Beginning this fall, students who take the MATH 021 Introductory Algebra course at Brookdale will no longer have to buy a traditional textbook. Instead, thanks to a new college-wide Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative, students will be able to download and print a free copy of the college’s new MATH 021 coursebook, or buy a bound copy at the Scroll and Pen bookstore for $11.
With a potential savings of at least $59 per student, the OER program could save Brookdale students more than $100,000 in textbook costs during the 2017-18 school year.
“Students tell us that textbook costs can be a real barrier,” said Brookdale Vice President for Learning Matthew Reed. “I’m excited that the math department has stepped up and taken the initiative to get that barrier out of the way. Now every student will be able to have the textbook from day one of the semester.”
The initiative is the brainchild of Brookdale math professors Barbara Tozzi and Linda Wang, who were granted sabbaticals in 2016 to research, design and create an OER coursebook specifically tailored to Brookdale’s MATH 021 course. The professors each taught a section of the course and spent countless hours working with faculty, staff, administrators and OER experts to create a full suite of materials for the “new” MATH 021, including instructor guidelines, tests, homework assignments and review sheets.
A pilot program went live in the spring of 2017, with five faculty teaching seven sections of the OER course in Lincroft, Freehold and Hazlet. Nearly 100 students enrolled, and joined their instructors in providing feedback on the new course before it was offered again this summer.
“When I saw that we didn’t have to buy a textbook I was really happy, because I didn’t get financial aid for the summer,” said second-year respiratory therapy major Matt Zaki, who took the MATH 021 course in the Summer II term. “I was able to save about $70 or $80, and I was able to use that money to pay some bills instead.”
Cost savings are not the only benefit of the OER initiative, however.
Because the new book and supporting materials are designed specifically for Brookdale’s MATH 021 course, students and instructors no longer have to jump from one chapter to another or wade through excess material, said Tozzi and Wang. Now classes simply progress through the book from cover to cover, creating a much simpler and more streamlined educational experience.
For third-year nursing student Matthew Gracon, it was a welcome change.
“It’s a little nicer, frankly,” said Gracon, of Freehold, who took the OER course this summer. “You don’t have the big textbook that you have to search through. Everything is a little more streamlined. Our instructor projects exactly what we are working on right up on the board, so we have everything right in front of us and right on the board. It makes it a little nicer that way. It’s more clear because it’s exactly what you need. You don’t have any excess.”
The new approach makes it easier for students to keep up with the class even through unexpected absences and challenging subject matter, said instructor Karina Aliaga, while making the course more accessible for those dealing with financial hardship.
“The truth is that when a textbook is expensive, some students may just not buy it,” said Aliaga. “And without a textbook they don’t have any external resource to compensate for that knowledge missed. They may just not understand the material… Now we are removing that impediment to their success. Last semester, one of the students in my class said, ‘This is the best $11 I’ve ever spent.’ The students are actually reading the book, they see how easy it is to follow and how affordable that can be. And I think a lot of the students appreciate that.”
Following the successful pilot, the “textbook-free” model will be offered in all sections of MATH 021 beginning this fall. With a projected enrollment of close to 2,000 students, the OER course could lead to a total savings of nearly $118,000 this school year alone, said Tozzi and Wang.
“We are grateful to have had the support of the college, Dr. Reed, and our STEM Dean Anoop Ahluwalia as we created a free e-book for MATH 021 students,” said Tozzi, who retired following the 2017 school year. “We were both dedicated to creating an excellent course that would help students understand introductory algebra. It was an honor and a joy to work on this initiative with Linda.”
To learn more about Brookdale’s mathematics courses and degree programs, click here.
Check out more photos of Karina Aliaga’s MATH 021 course here.