Affordable Course Materials Initiative

The cost and accessibility of course materials are more important than ever as our students deal with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Open Educational Materials and Affordable Course Materials available from the UTC Library are a viable and sustainable solution to reducing textbook costs for students.

Contact to arrange a consultation about ways to reduce course material costs for your students.

The Affordable Course Materials Initiative (ACMI) seeks to improve educational outcomes by lowering the cost of course materials for students.

The Affordable Course Materials Initiative (ACMI) annual grant program awards $500 for completed projects to faculty reduce or eliminate course materials costs for students. In ACMI Grant Projects, faculty work with UTC Librarians to swap costly required and supplemental course texts with existing library electronic resources, open educational resources (OERs), open access scholarship and/or alternative educational resources.

Individual consultations and departmental workshops, on course affordability are available on demand. Contact Scholarly Communications Librarian Rachel Fleming (x4502) at to set up a meeting, or stop by the office in the Special Collections Reading Room.

In addition to consultations and grant projects, ACMI projects include increasing collaboration and transparency in relation to course materials. The ACMI promotes clearer labelling and instructions about affordable materials for students by increasing collaboration between the UTC Library, faculty, and the UTC Bookstore. UTC collaborates with other University of Tennessee campuses and schools across the state to increase awareness and adoption of open and affordable texts in Tennessee. The ACMI supports education about open and affordable texts for UTC faculty and students, as well as adaptation and authorship of OER by UTC faculty.


ACMI Program Information

Affordable Course Materials Initiative Grant Program Overview

ACMI Grants support faculty projects committed to reducing or eliminating the cost of course materials for students and dedicate UTC Librarian time to support those projects. UTC librarians assist faculty in discovering and integrating low-to no-cost alternatives to costly traditional course materials into their course. The UTC Library works with roughly ten ACMI projects each academic year, ranging from changes ranging from a textbook swap to a complete course redesign.

Affordable Course Materials could include textbooks, course packs, and supplemental books/readings. The Library encourages the use of the following types of resources as replacements:

  • Library-licensed and/or owned materials (electronic journals and articles, ebooks 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

Faculty are asked to provide “before” and “after” syllabi for their courses. Librarians will work with the faculty member to locate appropriate materials, overcome technical hurdles, and interface with campus partners.

Awards of $500 are available for courses revised with significantly lower or no cost. 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.

Proposals are 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, OpenStax, OER Commons, OASIS)
  • Ability to gather and/or create course content in time for use during the upcoming 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.

Affordable Course Materials Initiatives Goals

The ACMI seeks to improve educational outcomes by:

  • Eliminating or reducing the cost of enrolled students’ required materials 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 open educational resources available to the global higher education community.
  • Maximizing state resources through the usage of already subscribed or owned resources.

Why Affordable Course Materials?

  • Textbook prices have risen significantly over the past 20 years:
    • A 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that textbook costs rose 82% between 2002 and 2012.
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports textbook prices increased 88% between 2006 and 2016.
    • Although national figures show that the increase in textbook prices has slowed over the past two years, textbook costs remain a significant burden to students.
    • The UTC Office of Financial Aid’s 2019-2020 estimate shows $1,400 in books for undergraduates and $1,200 for graduate students.
  • Cost is a primary factor in student decision making. Newer studies (see Florida Student Textbook and Course Material Surveys) continue to support the findings of a 2014 study by the Public Interest Research Group:
    • 65% of students skipped buying a required textbook for a course for financial reasons.
    • 94% of students who didn't purchase materials for a course worried it could hurt their grade in the course.
    • Nearly half of students said the cost of textbooks impacted which courses they took each semester.
    • The UTC Library included questions about textbook affordability in its 2016 and 2017 Annual Library Surveys. Over half of students who took the surveys reported that they have skipped purchasing course materials because they were too expensive, and a quarter of students reported that “this happens often.”
  • High textbook prices are just one area of financial concern for students:
    • Over a third of students nationally experience food and housing insecurity, according to a 2018 report by the Hope Center.
    • According to a 2018 report, our neighbors in Georgia experience food and housing insecurity slightly higher than the national average.
    • According to Scrappy’s Cupboard, a campus climate survey reports 43% of UTC students experience food insecurity.
    • According to the 2018 Campus Climate Research Study of UTC conducted by Rankin & Associates:
      • 49% of undergraduates experienced financial hardship, and 65% of those students reported difficulty in purchasing books/course materials (p. 36).
      • A quarter of undergraduates who considered leaving UTC for financial reasons (p. 187).
  • Affordability works!
    • A recent study of affordability program outcomes in Georgia showed that, after courses adopted OER (Open Educational Resources, or, free textbooks):
      • Drop/Fail/Withdraw numbers declined
      • Average grades rose
      • Both effects were more pronounced for at-risk and historically underserved groups
    • A 2015 study of 10 institutions also found improved completion rates and improved grades for students in courses using OER.
    • There is a growing body of research on use of OER.
    • During the two-year pilot of the ACMI, we surveyed students who took courses revised through the program. 70% of students prefer course materials as ebooks over print books, especially if the cost differential is significant.
  • According to the SPARC State Policy Tracker over half of states have considered or adopted OER legislation in recent years. 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.
  • Students love affordable course materials:
    • "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"

Impact of Affordable Courses

As of spring 2019, 31 courses have been revised through the ACMI. These courses represent every college and range from introductory to graduate level. Twenty six faculty members have successfully worked with the ACMI to revise their courses. Since the ACMI began in 2016, over 3,200 students enrolled in ACMI-revised courses, generating over $447,000 in potential savings in course materials. In the fall semester of 2019 alone, the ACMI reached just over 650 students who saved over $100,000 on course materials.

Student surveys indicate high satisfaction with courses that have been revised to use 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.

Affordable Course Materials Initiative Courses

The following are courses which have been revised through ACMI grants. Courses are listed by course number and faculty member of record. Other sections of the same course may use other course materials. Courses may no longer be offered, their last offer date is listed for reference. Check the UTC Bookstore website for information about course materials for courses in upcoming semesters.

Dept Course Instructor Course Title Last Taught
CHEM 3210 Potts Quantitative Analysis

Fall 2019

CHEM 4220 Potts Methods of Environmental Analysis Spring 2020
CRMJ 3310 Crittenden Race, Class, Gender, and Crime Summer 2018
ECHD 2435 Meece Child Development and Observation Spring 2020
ECHD 4460 Hansen Strategies for Assessing Young Children Spring 2020
ECON  1010 Bonnal Principles of Economics: Macroeconomics Spring 2020 
EDUC  5750 Adsit Educational Technology Fall 2018
ENGL  1150 Kurtz Western Humanities II Spring 2020
ENGL 2700 Einstein Creative Writing Spring 2020
ENGR 2110 Ford Pollution Controls Spring 2018
HIST  1120 Samuel World HIstory from 1400 - Present Spring 2020
HIST  1120 Chummiskey  World HIstory from 1400 - Present Spring 2029 
HIST  2010 Thompson  United States to 1865 Fall 2018
MATH  4200 Walters Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory Fall 2019
MATH  4200 Walters Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory Fall 2018 
MGT 4380 Lamb International Management Spring 2020
NURS  5770 Wick Introduction to Social Gerontology and the Aging Experience Spring 2020
NURS  7020 Holcombe Epidemiology and Health Requisites of Populations Fall 2019
NURS  7040 Holcombe Technology & Transformation of Healthcare Fall 2019
POLS   1030 Mauldin Controversies in Public Policy Summer 2019
SOC 3140 Trivette Research Methods Fall 2018
SOC  4140 Trivette Research Seminar Spring 2019
SOCW  5333 Womack Program Evaluation I Spring 2020 
THSP 2210 Swedberg  Acting I  Spring 2020 
THSP 4230 Swedberg  Acting II  Fall 2019
THSP  4570  Jeffers  Conceptual Foundations of Modern Theatre  Spring 2020
THSP  4630  Swedberg Voice and Classical Acting  Spring 2020

Best Practices for Affordable Course Materials Initiative Courses

Working with the UTC Bookstore

In order to provide the widest possible range of access options for students, we encourage faculty to report all course adopted texts to the UTC Bookstore, including texts available freely to students through the UTC Library and Open Textbooks available in print.

When course resources are available through open and affordable channels, there is still some demand for print versions of the resources, but that demand is greatly reduced. Use the comments section in faculty insight to indicate that the text is an open educational resource or freely available through the library.

The UTC Bookstore offers a “Wait for Class” note in the online store which can restrict purchase options for students. Use this option if you would like to help students understand their purchase options before they make decisions about whether or not to purchase print resources.

bookstore website listing that materials for the course are free and available through your instructor

sign on bookshelf lists that materials are available at no charge throug the Affordable Course Materials Initiative

In-store, ACMI courses are labeled at the UTC Bookstore with an ACMI logo to increase visibility of the ACMI program and help inform students about affordable options.

What to put in your syllabus

All required texts should be included in the Course Materials section of your syllabus. Include information about the text, and indicate that the text(s) are available at no charge to students. Provide access information for texts available online or through the library, using the best practices described below. Indicate if optional print versions are available through the UTC bookstore. Clearly indicate if some texts are available at no charge but others are not and must be purchased from the UTC bookstore. Discuss the texts and access options with your students so that they understand their access options and your course policies.

It is not currently required to include a syllabus note on courses that have been revised with support from the ACMI. However, a note about textbook affordability and/or the ACMI can improve student awareness about the issues around course materials affordability and our work to address them. You can include “this course was revised to reduce/eliminate the cost of course materials for students with the assistance of an Affordable Course Materials grant in [semester, year]” to recognize the contribution of the grant.

Linking to Open Educational Resources

Many Open Educational Resources are available in many formats both online and for download. Provide students with as many options as possible by pointing them to a home page for the resource which includes links for access options and taking time to talk through access options with students.

  • Encourage students to download a PDF or e-reader version of the text for offline use or if they do not have reliable access to the internet.
  • If an EPUB or iBooks version is available, students can download this version for use on a smartphone, tablet, or e-reader.
  • Use chapter-level links throughout the syllabus to link students directly to the content for each class session.
  • You can post PDF or other versions of open course materials under their open licenses, or re-mix open content to create original course materials, as long as it is within the license of the original materials.

Linking to Affordable Materials

There are many free to use resources available online that are not open educational resources. These materials may be under copyright or other protections and you should be careful to use them accordingly.

  • Provide links to materials instead of downloading them and uploading them into canvas.
  • Check each semester that the links are still active and accurate.
  • Determine if your use of these materials is a fair use or covered under another copyright exception.

Linking to Library Licensed Materials

Provide persistent links to library licensed materials, including ebooks and journal articles. Follow the guidance on the Library’s Linking to Materials page to make links that are stable and direct students through the Library’s website to ensure access.

  • Although almost all library ebooks are available to unlimited simultaneous users, some do have digital rights management features which limit the amount that can be downloaded or printed at a single time. Familiarize yourself with the ebook or ask us about the features of the ebook.
  • In most cases, the Library recommends linking to the landing page of the book to display all access options. However, some platforms, such as the EBSCO ebook platform, have misleading and confusing information about access options, and in that case we suggest you provide a link to the title page or table of contents within the ebook itself.
  • Encourage students to download a PDF or e-reader version of the text for offline use or if they do not have reliable access to the internet.
  • Use chapter-level links throughout the syllabus to link students directly to the content for each class session. Instruct students to always use the links in the syllabus to access materials.