Data on textbook costs reveals hard science courses have the highest per-book cost of any discipline (Kopf, 2015). These costs are further compounded by additional expenditures students in these courses must incur such as lab fees, equipment costs, and lab manuals. Given in hard science courses, almost 30 percent of students do not purchase the textbook (Schick & Marklein, 2013), this can contribute to the high withdrawal and failure rates observed in these courses (Chen & Soldner, 2013). One option to help mitigate these costs is to focus on open educational resources (OER); OER represent a resource that can be shared at no cost, where content is freely available and open for use via public domain or an open license. OpenStax College has been a main facilitator in the creation and distribution of open peer-reviewed textbooks, especially for introductory courses in the hard sciences. While this is a strong first step, it does not address the additional costs faced by students, particularly with associated lab manuals, which can average $150 per lab.
This presentation focuses on the learning outcomes and student perceptions associated with a new, open lab manual developed to pair with the current OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology textbook. This lab manual was developed and will be piloted in both lab sections of the anatomy and physiology course sequence at the University of Georgia with 160 undergraduate students in Summer 2016.
For this study, students will be randomly assigned within their lab section to using the open lab manual or the traditionally published lab manual. The university department is covering the cost of the traditionally published lab manual for the purposes of this study to assure all students receive no-cost learning materials. By using the randomized design within the lab sections, differences between the teaching assistants should be mitigated.
This presentation details the results of this initial lab manual implementation by addressing the following:
- How did students perceive the quality of the open lab manual versus a traditional lab manual at the beginning of the semester versus the end of the semester?
- Was there a difference in lab performance (class final course average, number of students receiving a C or better) between students who used the open lab manual and students in past semesters who used a traditional text?
At the end of the summer semester, data is expected to show that while students may have had hesitations or quality concerns regarding the OER at the beginning of the term, these were mitigated over the course of the semester. Data is also expected to reveal there were no student performance differences between the groups using the OER versus the groups using the traditional lab manual. The goal is that this study would offer a compelling case for both the implementation of OER as the primary learning material in hard science courses, as well as for the development of accompanying lab manuals to continue to decrease costs for students and increase retention in hard science programs.