Alt-Textbooks at UAS

erin-laughlinBY ERIN LAUGHLIN
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

As the University of Alaska system implements more tuition increases, UAS has the opportunity to alleviate some of those costs for students with the Alt-Textbook Project.

According to a 2014 study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the average American college student spends $1,200 per year on books and supplies.

The Alt-Textbook Project provides faculty development and advocacy to increase awareness of Open Educational Resources (OCRs), according to the UAS webpage.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition defines OCRs as ”teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.”

UAS Public Services Librarian Jonas Lamb says he got the idea for the UAS Alt-Textbook Project two years ago after attending the Association of College and Resource Libraries conference in Portland.

The conference introduced him to projects at other universities that are helping reduce costs and physical barriers to course materials by utilizing library licensed ebooks, open access textbooks, and other open educational resources.

“It was the first time I had heard of this type of initiative in academic libraries and I thought it could benefit our campus” Lamb said.

In order to determine whether the Alt-Textbook Project could be accepted at UAS, Lamb conducted a survey amongst UAS faculty.

The 2016 UAS Teaching and Learning Resources survey found that faculty considers cost to be the fourth factor when choosing resources for a class.

This is at a time when 50 percent of students report that textbook prices impact which and how many courses they are able to take, according to the 2016 report “Access Denied: The New Face of the Textbook Monopoly,” by Student Public Interest Research Groups.

The same report also said that 65 percent of students report not purchasing a textbook because of its high price.

OCR skeptics commonly argue that access to course material does not affect student performance.

In reply Lamb said, “The fewer the barriers to accessing readings the more likely students will do the work.”

“Along with consideration of cost of materials I hope faculty will consider how engaging the material is and consider teaching and learning strategies that encourage student engagement by allowing the students to participate in the curation of open resources relevant to their coursework” added Lamb.

Lamb says students who support the Alt-Textbook Project should talk to student government and instructors.

“If they’ve selected affordable materials, let them know you appreciate it.  If you’re struggling financially and can’t access materials, let them know that as well.  If you’re one of the 1000 students each semester checking out textbooks from the library, drop a comment in our box and let us know you value the service.”

Jonas Lamb can  be reached at jlamb13@alaska.edu.

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