Ohio University’s Textbook Initiative Task Force is collaborating with academic departments, faculty, and students to examine the most effective ways to manage and reduce the hefty price tag for course materials.

Since fall 2015 when the textbook initiative launched, the task force has been focused on expanding access and reducing costs through Open Educational Resource (OER) initiatives. They also are working with publishers to give students in large-enrollment courses instant access to digital content.

Textbook Initiative Strategy

The task force secured two key partnerships and implemented a program to offer students digital copies of their course materials.

  1. OHIO’s recent partnership with Top Hat has expanded access to OER. Faculty are able to develop new content using Top Hat’s all-in-one platform or locate existing resources using Top Hat Marketplace.

    For more on the Top Hat partnership, view the resources below:
    Ohio University partnership with Top Hat exceeds original savings goal, provides students with $600,000 in a single semester
    Ohio University and Top Hat partner to reduce textbook costs for students
    Top IT Issues and Diversifying the Campus Tech Workforce

  2. In fall 2017, the University Libraries joined the Open Text Network (OTN), a consortium of academic institutions that prioritize increasing use of open educational materials. The Libraries offered OTN workshops and other events to help faculty find open textbooks in their discipline.

  3. In spring 2018, the University implemented a pilot program that gave students the option to access a digital copy of their course materials at the lowest price point OHIO negotiated with textbook publishers. While students were given the option to opt out of this program before they were automatically billed at the low price the University negotiated, 92 percent of those invited to participate chose to take part in the program. Students saved more than $88,000 through this program—an average savings of approximately $135 per student—and received immediate access to their course materials. The pilot included eight courses (thirteen sections total), with more than 700 students invited to participate.

    This program is continuing in spring 2019, with 77 courses (247 sections total) expected to participate. Given the current enrollment for those courses, this could potentially impact over 8,500 students.

    Students: View more information pertinent to Digital Course Materials.

Past task force efforts

One of the most successful programs in the first year of this plan was the creation of the Alt-Textbook Initiative, a collaboration between University Libraries and the Office of Instructional Innovation to incentivize faculty to use Open Educational Resources and library content instead of expensive materials. The task force also asked faculty to post textbook information earlier in the semester, enabling students to purchase materials at a lower price; engaged with departments and courses that use expensive materials to explore ways to reduce costs; and investigated partnerships with Amazon and bookstores to get course materials to students quickly and at discounted rates.

Efforts across the University led to students seeing $740,563 in textbook savings in 2017 and an additional $1,088,000 so far in 2018. These savings can be attributed to encouraging students to rent books instead of purchasing them, working with faculty to redesign courses through the Alt-Textbook Initiative, and collaborating with vendors such as Top Hat.

Information for the OHIO Community

The information below includes specific strategies faculty can implement to work toward decreasing the cost of textbooks and materials, as well as actions faculty can share with their students.

For Faculty


According to OHIO’s Student Financial Aid and Scholarships office, students report spending over $1,000 per year on books.

According to a recent SPIRG report, 65 percent of students chose to go without textbooks for a class because they were too expensive even though a majority of them (94 percent) believed this would negatively impact their grade in that class. This study also found that high textbook costs can have a ripple effect on students’ other academic decisions: Nearly half of all students surveyed said that the price of textbooks affected how many and which classes they took each semester.

Top Hat Partnership

Sign up to participate in OHIO’s initiative with Top Hat.

Task force members include:

  • Chris Ament
  • Conner Attrell
  • Craig Bantz
  • Debra Benton
  • Kelly Broughton
  • Brad Cohen
  • Janet Hulm
  • Greg Kessler
  • Landen Lama
  • Joseph McLaughlin
  • Gwyn Scott
  • David Thomas