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TC3 students open laptops, not books

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Tompkins Cortland Community College sophomore Megan Clowser, from Long Island, sits in the Fireside Cafe at the college, making use of her laptop to read her psychology book rather than a printed copy of the book. Online reading material saves students a lot of money each year. TC3 has been increasing access to such resources.

DRYDEN — When Tompkins Cortland Community College sophomore Megan Clowser prepares for her introduction to psychology course, she doesn’t curl up with an expensive textbook. She simply unfolds her Hewlett Packard touch screen laptop computer and logs on to a specific website where the book is kept online.

The program, called Open Learning Initiatives, is offered by about 100 courses at TC3 to help students keep up with courses without having to buy books.

And it has saved them a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars, say college officials.

According to the college board.org website, the average undergraduate at a two-year college, may spend about $1,400 a year on textbooks and supplies.

For Clowser, who has spent about $300 on textbooks for two other courses, not having to buy another book was a welcome savings.

“It’s a little more extra money in my pocket for extracurriculars,” Clowser said as she sat recently in the Fireside Cafe on campus, scrolling through the text online, covering the class section on emotion and motivation.

She said it is also inviting to her generation, which is very used to using computers.

And TC3 is a leader among SUNY schools for its efforts to replace the published paper textbooks with online textbooks, said Tony DeFranco, coordinator of learning technology services in the campus technology department.

TC3 will offer its online business degree using open educational resources in the fall, DeFranco said, meaning people in that program will be able to complete their degrees without buying a textbook.

Developing the technological infrastucture needed to support this is time consuming, said DeFranco, so he and TC3 President Carl Haynes praised the fact the recently passed $153 billion state budget devotes $8 million to support the development of OER in colleges.

Of that $8 million, half goes to SUNY and half to the City University of New York, but DeFranco did not know how those funds would be allocated.

The end result for the college in devoting resources to these online services, is higher retention rates. To date, TC3 has saved students more than $700,000 in textbook costs and seen significant improvement in success in retention rates for the courses using OER, DeFranco said.

That’s because a student who cannot afford a textbook cannot keep up in class, Haynes said.

And as Clowser sat in the cafe scrolling through her coursework, she said the extra money saved on a textbook can go a long way.

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