Libraries’ Initiative Saves Students Money – OHIO University Libraries

Libraries’ Initiative Saves Students Money

When Adrienne Erby told the students in her multicultural counseling course this summer that they would not have to purchase a textbook, some of them started applauding.

Erby, lecturer and program coordinator of counselor education, is one of 26 faculty who participated in the Libraries’ Alt-Textbook initiative, which aims to help students save on expensive textbooks.

Adrienne Erby, lecturer and program coordinator in counselor education (John Michael Simpson/ Ohio University Libraries)
Adrienne Erby, lecturer and program coordinator in counselor education (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

Erby said using open access and Library resources also helped her further customize her multicultural counseling course.

“One of the things that is really challenging in a multicultural class is that there are so many texts, articles and resources that are needed, but I could never find them all in one book,” she said.

OHIO Libraries spends almost $5 million a year on published information. The Alt-Textbook initiative encourages faculty to utilize open access materials and the Libraries’ licensed content rather than textbooks, which can be costly for students who may already be struggling to afford their education.

Student learning suffers when students do not have the course materials, and according to 2014 data from the Student PIRGs, a team of public interest research groups, 65 percent of students report not purchasing a textbook because it was too expensive. Open textbooks can alleviate this issue—students can save about $128 per course when their traditionally published textbook is replaced with an open textbook, according to the same PIRGS data.

Kelly Broughton, assistant dean for research and education services in University Libraries, said students often turn to librarians to see if the Libraries has the textbook for their course. While the Libraries may have the book students need, purchasing textbooks for every course is not feasible.

“If you are at any of our service points the first two weeks of any semester, our number one question is ‘do you have my textbook?’ because it’s so expensive,” she said.

Broughton said the open educational resources (OER) movement is growing, and libraries are often at the forefront.

“There are faculty and others all over the world creating textbooks right now and giving them creative commons licensing,” she said. “Part of the work of this initiative is to help faculty find open textbooks that have already been created as a substitute [for current course material] and review them to make sure that they’re appropriate for their courses.”

Faculty who participated in the initiative received up to $1,000 as incentive to commit the time to redesigning their courses.

“It’s not something that’s easy for faculty to do,” Broughton said. “It often takes completely rethinking your course, thinking about your learning outcomes and completely redoing your syllabus.”

The Libraries held workshops in March for faculty, where they learned more about copyright and how to find alternative readings for their students. Faculty also met with subject librarians individually and in small groups at the workshops, and the librarians directed them to databases, showed them the materials the Libraries had to offer, and helped them locate OERs.

Samuel Dodd, visiting assistant professor of art history (John Michael Simpson/ Ohio University Libraries)
Samuel Dodd, visiting assistant professor of art history (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

“Ultimately we had to go get the material, but the direction from the Library was tremendous,” said Paul Benedict, an instructor of management, who participated in the initiative.

Paul Benedict, instructor of management (John Michael Simpson/ Ohio University Libraries)
Paul Benedict, instructor of management (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

Applications for the program were accepted from October 2015 to January 2016, and applicants were interviewed between November and February. The Libraries has been working with faculty since the spring to assist with syllabus redevelopment and finding course materials. The courses with new content were implemented during the summer and will continue into spring 2017.

Samuel Dodd, visiting assistant professor of art history, said he met several librarians through the workshop who helped him find resources, especially documentaries, to supplement his course material.

“There are many resources available at the Library and through the Library that are not being taken advantage of,” he said.

Faculty have changed at least some content in 23 courses through the initiative, and 2,358 students will see approximately $236,213 in savings in textbooks in the 2016-2017 academic year. According to a survey the faculty completed, 61 percent of participants would recommend the program to their colleagues. Working one-on-one with librarians and learning about copyright were the aspects of the program they found most valuable, according to the same survey.

Broughton said the Libraries’ goal is to have faculty routinely consult with their librarian and consider the Libraries’ content and OERs for their teaching, even when they are not participating in the initiative, by increasing awareness of the variety of quality alternative content available.

The Libraries are currently working with the Office of Instructional Innovation to develop the next iteration of this initiative.  More information will follow.

This article is one of a three-part series that focuses on the Libraries’ Alt-Textbook initiative.