overall increase of 51 percent in the consumer price index. Textbook prices are creating barriers to student success, forcing some students to delay or even forgo buying the required course textbook.

In response, a growing number of RVCC courses have replaced traditional textbooks with Open Educational Resources (OER), which are online resources that can be freely downloaded, edited and shared. OER not only saves students money, it also offers innovative instruction options for faculty based on the most up-to-date information in the field of study.

Ten RVCC courses have been using the OER materials during the Fall 2018 Semester, and an additional five courses will be implementing them next semester. Most of these classes—such as Introduction to Business, Business Law I and II, English Composition II, Introduction to Literature, the Nature of Science, and Introduction to Sociology—are high enrollment, first-year courses. RVCC students enrolled in these classes have saved over $93,000 in textbook costs.

“It was a sigh of relief to know the book has online accessibility and was free. Having to pay out of pocket for books always puts extra stress on me,” says RVCC student Andru Gonzalez. The Bridgewater resident has been using the OER materials in his Business Law class this semester, taught by Professor Melanie Morris.

Morris says she first began using the materials in 2013 in the online version of her Business Law II class. “As someone who needed to take out loans to finance my own education, I’m keenly aware of the long-term impact of the cost of education. As I was frustrated with the rising costs of commercial textbooks in my discipline semester after semester, I decided to use OER to achieve a cost savings for students,” explains Morris.

RVCC is one of very few community colleges in the state to implement the initiative, which is being spearheaded at the College by Instructional Services Librarian Megan Dempsey and Center for Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship Co-Director Andrew Manno. The initiative has received support through the RVCC Foundation.

In addition to the cost factor, students benefit from using a textbook that can be easily customized by the professor, says Morris. “Our open text has some editing within the chapters which would be difficult with a commercial text. Students also have many options for accessing the text. Everyone has access pretty much all the time.”

Says Gonzalez, “Using the OER to study and prepare for exams was a great help. OER provided questions at the end of each sub-chapter to make sure I understood the material, as well as cases at the end of each chapter to apply the material I learned.”

“Students appreciate the savings associated with the open textbook,” Morris says. “I’ve surveyed the students. They tend to find the OER comparable to commercial texts and recommend continuing to use the open text by around 85-90 percent, depending on the survey.”

For additional information about Open Educational Resources at RVCC, contact Megan Dempsey at

Ranked by,, and as the #1 community college in New Jersey, Raritan Valley Community College has been serving as an academic and cultural center for Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for 50 years. The College has been nationally recognized for its service to the community, environmental stewardship, and commitment to diversity. It is home to a Planetarium, Science Education Institute and 3M Observatory; a 1,000-seat Theatre offering professional performances for all ages; and an Honors College for high achieving students.

The College offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates, as well as career training, small business assistance through the Small Business Development Center, professional development, and adult and youth personal enrichment courses. RVCC is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, NJ. For further information, visit



December 12, 2018

Media contact: Donna Stolzer, 908-526-1200, ext. 8383

PR #72