Penn State Berks unveils Open Education Resources initiatives

Corey J. Wetherington named open and affordable course content coordinator
A student works in the Thun Library

A Penn State Berks student in Berks' Thun Library.

Credit: Penn State

READING, Pa. — As part of Penn State University President Barron’s imperative to make educational resources affordable and accessible, Penn State Berks has recently announced new Open Education Resources (OER) initiatives to help decrease costs for students and faculty.

Corey J. Wetheringon has been named open and affordable course content coordinator at Penn State Berks, a new position that strengthens the college’s and University’s commitment to expanding OER for the campus community. In this role, Wetherington will be responsible for increasing awareness among students regarding open and affordable content, particularly for lower-cost online and printed textbooks. He will also work with the faculty to explore, fund and implement open content creation.

The Open Educational Resources Task Force Report, chaired by Barbara I. Dewey, Dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communication, stated, "Course materials comprise a significant financial burden for students with costs hovering around $1,200 for undergraduates. Textbook prices have risen 812 percent since 1978, far outpacing the consumer price index that rose 250 percent during the same period according to the Penn State OER task force."

Wetherington, who earned a baccalaureate degree in English and mathematics from New York University and a master’s degree in English from Columbia University, has worked as a supervisor at the Penn State Berks Thun Library since 2013 and is a consultant to the American Library Association. He was a contributor to Penn State’s OER Task Force Report, issued in August 2016.

A major OER initiative is OpenStax, which produces free textbooks that are equivalent in quality to those commercially available. “Students can use them as PDFs for online viewing or for display on e-readers, Kindles or other devices. Or we can print out a four-color hard copy that is as good as any textbook and is much cheaper. For example, OpenStax can produce one commercial chemistry text costing over $300 for about $55,” Wetherington explained.

While Penn State has several significant initiatives — including an annual Open Education Week and membership in the Open Textbook Network — underway, Wetherington said it became necessary to have a coordinator to further develop systematic and University-wide OER and affordable course content initiatives among Thun and other university libraries.

“My responsibilities also include implementing a robust faculty development program. That entails finding grants that are available to professors for creating their own textbooks and encouraging them to work with students to develop content and receive credit,” Wetherington noted.

“But our ultimate goal is to make textbook costs go down,” he added.

For additional information on the Open Education Resources (OER) program at Penn State Berks, contact Wetherington via email at [email protected].