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Northern Essex CC Provides Free Digital Textbooks, Materials

Northern Essex Community College is one of seven in Massachusetts to participate in a pilot program giving students access to digital textbooks, courseware, and materials on the Lumen Learning platform.

Reading books with an E-book
(TNS) — Students at Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence and Haverhill can now access certain digital textbooks, courseware and materials on the Lumen Learning platform for free. This is in addition to the free open source materials the college began offering students in 2014.

Northern Essex is one of just seven colleges in the state selected to participate in the Digital Textbook and Materials Pilot program. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education approved a million-dollar grant shared by the seven schools to access digital textbooks, courseware, and materials on the Lumen Learning platform at no cost to students, college officials said.

"In addition to reducing student textbook costs, this national movement is empowering faculty to curate their own educational materials," said NECC Provost Paul Beaudin. "In a very real way, this enhances faculty scholarship and has the potential of adding value to student learning."

Sue Tashjian, the coordinator of instructional technology at Northern Essex, is currently reaching out to faculty about the options on the Lumen Learning platform, which are available for the spring and summer semesters and will also be available for the fall semester.

Faculty have until June to take advantage of the grant by choosing to substitute often costly textbooks for those available on the Lumen platform.

Lumen Learning offers a range of course materials that are always free, and after the grant period ends, their course platform is just $35 per student.

"Lumen offers 50 or more courses in almost every academic discipline — especially those taken in the first two years of college," Tashjian said. "Their College Success course provides new students with skills they need to be successful in college, like goal setting and time management. Modules from this course could be used to complement existing courses."

NECC's recent work to remove barriers includes unveiling the college's first open textbook. Early Childhood Education Professors Doris Buckley and Deirdre Budzyna developed "The Whole Child: Development in the Early Years," which replaces a commercial textbook that would cost students $174. NECC's version is free for educators and students across the country.

Open textbooks are an example of Open Educational Resources (OER), which are free, openly licensed educational materials that faculty can adopt in place of commercially published textbooks. Course descriptions include details on which courses offer these free educational materials.

Tashjian estimates that free and low-cost course materials have saved more than 19,000 students $2 million on textbooks since OER materials were introduced to NECC in 2014. With the latest offering from Lumen and other open textbook projects underway at Northern Essex, that number will continue to rise, she said.

©2023 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.