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Online Textbook Program Saves Criminal Justice Majors Thousands of Dollars

November 10, 2016

Starting Spring 2017, Criminal Justice (CRJ) majors at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) can bypass traditional textbooks in their Criminal Justice required courses and instead use Open Educational Resources (OER), or online textbooks.

By Fall 2018, they will have OER options in all of their required courses, both Criminal Justice courses and those in other departments. In other words, they will be able to graduate without buying a single book.

For several semesters, students have been able to access OER for courses at BMCC. “We’ve already saved students at BMCC a total of about $250,000 through the OER movement,” says Jean Amaral, BMCC Professor and Outreach Librarian

OER materials also enrich student learning, she says, and it can be a “transformative experience for professors as they convert a textbook-based course to an OER course, creating an online version that includes videos, podcasts and various forms of writing on the web; articles and vast amounts of material available for free that energize bothstudents and faculty.”

Faculty and staff have explored OER options at BMCC for several years. In Summer 2016, the college joined a nationwide initiative led by Achieving the Dream, Inc., and committed to converting one entire degree program, Criminal Justice, to OER.

That conversion is part of the BMCC Library’s Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) project, Amaral says. "The college offers 44 ZTC courses to date, and we are converting 33 more for the rest of the academic year. Students will be able to complete a course — or in the case of the Criminal Justice program, an entire degree program — without paying for a textbook.”

Some BMCC professors are creating OER courses independent of the ZTC program, using Blackboard and linking to webplatforms, such as WordPress.

“One faculty member even used a Facebook group to provide OER class materials, and provide students with more vibrant options,” Amaral says. “Professors also share their OER courses with colleagues, who adapt them as they want — and that stimulates robust growth of the courses, even as they remain standardized in terms of learning outcomes.”

“We’re out front on this, and sharing our information about OER with other CUNY schools,” Amaral says. She and BMCC CETLS Director Gina Cherry are presenting a hands-on workshop for faculty, “Getting Started with Open Educational Resources,” at the 2016 CUNYInstructional/Information Technology Conference, December 1 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“We’ll share with the participants, what we’ve learned at BMCC about how to decipher the Creative Commons licenses often used with OERs," Armaral says. "They will actually convert existing course materials and leave the workshop with a related OER in hand, prepared to replace their textbook and other materials with zero-cost options for students.”

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  • Through the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) project out of the BMCC Library, professors convert textbooks into Open Educational Resources, or OER
  • As part of a nationwide initiative led by Achieving the Dream, Inc., BMCC committed to offering one entire degree program with OER
  • Starting Spring 2017, the Criminal Justice program will off CRJ courses in OER, and by Fall 2018, all courses in OER

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