UTC Library Affordable Course Materials Initiative

In April 2016, the UTC Library was awarded a UC Foundation Grant to assist in establishing the Affordable Course Materials Initiative. Work began with the first cohort of applicants in May 2016. We are happy to announce that we are now accepting applications to participate in the 2nd cohort. Applications are due May 10, 2017.

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What is the Affordable Course Materials Initiative (ACMI)?

ACMI was developed as a pilot with the goal of lowering the costs of course materials for UTC 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 improve educational outcomes by:

  • Eliminating and/or reducing the cost of enrolled students’ required materials (i.e. textbooks) in a specific course.
  • Increasing the number of students who have ongoing access to required materials throughout the semester.
  • Promoting the use of licensed library resources, open access scholarship and open educational resources across campus.
  • Contributing to the growing body of OER available to the global higher education community.
  • Maximizing state resources through the usage of already subscribed or owned resources.

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. A 2014 study by the Public Interest Research Group found that 65% of students surveyed had foregone buying a required textbook for a course because of financial reasons and that 94% who did so knew that it would “hurt their grade in the course.”

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. This is a financial burden many students cannot bear. In the UTC Library’s 2016 survey, over 50% of students responding indicated that they had not purchased required course materials because they were too expensive, with 24% indicating “this happens often.”

Faculty play a pivotal role in the course material market; sitting between textbook publishers (many of whom work directly with or sell directly to faculty) 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 (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 some major factors are:

  • Saving students money
  • Improving educational outcomes
  • Raising awareness of and supporting open access publishing within academia

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 in Virginia 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 are We Doing?

In the first year of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative, we are working with 11 faculty members across all colleges on new, existing, and redesigned courses to reduce cost for students. Student surveys indicate high satisfaction with courses that have been reworked to include more affordable course materials. Students report high levels of satisfaction with using a majority of online course materials, finding them available and accessible. Almost all students who completed our survey in a revised course would recommend affordable courses, 70% saying they would recommend them highly.

Students commented:

  • "loved not having to buy a book that is over priced and used once."
  • "Loved that this class did not cost me any extra money!"
  • "I wish all classes were like this."
  • "This is a very good thing that all the schools need to be using. It will not only keep the student’s costs down, but it is environmentally friendly as well"

What Will I Have to Do?

In this two-year 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 second year of the initiative, 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?

Instructors interested in participating must complete a one-page application by Wednesday, May 10th at 5:00 PM. 

Apply Now

Awards of $500 are available for each proposal accepted. 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.

Learn More

Two workshops will be presented to further explain the initiative and goals.  Please consider attending one of these workshops if you are interested in participating. Light refreshments will be served!

If you are unable to attend, we’d be happy to meet one on one or answer any questions via e-mail.  Please contact ACMI coordinator Rachel Fleming at rachel-fleming@utc.edu or x4502.

  • April 17, 2017 2PM, Library Room 205
  • April 18, 2017 2PM, Library Room 205

Notification of acceptance will be sent via e-mail by May 26, 2017. 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.
  • Equitable participation across colleges and curriculum.

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