Replacing Your Writing Textbook

an open bookOpen Educational Resources can be a little daunting for teachers. It’s hard to know what’s out there, and once you figure that out, it’s hard to know how to use the resources. If you’re a teacher or a professor and you struggle to trust OER’s, you are not alone.

According to a national survey, many faculty members remain skeptical about OER’s and are unsure about how to use them to replace costly textbooks. Some faculty worry that there is no clear benefit of replacing textbooks with OER’s.

But, here at Excelsior, we have research on the benefits of our multimedia online writing lab, and we offer support for faculty interested in using the OWL in their classrooms.

We have conducted two studies—one national and one in New York State—that show great promise for the OWL. In the national study, students in the treatment groups who used the Excelsior University OWL as either the main textbook or a supporting textbook scored 6.6 points higher on their final averages than students in the control groups who used only traditional textbooks. Students in this student also showed more growth in six of seven areas we assessed in a writing about writing activity.

In the state study, which focused on an argumentative essay, students in the treatment groups who were using the Excelsior University OWL showed statistically significant greater growth between a rough draft and a final draft than students in control groups who were using other resources.

So we have some evidence, but if you’re not yet persuaded, think about this fact: At Excelsior University, we replaced our English 101 textbook with the Excelsior University OWL and save our students over $150,000 per year!

But you don’t have to begin with textbook replacement. There’s something in the OWL for everyone. It offers support for rhetorical analysis, research paper process, APA format, MLA format, rhetorical styles, and more. Even if you are hesitant about OER’s, the Excelsior University OWL is worth checking out.

And what about the student perspective? Students using the OWL responded to it with an almost overwhelming positivity. One student from the national study had this to say: “Unlike other educational resources, it feels like the OWL is on our side.”

I recently used the OWL to replace a textbook in a face-to-face basic writing course. Students were supposed to purchase a text that cost over $100 that provided the exact same information (only without the multimedia) as two sections of the EC OWL—the Writing Process and Rhetorical Styles learning areas. I used the OWL as our text and then supplemented with “real” readings from the web. I enjoyed working with the OWL and seeing how students responded to it.

On their own, by the middle of the semester, students were writing in their journals about how much they liked the free support from the OWL. Additionally, we had fun completing many of the quizzes and interactions as a class, and I enjoyed having the freedom to find articles from the web that were immediately relevant to my students’ lives and careers.

If you’re interested in learning more about this award winning, comprehensive, multimedia writing resource, you can find information for educators on our Educator Resources page. But you can also contact us directly. We’re here to help and can offer online tours and answers to your questions. What do you think? Are you ready to give the Excelsior University OWL a try?


Francesco Crocco

Dr. Francesco Crocco is a former Director of the Online Writing Lab at Excelsior College.