KU Student Senate is working to flag courses in the KU online class catalog that offer low-cost or no-cost course materials for students. 

Student Senate is working with KU Information Technology and KU Libraries to flag classes that offer Open Educational Resources textbooks on the KU online class catalog.

Student Body President Tiara Floyd is working with scholarly communications librarian Josh Bolick and KU IT to flag OER textbooks online. This was a platform former Student Body President Noah Ries ran on in 2018.

OER, which provides course materials, textbooks and software, is an alternative to the rising costs of textbooks, according to the KU Libraries website.

“I met with Josh Bolick over the summer to talk about what initiatives could be taken,” Floyd said. “I thought there was a great opportunity to expand the work that Noah did with OER.”

While Floyd’s initial plan was to put indicators on classes that offer OER textbooks on Enroll and Pay, with the recent interface change, it was more practical to start with flagging classes on classes.ku.edu. Classes that don’t require any textbooks will also be flagged with an OER icon.

The progress for this initiative will be finalized by spring 2021. When students begin looking for classes for spring 2021, they will be able to see which classes offer low-cost or OER textbooks.

“I think this is a very simple thing that can guide a lot of students in their studies,” Floyd said. “I’m hoping that we’ll see a jump in enrollment into all OER-based courses so that other faculty can see that and start making that transition toward OER.”

Floyd said they are still in the early stages of adopting this plan.

Ries first proposed the idea of flagging classes that provide OER in Enroll and Pay in fall 2018, after he and KU Libraries connected with the OER library to bring the textbooks to campus.

“A lot of what I did was spreading awareness that this was an option and that it was proven to be very effective, and we were missing out if we weren’t going to bring OER to our campus,” Ries said.

Though Ries was unable to fully implement OER flagging during his time as student body president, he was able to introduce the resource to multiple  departments on campus. Senate and KU Libraries were able to introduce an OER textbook to the COMS 130 curriculum in part from Senate funding.

“You just have to take baby steps until you can get there, and hopefully that kind of opens the floodgates so people can see that OER is pretty effective. It works really well, and of course, it’s cheap,” Ries said.