A grant from the State Library of North Carolina will aid students at East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro by reducing their costs for required textbooks. The grant is part of the Library Services and Technology Act and is made possible by LSTA grant funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal grant-making agency. The State Library of North Carolina, a Division of the Department of Cultural Resources, awarded a grant to librarians from J.Y. Joyner Library at ECU and Jackson Library at UNCG to develop a two-pronged approach to Alternative Textbooks. Including matching funds from both universities, the total cost of the two-year project is $184,332.
Sharing best practices, procedures, and promotional materials, the librarians at both institutions will work with departmental faculty to reduce students' textbook costs and increase their academic engagement through two concurrent strategies. One strategy is to award departmental faculty mini-grants to adopt, adapt, or create Open Educational Resources (OER's) as the bases for their syllabi. The second strategy is to identify required texts that either the library already owns or can purchase as ebooks that students may use in addition to or instead of a printed copy that they purchase.
Textbook affordability is a personal goal for Joyner Library director Janice S. Lewis, as well as a library goal. She is looking forward, she says, to working with colleagues at UNCG's Jackson Library on "our cooperative efforts to provide high quality educational resources to students while saving them money." Kathy Crowe, Interim Dean for the UNCG’s University Libraries, says “We are delighted to have the opportunity to enhance and build on our OER initiatives at UNCG and broaden the scope across the state.” Student response to a UNCG pilot program was equally enthusiastic; one student commented "I believe that this method of teaching is great, and I have learned just as much as I would using a textbook."
The Alternative Textbooks Project benefits to students include a reduction in the cost of attending college and increased opportunities for engagement and academic success in their classes. Studies of student achievement across multiple colleges and universities have suggested that students in OER classes take more classes, have higher retention rates and shorter times to degree, and have learning outcomes equivalent to or slightly higher than students in classes with traditional textbooks.
Any OER objects created will be made freely available to a global audience, and planning documents, procedures, and promotional materials will be shared with other libraries so that they can adopt this model for their own campuses. For more information, contact any of our co-principal investigators: Cindy Shirkey or Joseph Thomas from East Carolina University, or Beth Bernhardt from UNC Greensboro.