A big trend in high school public education is the “Dual Credit” course. This type of course provides students a parallel avenue to take college courses while at the same time getting high school credit.
For instance, a student might take a “Dual Credit” Chemistry course where the course is taught both at a Community or Junior College as well as the student’s home high school. In the end, if the student is successful, she will get both high school credits towards graduation as well as college credit for the course she took.
The idea behind Dual Credit is that students will be more likely to matriculate into college if they can get a head start. A side benefit is that the student and often the parents save money because college will not be as expensive if a student has a few years of credit in their back pocket with they move to college.
Great deal right? Of course, it is. School districts can provide an added value to their student’s education, Community Colleges get a jump start on recruiting post-secondary students, students get a jump on their college careers, and parents save a few bucks.
How is it all paid for? The public school districts typically bear the brunt of the burden of paying not only for the student’s tuition for the classes but also for the textbooks as well.
While that might not seem too much of a burden, considering the return on investment, but in a medium to large size school district, the yearly investment can run into several hundred thousand if not millions of dollars.
A big chunk of that cost is for textbooks, which as everyone is well aware of, are typically excessively expensive. The average new college text, according to CBS News Marketwatch was $153 in 2017.
A district with 1000 students taking dual credit courses could easily spend close to $200,000 just on textbooks alone. (And how many of us were forced to purchase a text in college that was hardly ever opened?)
While the costs of texts might be high, it doesn’t have to be that way. Colleges and Universities across the world are choosing to opt-out of the crazy publisher-driven closed ecosystem of college textbooks. The choice to move away from the old model is driven in part by the Open Education Resource (OER) movement, where textbooks are created and released free of charge for anyone to use at any time anywhere.
One such effort is the OpenStax program at Rice University where over 9 million students worldwide have used these free and open textbooks, for a combined savings of close to $850 million since 2012. These books are University-produced, university curated and vetted.
No one can say that they are not of high quality, and rival even the most expensive texts in the close to 50 university-level subject areas form Biology to Economics. They are, in all measures, quality college-level textbooks.
And they are free. Free to use, free to share, free to download, free to print, even free to modify if a professor so chooses. It is a great deal.
And OpenStax is not alone. Across the country, universities from MIT to UNY to Boston College, to Carnegie Mellon have all created and put out OER materials for students and professors anywhere to use. (Check out just some of the free texts here)
Some universities have even moved away from the old textbook model altogether. UT Austin had a modified dual credit program (dual enrollment) called UT OnRamps that simply acknowledges that all of the information a student could use is available online already for free and does completely away with the traditional textbook.
All of the course information is just posted in an online repository and used as needed throughout the course.
It is time that the partner community and junior colleges join the OER movement and adopt these free materials as the de-facto standard for any course that has students enrolled in dual credit.
Of course, professors will complain that this limits their ability to teach freely and to choose their class materials, but that argument is negated by the fact that the information in any text is freely available anywhere and that general information should not be “owned” by anyone or any company.
How Pearson, for instance, explains economic theory cannot be that different than how OpenStax does it. The Periodic Table is the Periodic Table, no matter if a paid publisher or an OER publisher creates it. Hydrogen will always be H, and Keynesian economics is always Keynesian economics.
It is also time that public school districts stand up and say to the institutions of higher learning that they must become responsive to the needs of the school districts who are their customers after all. If there are opportunities to save money while maintaining the rigor of the curriculum, then why NOT use OER? Who isn’t for saving money?
OER is not going away. Students getting credit for post-secondary work is not going away either. Both are good ideas and both need to be married to make a good idea a great idea.
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink, Read his previous columns here.
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