Lehigh Valley instructor saves her students over $8,000, authors free textbook

Anita Serrano

Anita Serrano, instructor of Spanish at Penn State Lehigh Valley

Credit: Penn State

One Penn State Lehigh Valley faculty member is paving the way to put updated, free course materials into the hands of students by authoring Penn State’s first openly licensed Pressbooks digital textbook.

Instructor Anita Serrano developed the Spanish I e-book as an Open Educational Resource (OER) as part of Teaching and Learning with Technology’s (TLT) faculty engagement initiative. By providing grants and staff support to explore innovative applications, this initiative offers faculty the ability to harness the potential of technology to improve excellence in teaching and student learning outcomes.

Prior to this semester, Serrano’s students were each paying $337.50 to purchase a traditional textbook and additional resources, with the photographs, stories, exercises, and other supplemental information quickly growing outdated. “Basically, the students paid for a set of pictures, stories, and content that is limited to a semester, because by next semester there is a new edition costing more money.”

To keep her course content relevant, Serrano used to spend time making copies, writing exercises, and tailoring resources to her students’ needs. With her digital textbook, she provides current resources that can be continually updated in the online environment. Serrano used her e-book for the first time this semester, and her 25 Spanish I students collectively saved approximately $8,440.

"Professor Serrano is helping to transform education at Penn State," said Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of TLT. "By providing her students with the OER textbook, she is not only advancing affordability, she is ensuring that all students have access to the course materials the first day of classes. We know that many students will wait to purchase their textbooks until later in the semester. Research has shown that when students have access on day one of their courses, their success in those courses rises dramatically."

Instructors at Northampton County Community College and Millersville University of Pennsylvania served as reviewers of the e-book. Serrano will collaborate with instructors from the Penn State New Kensington, Schuylkill, and University Park campuses on future OER books for Spanish II and Spanish III to continue to drive digital innovation at Penn State.

“I intend to continue to improve upon the existing material utilizing the latest technology and new pedagogical ideas,” Serrano explained.

Faculty who have an interest in developing open textbooks for their class can contact [email protected].