The Libraries’ alt-textbook initiative eases the financial burden on students by incentivizing faculty . However, many faculty who have participated in the initiative have benefited as well.
Samuel Dodd, visiting assistant professor of art history, was already interested in looking for an alternative to traditional textbooks for his courses. He joined in the initiative to learn more about the Libraries’ resources, so he could accomplish his goal of using more diverse course readings and materials.
“I see it as my job to carefully curate and design a class that fits the student body here at OHIO,” he said. “These textbooks are so standardized, and they don’t often allow for personal adjustment.”
He said that using work from a variety of authors allows him to teach his History of Art II students about multiple perspectives on art and art history.
“It’s nice to add a diversity of voices that way,” he said.
The Libraries held alt-textbook workshops in March where faculty learned more about how to find alternative readings and course materials. Faculty also collaborated with subject librarians like lorraine wochna, who worked with Dodd to locate documentaries to support his learning objectives.
“Students were really responsive to supplementing the reading with a documentary, and I personally felt better about it not coming from YouTube, which is often the go-to when you see if something is available online,” he said. “It doesn’t seem as reputable, and part of the class is learning to discern the different criteria of information and misinformation and really test out their sources.”
Dodd said he also learned about copyright through the workshops.
“Being aware of copyright was the biggest takeaway, as was the availability of the resources [the Libraries] have,” he said.
Adrienne Erby, lecturer and program coordinator in counselor education, also participated in the initiative. Like Dodd, she wanted to customize her multicultural counseling course to include perspectives from multiple authors rather than just one textbook. She showed her students what was available through the Libraries’ databases, so they knew where to look when they were doing their own research.
“[Students] were able to pull from different authors and read from people who are leaders in the field in their area, as opposed to a single textbook that tries to cover everything,” Erby said.
She redesigned her course to include counseling texts focused on serving specific populations, as well as scholarly journal articles and e-books. She said she chose to find alternatives to a traditional textbook because she remembers having to purchase expensive books when she was a student.
“I’ve been there. I’ve purchased books, and they’re expensive,” she said.
Paul Benedict, instructor of management, said he also empathized with students who had to purchase costly books.
“I have been aware of students’ complaints about the cost of textbooks and the relevance of textbooks for quite a while,” he said. “I wanted to see if there was a better way to do it that would give students some better, up-to-date, more relevant content and save them some money.”
He redesigned his Introduction to Management and Organizations course, and he approached his colleagues who also teach the course about the initiative.
Benedict did an exercise in the course where students learned how to comparison shop, and one of the products they looked at was textbooks. He said students realized how expensive textbooks can get.
He said the feedback he has received from students has been positive.
“I got some pretty happy faces and smiles when I said there wasn’t a textbook, and there wasn’t a cost associated with it,” he said.
Faculty will soon have the opportunity to apply for the next alt-textbook initiative. An application and announcement will be out at the start of the spring semester.
This article is the second in a three-part series on the alt-textbook initiative. The third story will focus on how this initiative has benefited students.