Ohio University

Cross-campus affordable learning efforts join forces

Published: February 5, 2020 Author: Emily Baxstrom

Efforts across Ohio University to reduce the cost of students’ textbooks and course materials have united instructional designers, librarians, and technology experts to partner in creating resources for instructors to access affordable learning materials. In fall 2019, the Office of Instructional Innovation, University Libraries, and Office of Information Technology combined efforts to create a sustainable, affordable learning materials ecosystem. 

“Our goal is to increase the adoption of affordable learning content at OHIO so students can benefit from lower-cost materials that are available for them on or before the first day of class,” said Eszti Major-Rohrer, interim manager and service owner of academic technology in the Office of Information Technology.

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. Since fall 2018, 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.

“It’s exciting to see the cost savings these efforts have yielded thus far,” said Candi Morris, associate vice provost for instructional innovation. “I’m happy the Office of Instructional Innovation has joined efforts with the Libraries and the Office of Information Technology to provide additional cost savings for our students and look forward to our continued impact in the future.”

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 rates and end-of-course grades for all students, as well as having an even greater impact on students who may struggle financially, such as Pell recipients.

“Libraries’ long tradition of equalizing access to information, combined with the special expertise of subject librarians in connecting information seekers to resources that meet their needs makes us natural players in this field,” said Kelly Broughton, assistant dean for research and education services in the University Libraries. “Subject librarians regularly consult with faculty and instructors to identify open educational resources and licensed library content to use in place of expensive textbooks. We also regularly advise, assist and support faculty in the development of their own open course materials.”

The affordable learning collaboration encompasses affordable course materials at low or no cost through OHIO’s University Libraries and the Alt-Textbook Initiative, a collection of Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OER) materials at the Libraries, access to OER materials through a University partnership with Top Hat, and an Inclusive Access Program that automatically gives students access to low-cost digital course materials from day one.

The Top Hat partnership will continue this spring semester in an effort to save students an estimated additional $250,000. Faculty and students are able to access Top Hat’s affordable resources at low or no cost to them, and faculty can receive $500 for implementing Top Hat’s OER materials in their courses.

“Changing course materials in an established course is not always an easy task for our faculty,” said Major-Rohrer. “We hope to build an ecosystem that provides course material options and, perhaps more importantly, support for our faculty members if they wish to update their course materials.”

For more details on all the options available to instructors at Ohio University, visit the Affordable Learning web page.