There are growing opportunities at Ohio University for instructors to help students save money on required course materials. Building off of past efforts to reduce costs, a cross-campus collaboration came together in the fall of 2019, aiming to create a sustainable affordable learning materials ecosystem at Ohio University. The Office of Instructional Innovation, University Libraries, and Office of Information Technology have joined forces to foster a team approach between librarians, instructional designers, and technology experts. This ecosystem empowers instructors to reduce student expenses by providing resources for multiple paths to a more economical education. These efforts are primarily digital, which allows students to access their course materials on the first day of class, decreasing the likelihood of them falling behind.

OHIO affordable learning efforts timeline
The history of affordable learning efforts across Ohio University.

Why is Affordable Learning Important?

Research indicates that students who have access to course materials on the first day of class have an increased chance at course success. These success measures include improving Drop–Fail–Withdraw (DFW) rates and end-of-course grades for all students. This research also found that these improvements in student success metrics have an even greater impact on students who may struggle financially, such as Pell Grant recipients (Colbard, et al., 2018).

Aligning with the Office of the President’s strategic initiative of student success: leading retention, persistence, and completion, these efforts will positively impact the student experience by releasing some of the financial pressure created from the hefty price tag of textbooks and course materials. The University has already saved students a total of $3 million through such efforts, and will continue its push to reduce use of expensive materials. The affordable learning collaboration encompasses the following opportunities:

Library Materials

OHIO’s University Libraries can provide affordable course materials at low or no cost. The Libraries also offer a program called the Alt-Textbook Initiative to encourage and support instructors in efforts to use Open Educational Resources (OER) and licensed library content in place of expensive course materials. Instructors can contact their subject librarian for help discovering alternative content, streamlining their syllabus, placing materials on course reserve, linking content in Blackboard, and more.

Open Educational Resources

Studies show that student outcomes improve with the adoption of OER. The University Libraries offer many resources for Open Access and OER materials, including discovery tools, support for and information on creating your own open content through their Fostering OER program, and more.

Digital Course Materials

By enrolling your course in the Inclusive Access Program, students’ accounts will automatically receive access to the course’s digital materials from day one (will be billed by the Bursar for such access). Faculty can work with publishers to adopt content, and then OIT will load that content for registered students, who can then opt out if they so choose. The average discount on these materials is up to 50 percent of the digital list price, and the average opt-out rate for OHIO students is only 5.6 percent (as of fall 2019).

We have had a lot of positive comments and appreciation from students about the affordability of the textbook I adopted through Top Hat, as it’s free. They really like having an interactive textbook, quizzes, and course material all in the same place. As an instructor, I like that I can see their progress and where they are struggling or succeeding, and use that in my classroom to reinforce material or know that I can move on from other material.

—Angela Hillman
Assistant Professor, College of Health Sciences and Professions

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