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Zero Cost Textbook Resources

Zero Cost Textbooks & Open Educational Resources


These FAQs are taken from the Chaffey College ZTC/OER Training in Canvas (Fall 2023).  

Q: What about variable text costs?

What happens when an instructor is using more than one type of resource (e.g. OER and Library resources)? What happens when a textbook is available through multiple purchasing platforms at different rates? Or a rented copy is cheaper than a purchased copy? 

A: When Mixing and/or Remixing--it's all about averages! 

In regard to open access for all individuals, it's important to remember the average cost of material. When looking at online retailers and the Campus store, there might be fairly drastic price differences in purchasing abilities. However, many times rented copies of a textbook are in limited quantities, despite the fact that the Campus store works diligently to offer as many textbook options as students enrolled in each section. There are also limited quantities of textbooks available at other retailers. Therefore, taking the average of all compared costs of the course material is imperative. 

For example, if a textbook can be rented on Chegg for $30, purchased on Amazon as a digital copy for $25, and purchased through the Campus store for $40, the average cost of that textbook is $31.67. 

Q: The textbook in my course costs over $50, but the same textbook is used in multiple courses along a degree pathway. How do I determine the textbook designation? 

Let's say a textbook costs $250 for a student to purchase for class "A" but that same textbook is used within 4 other courses along the degree pathway. Technically the student is only making that $250 purchase once. Does that mean that first class is "Traditional Model" and all of the following classes are ZTC? Or do we take the total cost of the textbook and divide it amongst the 5 total classes (where that one textbook is used) to get an average cost of $50, and therefore designate all the classes in the sequence as LCT? 

A: Good question - It's complicated. 

It's complicated, and there are a few assumptions we must tackle with this problem. First is the assumption that students will continue to move through the program at the institution. Students change majors, drop programs, and switch schools all the time, which means the textbook isn't "low cost" unless the student is guaranteed to take all the courses. The second assumption is that students have the financial capacity to "average" the total cost of the textbook over the span of the course sequence, which may take years to complete. As we have discussed in the previous module, financial insecurity is a large reason why students drop or change majors. Taking a "cost benefit analysis" on the overall cost of a textbook is a financial privilege many students do not have. 

The Textbook Transformation Project Committee, alongside Chaffey Administration, and Academic Senate, came to the consensus that all courses should be listed with the total textbook cost for that class (e.g. $250 from the example). This would inform new students joining into the program, either as new students or transfer students, of material costs that may arise at any point in the course sequence. It would be in the instructors' best interest to reiterate and recommend using previously purchased textbook material for students to save cost on their Textbook Material Adoption forms completed through the Bookstore and on their course syllabus for student transparency. 

Q: What about students' preference towards printed material? 

Some students prefer to have hard copies of their course material in order to take hand-written notes. Other students may have unreliable internet connections that prevent them from utilizing online material in all types of environments. It's important that all material is accessible to all students at all times. If a printed copy is offered, but students could choose to access the material completely online for free, would the class still be considered "ZTC"? 

A: The Campus Store offers printing of OER material at a small fee. 

Since printing of ZTC or OER material would be up to student discretion, the course would still be listed as ZTC, even though an individual student may incur self-elected costs towards printing through the campus store. Printing costs also vary depending on color or black-and-white printing, the style of binding requested, and other additional factors. Students can receive individualized quotes on costs by contacting the Campus Store. 

Q: What about other required supplies (outside of the course textbook)? 

There are many courses that require additional supplies that are not textbooks or bound resources. This can include things like art supplies, lab kits, fire extinguishers, etc. 

A: Textual resources are separate from course supplies. 

While all materials that need to be purchased by the student to complete the course should be made transparent (so that the student can understand the full financial burden they will be expected to uphold), items that are classified as "supplies" for the course are not within the framework definition of ZTC. Therefore, if a course needs to purchase a textbook alongside a "kit," only the textbook cost would need to be considered when designating ZTC, LCT, or TM. EX: If the course uses OER material for the textbook alongside a "kit" that must be purchased, that course can be listed as ZTC on the course search. 

Q: I have purchased a copy of the course material I want students to review, made copies of it, and I distribute that for free to students. Where does this fall within the course textbook designation? 

Maybe it's a scanned version of a book you've had since you were in grad school that an instructor passed out in class. Maybe it's just a few pages from a textbook that explains the concepts so well it's too good not to use. Maybe it's from an author that represents student voices in such a way that it feels inequitable not to include. Scanning a few pages from a copy-written source, we've all done it - and if we haven't....well, we've thought about it! 

A: Please be aware of Copyright violations.  

Wanting to get costs as low as possible for students is admirable. Having a community of practice where resources are shared openly is considered "normal" within many disciplines. However, scanning copyrighted work or directing students to file-sharing sites violates AP 3750, may violate federal copyright laws, and does not constitute academic “fair-use.”  Instead, faculty should consult with their ZTC Coaches or review the extensive list of OERs provided by ASCCC.

Further, any use of materials must be done so in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (Public Law 104-197) and the federal Copyright Act of 1976 (Public Law 94-553). Source: California Education Code 78052(d)(4) via CaseText

For more information on this subject, please view the OER Resources & Copyright page of the Textbook Transformation Project's webpage. 

Q: Can I use videos in my ZTC course? 

A: Usually yes, but it depends. 

Many commons sites like YouTube have copyright that meets public domain or academic fair use clauses. However, this is not always true for every video, or videos on other sites. Be mindful of any copyright language on videos, while some may limit the copyright to any commercial use, others might ask for explicit permission for any and all use.  

Q: How are new editions handled in OER textbooks? 

A: Seamlessly! 

All textbooks need updating. In the traditional commercial textbook format, this means that the textbook needs to be published again which includes printing costs that raise the price of the textbook. It might also mean that information is not updated right away, and publishers wait for all updates to occur on a regular publishing cycle. Since OER textbooks live in a digital realm, updating becomes seamless and can happen much quicker than the traditional sense. The authors and leads of OER textbooks have access to update the material on whatever platform it "lives." Many platforms such as LibreText and OpenStax also have contact forms for members of the public to provide suggested revisions as well for the authors to consider. These updates help maintain accuracy and relevancy of information, while also help maintain the free cost to users. 

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