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Prof. Thompson's Building OER Capacity in Math Courses at York

The rising cost of tuition in higher education, coupled with the increased prices of textbooks over the past decades has created barriers for college students.

Many institutions have adopted the use of OER (Open Education Resources), saving students money by eliminating the need to purchase textbooks. “OERs are educational materials made freely and legally available on the internet for anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute,” (‘Hewlett Foundations, 2013, p.4’). Students gain immediate access to content material and homework at the start of the semester free of charge when OERs are used in a course. Instructors can introduce, remove, and customize content materials at any time, not having to stick with the textbook chosen for the course.

Since the pandemic, the Mathematics and Computer Science department has gained momentum in exploring and embracing the OER movement, led by Professor Virginia Thompson, saving students "tons of money" by not having to purchase the traditional hard copy textbook for their course. See the article she, along with Dr. Patrick Wallach from Queensborough Community College published documenting their experience converting their courses to OER entitled “Increasing the Open Education Resources Capacity of Precalculus Courses at York College and Queensborough Community College" (published, March 2023 in the International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology). 

Professor Thompson, who grew up in Jamaica, Queens, is a York alumna, who excelled in mathematics and earned her doctorate in Mathematics Education at Columbia University, says that since spring semester 2022, all of York’s 100-level math courses are using OERs (zero cost textbooks), which saves students money each term and overall brings down the cost of education.

“Apart from saving students tons of money from not having to pay for the textbook, I used an Open Pedagogical approach in my precalculus course each semester since the pandemic providing my students opportunities to engage in creating OERs for mathematics,” she says. “Specifically, students were invited to openly license their work instead of throwing away evidence of their knowledge. Students create supplementary resources that can assist future students in learning math content. By encouraging students to share their work openly, it gives them a chance to apply their expertise to serve the mathematics community, getting them to see their work is valuable."

According to Dr. Thompson, in addition to saving students money by eliminating traditional textbooks, she also finds ways to show them that their hard work is important and noticed.

“This past academic year (2022-2023), I provided fruit, donuts, water, juice, yogurt, and chocolate to my precalculus students when they reviewed for the final exam to ease anxiety levels and to help students feel their hard work is valued, she explained. “By creating that atmosphere while reviewing for the final, I believe it helped students to feel warm in their hearts toward being a York Student. Students expressed their gratitude towards me after doing this.”

Dr. Thompson says she thanks the Harding Ford Vision food panty located within walking distance from York College, for the food donations to Professor Thompson’s class during the final exam review session this spring 2023.

Resources: Hewlett Foundation. (2013). White Paper: Open Educational Resources: Breaking the Lockbox on Education. Retrieved from