Some professors at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City are taking part in a pilot program.
Its goal is to reduce the cost of higher education for students.
So far, it’s saved students at NMC tens of thousands of dollars — using what’s called free "open education resources."
About 4,000 students attend NMC. Together they’ve saved nearly 60,000 dollars this semester alone.
And it all has to do with the cost of books.
“College is insanely expensive. And this is one way we can help students cut the cost of college,” said NMC Library Director Tina Ulrich.
Ten professors signed on to the Open Education Resources Pilot.
They all agreed to revise one course to use only free learning materials.
“This is an open textbook, it’s free online. You just click on it and anybody can get to it. It’s free online so anyone can use it, remix it, and distribute it. You can print your own copy if you want to.”
The pilot’s possible because of a 5,000 dollar grant from the NMC Foundation.
Librarians are helping professors find alternative resources.
“The people who wrote this book licensed it under creative commons license. That means anybody can use it. So you’re not paying anyone because nobody owns it. It belongs to everybody.”
Professors and librarians look for materials with content comparable to traditional textbooks.
“Our department reviewed materials to make sure they’re ADA-compliant so that all students could access materials if they have learning disabilities,” said Instructional Technology Coordinator Mark DeLonge.
An educational shift the school says has saved students a collective 200,000 dollars this year.
A program many outside NMC could potentially benefit from.
“It’s a worldwide movement that allows people from different countries those lower socioeconomic countries to access materials and teach courses they normally wouldn’t have access to.”
NMC hopes to integrate open education resources into more curricula over time.