Professor Mokros Expands Use of Free OERs to Replace Classroom Textbooks
The wave of the future is now. In response to the forces of inflation and technology, educators from Kent State University’s Geauga Campus are helping their students ride this wave by removing financial barriers to learning and broadening student success through increased access to free, online educational resources.
“We know that a college education is increasingly expensive and that the cost of textbooks has risen 88% in the last decade. Not being able to afford textbooks is not an acceptable reason for a regional-campus student to not take a class or not pursue a degree,” says Molly M. Mokros, Associate Lecturer in the Department of English at Kent State Geauga.
For that very reason, Professor Mokros recently sought and received a second grant in as many years to redesign her courses using free instructional materials known as Open Educational Resources (OERs). OhioLINK —a leader among library consortia that works collaboratively to deliver resources and services to Ohio students, faculty, and citizens—offers this grant program to support faculty who develop and use free online resources as an alternative to costly and often outdated textbooks.
“OERs, which are free, lessen the financial burden of many of our students in a meaningful way,” Professor Mokros explains. “The benefits of OERs are not only financial; they are also educational.”
OERs can improve learner outcomes by making instructional materials available and free to all from the first day of class, reducing the incidence of students falling behind if they cannot afford to purchase required textbooks.
In Spring 2023, Professor Mokros was part of a group of three Geauga Campus English faculty awarded a $5,000 grant to write and produce free teaching and learning materials (OERs) for a developmental first-year writing course. Along with Assistant Professor Sorina Ailiesei and Associate Professor Bonnie Shaker, Professor Mokros is helping develop one shared new curriculum for Stretch writing (ENG 11001-11002).
Her most recent $650 OER Course Redesign Grant involves exploring existing OER alternatives to replace one of the traditional textbooks her students currently use in her ENG 21011 Research Writing courses (she typically teaches three sections each semester). After vetting possible resources, Professor Mokros will adopt at least one existing OER for the coming spring or fall semester.
The grant program includes a three-week training period during which Professor Mokros created a curriculum map to align the open-access, no-cost resource with her course and assignment learning objectives. She may also present on a panel at the Ohio OpenCon conference in the spring or at future OhioLINK workshops.
Professor Mokros is convinced that the educational benefits of OERs are superior to those of textbooks for the modern student.
“First, it is my experience that the way our students learn in general and the way our students read in particular have changed dramatically from when I first started teaching at Kent in 2009. The truth is that, if I am to be an effective instructor focused on my students' success, I have to adapt and so do my choices of course materials. Many OERs are more modular in nature than traditional textbooks, and their framework and organization more closely reflect and respond to the way our students have become accustomed to interfacing and interacting with text.”
Further, Professor Mokros chose to pilot a new OER specifically for her Research Writing classes because she is seeking a resource that more comprehensively covers the research process; a major component of the course.
“The research process itself is recursive in nature, and a modular OER better mirrors and facilitates the successful experience and learning of this process for students.”
OERs are compatible with in-person classes as well as online learning, as educational platforms evolve rapidly to keep pace with technology.
“Not only are they free to and easily accessible by students, but they also promote the free exchange of information among instructors, scholars, and experts,” Professor Mokros points out.
“In addition, depending on their licensing, many OERs are easily adaptable to individual instructors' needs, which are really just extensions of individual students' needs. This ease and efficiency are only going to become more and more important going forward.”