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 scholar@utc.edu to arrange a consultation about ways to reduce course material costs for your students.

We are currently accepting additional proposals for the 2020/2021 (projects completed by May 2021) as well as proposals for the 2021/2022 cohort (projects completed by May 2022).

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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 scholar@utc.edu to set up a meeting.

In addition to consultations and grant projects, ACMI projects include increasing collaboration and transparency about 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 is a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Tennessee Textbook Affordability for Student Success task force, and the University of Tennessee System’s Affordable Learning Tennessee project. 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 course materials into their course. The UTC Library works with roughly ten ACMI projects each academic year, with changes ranging from a textbook swap to a complete course redesign.

Affordable Course Materials could include textbooks, article lists, 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 provide “before” and “after” syllabi as proof of work completed for the grant project. Librarians work with the faculty member to locate appropriate materials, overcome technical hurdles, and interface with campus partners.

Awards of $500 are awarded for courses revised with significantly lower or no cost. The financial grant is meant to offer a small incentive to faculty in recognition of the time needed to locate and evaluate resources, create and modify course assignments, and 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:

  • Completeness of the application
  • 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.
  • Average enrollment in the course and the frequency with which it is scheduled.
  • 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, over 80% since the mid 2000s, according to multiple reports. Although the increase in textbook prices has slowed more recently, textbook costs remain a significant burden to students. The UTC Office of Financial Aid estimates required course materials will cost undergraduates $1,400 each year.
  • Cost is a primary factor in student decision making. Studies continue to report that over half of students have skipped buying required textbooks for financial reasons, and are worried it could hurt their academic performance. A quarter UTC Student surveys report “often” not purchasing required course materials due to high prices. 
  • High textbook prices are just one area of financial concern for students: Students are facing food and housing insecurity at alarming rates. According to Scrappy’s Cupboard, a campus climate survey reports 43% of UTC students experience food insecurity, and a 2018 Campus Climate Research Study reports that 49% of undergraduates experienced financial hardship, and 65% of those students reported difficulty in purchasing books/course materials and quarter of undergraduates considered leaving UTC for financial reasons .
  • Affordability works! There is a growing body of research on the efficacy of use of OER. A recent study in Georgia showed that adoption of OER resulted in higher average grades and lower number of D’s, F’s and withdrawals. The positive effects of adopting low-cost resources resulted in more pronounced effects for at-risk and historically underserved groups. Seventy percent of UTC students surveyed during the ACMI pilot prefer course materials as ebooks over print books, especially if the cost differential is significant.
  • Affordable Course Materials are a national priority. The SPARC State Policy Tracker reports on the myriad measures that states have considered or adopted related to 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.

The ACMI has a University-wide scope, with revised courses in every college ranging from introductory to graduate. Because courses continue to produce student savings semester after semester, the impact of each course grows each time it is offered. See current and longitudinal statistics about ACMI course offerings, students reached, and student savings in our most recent annual report.

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

Current Affordable Course Materials Initiative Course List. ACMI courses listed 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.

Do you offer a low- or no-cost course that should be included in the ACMI course list, or teach a section of a course listed that is also affordable? Please contact scholar@utc.edu and include a current syllabus to have your course listed.

Best Practices for Affordable Course Materials Initiative Courses

Working with the UTC Bookstore

All course adopted textbooks must be reported to the UTC Bookstore. In order to provide the widest possible range of access options for students, faculty should report as adopted 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 demand for print versions of the resources, but that demand is greatly reduced. Use the comments section in FacutlyEnlight to indicate that the text is an Open Educational Resource or 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 in FacultyEnlight 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 whether 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.