Faculty look to help cut textbook costs for students

Marshall University has added an open textbook program for selected courses, designed to assist students with free educational materials from the Open Access Textbook program.

During the 2018-19 academic year, Marshall’s Student Government Association (SGA) began to investigate additional ways to provide low-cost and free textbooks to students. With the help of the campus bookstore, SGA students identified high enrollment classes that would have the highest cost-saving potential and spoke to faculty about adopting free, open textbooks.

"The Open Access Textbook program is intended to give more students the opportunity to learn and grow, in a state in which many families struggle financially," said sophomore biological sciences major Tabby Collins. "The program gives students some financial relief and helps to reduce the stress that comes along with starting a new semester."

As a result of the students’ initiative, Marshall University joined the Open Textbook Network (OTN) on July 1, 2019. OTN provides its 120 institutional members (representing 1,147 campuses) with training, publishing resources and an active community of professionals who are interested in expanding the adoption of free textbooks that may be retained, reused, revised, remixed and redistributed. As part of this effort, OTN manages the Open Textbook Library, a collection of mainly peer-reviewed and professionally authored textbooks.

Marshall’s chemistry and mathematics departments are conducting a pilot study of free open textbooks. One class in each department is using free textbooks to see how they compare to commercially produced textbooks. As these efforts proceed, the university is looking at additional ways to promote the use of free textbooks.

Marshall Libraries will be hosting two OTN representatives for a faculty workshop Friday, Jan. 31. The workshop will provide faculty members the opportunity to identify and review open textbooks that could be adopted for classroom use.

"Past experience at other universities indicate that 45% of faculty who review open textbooks end up adopting open textbooks," said Larry Sheret, the scholarly communication and open educational resources librarian at Marshall. "A typical textbook could cost $100. If 10 classrooms with 25 students in each class adopt an open textbook, this could save about $25,000 per semester for students. Since open textbooks are geared primarily to freshmen and sophomores, the possibility exists that sometime in the future Marshall could provide classes for beginning students without the need to purchase textbooks."

In addition to saving money for students, open textbooks may be edited by faculty to align with the course outline.

"Faculty may delete sections they do not wish to use and add their own material to the textbook. Open textbooks are also inclusive, meaning they relate to a broad spectrum of society so that no student feels left out, and accessible, meaning they may be used by individuals with hearing, seeing or mobility impairments," Sheret said.

For additional information about open textbooks and other types of open educational resources at Marshall, visit the Open Educational Resources guide at libguides.marshall.edu/OpenEducationalResources.

Marshall also has a textbook loan program that currently includes 147 classes. Textbooks are provided for students to check out and use in the Drinko Library for up to three hours at a time. The bookstore also has a rental program designed to reduce costs for students.