UTC Library Affordable Course Materials Initiative

The Affordable Course Materials Initiative began in 2016 with the support of a UC Foundation Grant. The Initiative continues with the support of the UTC Library.

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 still accepting proposals for the 2020-2021 Cohort of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative.

Apply Now

What is the Affordable Course Materials Initiative (ACMI)?

The ACMI seeks to improve educational outcomes by lowering the cost of course materials. UTC librarians work 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.

What are the goals of the Affordable Course Materials Initiative?

The ACMI aims 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 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. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports textbook prices increased 88% between 2006 and 2016. 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 2019/2020 school year to be $1,400.00 for undergraduate 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 a 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (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 are Others 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. 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

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?

To date, the ACMI has revised over 30 courses across the UTC curriculum. The ACMI has reached over 3,200 students and saved those students over $447,000 on course materials since its start in 2016. 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 the ACMI, UTC Library faculty 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, 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. Faculty have the opportunity to further contribute to the development of the ACMI by developing assessment tools for gauging the pedagogical and financial impact of the initiative, and submitting any originally created learning materials 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?

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.

Learn More

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.

Apply Now

Notification of acceptance will be sent via e-mail by May 26, 2020. 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 2020/2021 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.