Affordable Course Materials Initiative

To better meet the needs of our students, the UTC Library is excited to launch an initiative focused on lowering the costs of course materials for students. The Affordable Course Initiative seeks to lower the cost of course materials by working directly with faculty to swap costly required and supplemental course texts (textbooks, workbooks, course packs, or supplemental readings) with existing library electronic resources, open educational resources (OERs), open access scholarship and/or alternative educational resources.

This program aims to:

  • Eliminate and/or reduce the cost of enrolled students’ required materials (i.e. textbooks) in a specific course.
  • Increase the number of students who have ongoing access to required materials throughout the semester.
  • Promote the use of licensed library resources, open access scholarship and open educational resources across campus.
  • Contribute to the growing body of OER available to the global higher education community.

Why Should I Participate?

The rising cost of textbooks and other course materials is of huge concern for UTC students, their families, and, increasingly, state and federal government.  A 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that textbook costs rose 82% between 2002 and 2012. Furthermore, UTC’s Financial Aid website estimates the cost of “Books” for the 2015-2016 school year to be $1,400.00 for undergraduate students and $1,600.00 for graduate students. A 2014 study by the Public Interest Research Group found that 65% of students surveyed had foregone buying a required textbook for a course and that 94% did so knowing that it would “hurt their grade in the course.”  Faculty play a pivotal role in the textbook market; sitting between textbook publishers and their student buyers.  As the GAO points out, “although students are the end consumers, faculty are responsible for selecting which textbooks students will need, thereby limiting students’ ability to allay costs.” 

What Others Are Doing?

Institutions of higher learning (both at the community college, research university, and system level) across the country have been striving in recent years to embrace a culture where low to no-cost alternatives to expensive course materials are the first choice instructors seek out when updating curriculum and choosing course materials. The reasons for these initiatives vary, but the two biggest are saving students money and raising the awareness of and supporting open access publishing within academia.  These programs have been very successful on both fronts. 

For example, our neighbors to the south, the University System of Georgia, began their Affordable Learning Georgia initiative July 2014. It was projected that the initiative would save students over $9 million dollars in course material costs in fiscal years 2015 and 2016. That’s a lot of money!  Another success story comes from Tidewater Community College where they have created a degree path in business administration where “all textbooks and learning materials are available to students at no cost using Open Educational Resources (OER).” Not only are the course materials free to students, but positive results in student retention and success have also been recorded.

What Will I Have to Do?

In this pilot initiative, the UTC Library will assist faculty in discovering and integrating low-to no-cost alternatives to costly traditional course materials into their courses.  These materials include, but are not limited to, textbooks, course packs, and supplemental books/readings.  The Library will encourage the use of the following types of resources as replacements:

  • Library-licensed and/or owned materials (electronic journals and articles, e-books and e-book chapters, archival materials, digitized primary source materials etc…)
  • Open access scholarly materials
  • Open educational resources (OERs)
    • Authored by the faculty member
    • Adopted by the faculty member
    • Reused/Remixed by the faculty member

During this inaugural year, the library will work closely with selected faculty members to locate appropriate materials, overcome possible technical hurdles, and interface with campus partners. Selected faculty will assist the library in developing assessment tools for gauging the pedagogical and financial impact of the initiative.  Finally, the Library will work with all participants to submit any originally created learning materials (workbooks, course packs, recorded lectures etc…) and the related course syllabus into UTC Scholar with a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY). UTC Scholar is UTC’s open access repository. This will ensure easy sharing of OER created content with the larger UTC community.

How Do I Participate?

Initially, five awards are available of $500.00 each.  The financial grant is meant to offer a small incentive to faculty for the time needed to locate and evaluate resources, create and modify course assignments, and in general, adjust the curriculum for the course. Each applicant must be the instructor of record and the courses must be for enrolled students at the undergraduate or graduate level. 

Notification of acceptance will be sent via e-mail by May 27, 2016. Proposals will be evaluated on the following:

  • The completeness of the application.
  • The availability of suitable existing library electronic resources or OER in major repositories (Open Textbook Library, MERLOT, OER Commons, OpenStax)
  • Ability to gather and/or create course content in time for use during the 2016-2017 academic year
  • The average enrollment in the course and the frequency with which it is scheduled.
  • The total cost to each student of traditional required materials the last time the course was taught.

The successful applicant will receive a single $500 stipend, delivered upon successful completion of the course using materials selected through the initiative.