The high cost of commercial textbooks, both print and electronic, is a major concern for today’s students. In an effort to reduce these costs Southern Utah University’s Gerald R. Sherratt Library with the SUU Student Association (SUUSA) are launching the Alternative Text Project for fall and spring 2014.
The Alternative Text (Alt-Text) Project will support faculty interested in pursuing non-traditional educational resources as an alternative to the customary commercial textbook.
With the average U.S. college student paying $900 a year on textbooks, several University organizations have fronted $5,000 for Alt-Text’s inaugural year and in it is estimated that the project will yield a savings of $25,000 for students in just one academic year by giving open education access to students.
This experiment to give open access to students is an initiative that campuses across the nation are launching with “tremendous forward momentum,” said Nicole Allen OER director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.
“Semester after semester, students are facing higher and higher prices of textbooks,” Allen said. “There’s frustration with the fact that the current system for publishing textbooks puts up legal barriers, which is counter to what the Internet has to offer. The idea of a framework like open educational resources that makes that information available free is really appealing and in many ways common sense.”
It is with this idea of open educational resources that the Library and SUUSA spied an opportunity to respond to the charge of curbing the cost of textbooks and other educational material by choosing five faculty members to each change one class to non-traditional sources such as online articles or Library resources, eliminating the need to purchase a textbook.
Each faculty member chosen will be given a $1,000 stipend to develop a variety of non-traditional sources instead of using the typical textbook, in an effort to save money for students and give educators a richer curriculum.
The monetary return on investment isn’t the only positive effect of the new project explained John Eye, dean of the Library. He continued, “This isn’t just about saving students a few bucks, this is also about giving them more effective literature that can’t be found in a textbook.”
Baily Bowthorpe, SUUSA academic vice president and a senior studying communications, explained the motivation behind SUUSA fronting majority of the money to fund this project. She said, “Saving student’s money is important, but the biggest effect will be the utilization of resources already located within the Library. The Alt-Text Project will have students and faculty members employing the countless archives already housed within the Library, digital and printed.”
SUU faculty members that are interested in being a part of the Alt-Text Project must submit applications by Friday, February 28. Those interested contact Mikki Shakespeare, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information and an application. Those accepted will be notified the week of March 10 and will be asked to deploy their alternative textbook curriculum in either fall 2014 or spring 2015.