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College Student and Mother of Two Speaks Out About the Benefits of the Open Course Library

Have you ever wondered how parents of school-age children can manage to be successful students? In this interview, student-parent Lindsey Cassels talks to Education-Portal.com about how the Open Course Library has made her life a little easier.

By Sarah Wright

OCL

Being a parent and a student at the same time can be challenging - there's a lot to juggle financially, not to mention the scheduling hassle. Lindsey Cassels is a student and a parent who has greatly benefited from access to the Open Course Library, a Washington State project that provides free or drastically cheapened online college materials for dozens of community college courses. She's benefitted so much, in fact, that she's become an OCL advocate! Read on to learn how OCL has helped her and why she sees the potential for this kind of technology to assist her own school-age children.

Education-Portal.com: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Lindsey Cassels: I'm 32, and I'm an adult going back to college. I've been at Clover Park Technical College since the winter quarter of 2010. I did my pre-reqs for my aesthetic sciences degree and I'm currently starting the program.

E-P: What prompted you to go back to school for that degree?

LC: I have two kids, which keeps me busy and is very demanding, but I'm also into the fashion industry. Being able to make people feel good and look good and taking care of people is fun. I love face products and make-up.

E-P: I imagine trying to go back to school when you have two kids is really challenging. What's that been like for you?

LC: It's been okay. They're school-aged children. My days are pretty busy. I'm at school when they're at school, so coming home I still have a lot of homework. Getting everything done, trying to stay up on my grades and house stuff and taking care of the kids and everything else is a lot, but it's where I'm at and I'm ready to do it, so we can make it happen.

E-P: How did you first learn about the Open Course Library (OCL)?

LC: I took Public Speaking with Dr. Phil Vendetti in the spring quarter, and he introduced it to us. When I compared it to typical courses where we weren't using the OCL, I found it to be so much more flexible and easy for any student going to college. It's very beneficial for anyone using it.

E-P: What specifically did you find appealing about OCL materials?

LC: There's an array of things. Being able to go to one place to access all of your materials, being able to use them online and do research, not having to lug around a heavy textbook and not having to pay $100-$200 are all positives. The ease of it is nice. You can get all your notes and communicate with your instructors and your peers - it's not complicated at all.

E-P: Were you skeptical about using online materials? Did you think you'd miss having a physical textbook?

LC: Yeah. We've been so accustomed to textbooks for so long. A lot of people like having that possession. But it wasn't complicated or confusing to switch from a textbook to this. It's actually easier than having to go through a book, highlight things, taking a bunch of notes and going back and forth between a book and a computer. Having everything on a computer saves a lot of time. Once I got going with it, I wished the other courses I took were that easy. And I didn't have to pay all the money I spent on textbooks.

E-P: Would use of OCL materials be a factor in determining which sections of a required course you'd take?

LC: I think so, definitely. It's great when so many college students are working or doing other things having everything in one place and not having to spend more than $30. I definitely think it would appeal to most people and any type of student because, you know, college is expensive, especially when you factor in books and supplies. You would find so many more pros for the OCL than cons.

E-P: How were you chosen to speak about the benefits of the OCL?

LC: Library creator Tom Caswell asked Dr. Venditti to find a current or past student that'd been part of an OCL course, and I guess I was chosen because I truthfully enjoyed it. Dr. Venditti and I talked a lot about it during the course because it was new to me and, you know, I like to be up on those types of things. Going back to college, I'm all about the new things. I have kids, so I'm all about learning what's coming up and how to make things easier and affordable in the future.

E-P: Do you think OCL-style materials could be beneficial at the K-12 levels too?

LC: Definitely. Kids are on the Internet a lot in school. Teachers actually encourage them to go on websites for assignments and important notes. I think it would be nice to have everything on there for them too. It would help teachers and students, and also the environment. You go through so much paper.

Community colleges are starting to get on board with open education materials.

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