Choi announces investment in cost-free academic resources

The UM System president spoke about Online Educational Resources and AutoAccess online texts at The Mizzou Store Wednesday afternoon.

UM System President Mun Choi answers questions following the presentation on open educational resources June 21.

Students at all four UM System campuses will be saving a combined $7.2 million on textbooks during the upcoming academic year, according to university officials.

UM System President Mun Choi addressed a crowd gathered out in front of The Mizzou Store on Wednesday to announce a system-wide initiative to promote the use of free and low-cost academic resources.

Choi promoted the use of both Online Educational Resources and AutoAccess online texts as a method to cut down on students’ overall cost of attendance.

“Tuition is a measure [of cost of college] — it is not the only measure,” he said during the announcement.

OERs refer to instructional materials that are available on the internet, free of charge. These are most often videos, diagrams or PDFs that supplement or entirely replace traditional textbooks.

Klaus Woelk, a chemistry professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said he has been using OERs for about a decade in his classes. He said once the professors look over the material for factual accuracy, they provide students with links to the material.

“As we started guiding [students] to these resources, they began relying on them more and less on the textbooks,” Woelk said.

Though Woelk has used a traditional textbook for his Chemistry I class in the past, this next year he will only use an online version that can be purchased with an online homework account. He said comprehensive textbooks are often unnecessary for classes and they are often a financial burden for students.

“I’ve always thought that textbooks are not as important, but [they are] shooting up the price,” he said.

During his speech, Choi said the UM System will also encourage professors who do use texts for their class to use those available on AutoAccess — an online textbook portal that allows students to download virtual copies of books and order printed pages to the campus bookstore.

Michelle Froese, the assistant director of strategic communications for Student & Auxiliary Services, said any course materials provided through AutoAccess are required to be less expensive than their market price.

AutoAccess has been used on MU’s campus since 2014 and began with one book publisher that had an agreement with the university.

Now, the university will have agreements with 12 companies and more classes, such as four undergraduate courses in the School of Health Professions.

Choi referred to the promotion of the programs as an investment because the university will provide financial incentives for faculty members to move to online resources. He said the UM System will provide incentives between $1,000 and $10,000 depending on the amount of work professors need to do to change their courses to be web-accessible.

Woelk has always been in favor of online resources, but he said some professors could be resistant to the change.

“There will always be some pushback,” he said. “And that is why it probably takes an initiative to do this.”

Students have pushed for the expanded use of OERs and affordable textbook alternatives. Members of the Missouri Students Association met with an OER interest group and representatives from The Mizzou Store last fall to discuss the promotion of online resources.

MSA President Nathan Willett and Vice President Payton Englert ran on a platform that included the expansion of OERs and online textbook use.

“Buying textbooks is a burden for a lot of students,” Englert said. “If we can make it easier for students to attend college and maintain a high quality of education, then we should absolutely be doing this.”

Edited by Cassie Allen | callen@themaneater.com

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