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Filler-Corn Pushes for Free Textbook Resources for College Students

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who represents Burke and the 41st District, has been advocating for more open education resources for Virginia college students.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who represents Burke and the 41st District, co-hosted an open education resources forum on Dec. 2 at George Mason University. Credit: Courtesy of Filler-Corn's office.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who represents Burke and the 41st District, co-hosted an open education resources forum on Dec. 2 at George Mason University. Credit: Courtesy of Filler-Corn's office.

As the cost of higher education rises, students in Burke, Northern Virginia and beyond continue to search for ways to save money while completing their degree. One aspect of higher education, textbooks, are usually an expensive, but necessary expense for students.

That might not be the case for long if a bill by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st) for colleges and universities to acquire more open education resources (OER) for students gets approved.

Bill HB 1777, which was submitted earlier this year, aims to create an Open Education Resource Council tasked with developing and acquiring open education resources that could be provided at no charge to students. OER materials are textbooks or other auxiliary resources developed and produced with no copyright restrictions. This makes them available for anyone to access and use at their disposal. University professors often develop these materials, which are also peer reviewed for accuracy.

"Several states are currently utilizing OER materials as a way to reduce cost burdens on their students. These books are available at no charge and accessed digitally at the student’s convenience. This is an excellent method to increase affordability, while still providing accurate information and quality material," said Filler-Corn.

The bill was referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science during the 2013 General Assembly session and has drawn wide interest from different parties.

In an effort to continue the year-long conversation about OER, Filler-Corn recently co-hosted a forum on Dec. 2 with David Anderson, Executive Director for Higher Education at Association of American Publishers and Nada Dabbagh, Professor and Director of Division of Learning Technologies at George Mason University (GMU) to discuss new technologies and affordable options for higher education textbooks. This forum brought together several important stakeholders involved with higher education and the development and usage of textbooks.

"I was honored to lead this forum that continued the vital discussion of how we can reduce costs for our students and families through the use of new technology and resources in textbooks and class materials," said Filler-Corn. "We have continued to see a rise in the price of textbooks and other auxiliary materials in higher education. We need to use new resources as a way to reduce costs and ensure that students are getting the most out of their higher education."

The forum discussed using these technologies at both Virginia universities and colleges as well as in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) where many students are turning to save money by avoiding the tuition costs of a four year university. Representatives from George Mason University, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the VCCS attended the forum to add their input on the idea. Additionally, representatives from the major textbook publishers and Fairfax County Public Schools were also in attendance.

"It is my hope that this forum can continue to move forward the discussion of OER digital textbooks in the Commonwealth. As leaders and policy makers, it is our responsibility to look at the current system and find areas that need improvement," said Filler-Corn. "The rising cost of college continues to need to be addressed and I believe this can be a way of alleviating some of the financial burden on our students and their families.”

Editor's note: Thanks to Del. Filler-Corn's office for providing much of the background information on the forum.

K.d. Clark December 17, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Here is a little secret. Some colleges offer the exact same degrees as expensive colleges but charge a fraction of the cost! A list of them can be found at www.DegreesAnywhere.com

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