MCC faculty help students save on textbook costs

Chronicle Media Staff

A group of MCC faculty recently participated in a one-week Textbook Cost Reduction Camp to find more economical textbook options. Pictured are, first row, seated: Noelle Butski, Sherry Ridge, Sara White, Julie Freelove, co-chair; Heidi Boring, Vicky Hamill; middle row: Anne Humphrey, Elaine Whalen, Allison Minicz, Mike Tetreault, Meri Winchester, Cynthia VanSickle and Starr Nordgren; Back row: Mark Carlson, Marie Robison, Matt Hansel, Steve Young, Meyrl Schmit, Rich Bruce, Sarah Sullivan, Bruce Spangenberg, Jack Brzezinski and Deb Alheit. Not pictured is co-chair Clint Gabbard, MCC president.

McHenry County College (MCC) students could see an estimated $400,000 total savings in textbook costs per academic year as a result of expert knowledge, research, and creativity by MCC faculty, who established a program to improve the quality of course content while reducing textbook costs. 

A group of 23 faculty members, both full-time and adjunct, recently came together for what they dubbed a one-week Textbook Cost Reduction Camp. They delved into 13 courses with the goal of revitalizing course content to include current skills, materials, and trends. Some instructors were able to find more economical textbook options while others located open educational resources (OERs), new materials and internet resources, including multimedia for select courses.  

Open educational resources (OERs) are a popular trend in education that includes materials with open copyright licenses for the purpose of sharing, using, remixing, and reusing in teaching, learning and research for little or no cost. Examples may include textbooks, software, presentations, case studies, videos, pictures, simulations, games, and tests. 

Studies show that students build critical thinking skills when given a variety of resources to assess. Practical research skills, including computer skills, are also more immediately and frequently practiced. 

“The camp was an excellent opportunity for faculty to improve the quality of their courses by incorporating new technologies, digital resources, and their own expert materials into courses,” said Julie Freelove, co-chair of MCC’s Textbook Ad hoc committee. “These changes will not only improve course quality, but reduce the cost of textbooks for MCC students.” 

“The new resources for students provide for the most current materials and increased variety, with reduced or zero-cost textbooks,” Freelove said, adding that textbook costs vary, but the national norm is estimated at $100 per textbook. 

Meri Winchester, web development and programming instructor, said she strives to keep books under $50 when practical and uses as many free resources as possible. 

“Due to how rapidly our subject changes, the interactive websites are generally more current than any text, which is starting to go out of date by the time it is published,” Winchester said. “We are using to supplement materials in both live and online courses for programming and web development….In our Programming Logic course, we selected a free, open source book, ‘Think Python,’  that can be purchased for less than $35 or downloaded free from the publisher’s website.” 

The departments involved in the textbook camp included Business, Computers and Digital Media, English, Health and Fitness Education, Health Information Technology, History, Horticulture, Math, Mobile Application Development, Philosophy, Political Science, and Robotics. Training during camp covered open educational resources (OERs), Creative Commons licensing, intellectual property, accessibility, and instructional design. MCC’s Distance Education, Professional Development, and Library Departments were also on hand to work with faculty, familiarizing them with new technologies and assisting with research. 


MCC faculty help students save on textbook costs —