Hester wins grant to provide online textbook

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Piedmont Community College science instructor Katie Hester provides innovative instruction through hands-on learning in her classroom. So why should using a textbook be any different?

To assist students, Hester recently won a grant that will allow PCC students enrolling in General Biology I, General Biology II, and Microbiology  to use Open Educational Resources which are free, online textbooks.

Through NC LIVE, Hester received a $1,000 grant that will assist her in making the transition between textbooks. In the long run, it will save students between $250-$400.

“My initiative to take on this project came mainly from my students,” Hester said. “Every semester, I have students who cannot afford the incredibly expensive Biology textbook, plus the $65 - $100 online component required for my course.”

NC LIVE also saw this as a problem and through its Open Education North Carolina initiative, is reducing the cost of higher education by supporting the adoption of free, open textbooks in college courses. 

Hester noted that a lot of time goes into transitioning between books. First and foremost, she was concerned with finding a “quality textbook that is easy to maneuver online.” She was vigilant and attended professional development seminars regarding OERs and solicited feedback from countless instructors.

Now that the text has been selected, Hester will undergo the task of re-aligning her content. “Even though a lot of the content is the same, it gets presented differently in different textbooks. Chapter 2 is now chapter 3 and chapter 7 is now covered in chapter 12. Therefore, my lecture notes, Blackboard shell, syllabi, exams, online lectures and assignments all have to be re-formatted to align with the new textbook.” 

Even with the grant Hester said some challenges remain. “My worries are that a small fraction of my students may not have reliable internet availability at home to be able to access an online resource. Therefore, the textbook I chose can be downloaded and readily availability even without internet access. It also has a printed version available at a fraction of the cost of the old textbook.”

PCC students also have access to the College’s Learning Commons area which offers computers and internet access on the both Person and Caswell County campuses.

“We are very excited to provide a cost savings to students,” said Dr. Barbara Buchanan, PCC’s vice president for instruction and Chief Academic Officer. “We understand that getting an education is expensive. Thankfully, in addition to an excellent financial aid and scholarship team, Piedmont Community College also has instructors that are mindful of the expense and watching for opportunities to better serve our current and future students.”

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