Students save $1M using open educational resources

students look at computers

Students at University of the Pacific have saved more than $1 million over the past five years by using open educational resources rather than buying traditional textbooks. 

Open educational resources are materials, from single lessons and videos to entire textbooks, which are available for students and faculty to use, adapt and share for free.

The use of open educational resources began as a pilot program at Pacific in 2017. The program is administered by University Libraries and the Center for Teaching and Learning with funding provided by the Technology in Education Committee.

Faculty can apply for stipends to adopt or revise existing material or create their own. Since starting the program, Pacific has awarded 82 stipends, impacting more than 6,200 students.

“This has had a big impact,” said Niraj Chaudhary, dean of the library. “If students had not used those freely available materials that their faculty created, they would have paid more than $1 million dollars buying materials.”

Josh Steimel, assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering department, wrote his first open educational resource textbook in 2019 and has written three more. He estimates the free resources save his students up to $500 for one class and make lessons easier to understand.

“When you incorporate these open educational resource texts, they are perfectly suited for your course. You are not jumping from chapter to chapter and there is no loss of translation,” Steimel said.

“It helps so much,” said Calista Morita ’24, a student in Steimel’s class. “The cost for buying textbooks is expensive. There are also videos that we have access to, which helps with homework.”

The use of open educational resources has also been shown to improve equity and retention.

“Imagine all students having the resources they need on the first day of class. That levels the playing field,” Chaudhary said. 

Pacific is working to expand its use of open educational resources. The university is one of 73 institutions across the country that was selected to participate in the 2022-23 Institute on Open Educational Resources through the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Pacific to be accepted into this prestigious year-long institute,” said Provost Maria Pallavicini. “Our faculty and staff are learning new strategies that will continue to advance learning environments for our students.”

Faculty and staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning and Student Life are representing Pacific in the institute, which started in July. 

A celebration to mark reaching one million dollars in savings will be held Thursday, Oct. 27 from noon to 1 p.m. in the William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center on the Stockton Campus.