UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An online bachelor’s degree program at Penn State has adopted free, open-source materials for its courses to help students save on their college costs.
The Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness Management is the first degree program offered online at Penn State to exclusively use cost-free open-education resources, or OER, in its core courses, which are abbreviated AGBM in the University’s course scheduling system.
The approximately 50 students enrolled in the major will not have to pay for textbooks, course packets, case studies, or other course materials for the agribusiness management courses. The students can access the open resources, which the program faculty have selected from high-quality sources, through Canvas, the University’s learning management system.
The bachelor’s in agribusiness management explores the business side of the agricultural industry, focusing on the food system’s commodity markets, production, and distribution. The program is offered online through Penn State World Campus by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.
Faculty from the college and a member of the Penn State World Campus Learning Design team collaborated to revise the program’s eight core courses and implement open-source materials. The spring 2022 semester is the first semester the OER materials were in use.
Rachel Perry, an instructional designer for World Campus, said the agribusiness management major was an ideal program to implement an all-OER approach because of its size. She was able to work with the faculty to identify or develop cost-free materials quickly.
For instance, instructor Bill Rossman replaced a $100 textbook in the course AGBM 101: Economic Principles of Agribusiness Decision-Making with a free online textbook accessible through Pressbooks, an open-source course management system. He received a stipend through the Penn State Affordable Course Transformation initiative to customize the resource for his course.
Rossman replaced homework assignments that previously used true and false answer choices for ones that require short answers that would encourage students to think more critically and use their writing skills.
“By using the OER, I was able to develop the textbook and ensure all chapters and content tied directly to the course,” Rossman said.
Instructor Rachael Brown replaced case studies that would cost $35 per student in the course AGBM 302: Food Product Marketing with a source from Sage BusinessWorks made possible through Penn State University Libraries.
She also is using Sage BusinessWorks case studies for a new course in development, AGBM 460: Managing the Food System.
Jon Tuthill, the faculty director of the agribusiness management program, said the program championed the adoption because it helps students reduce their costs.
“This is definitely worth it because we have made our degree program more affordable,” said Tuthill, who is an associate teaching professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Students will save money on the cost of textbooks or other materials they otherwise would have been required to purchase. We’re glad to be able to do that for our students.”
Tuthill also praised Perry and the instructors for maintaining a focus on the quality of the materials from which the students would be learning.
“The instructors have carefully selected open-education resources for the case studies, textbooks, and journal articles,” he said. “Students are getting the same high-quality content to read and study in just a different form.”
Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness Management that is offered online.