One of the first things students do as the new semester begins is figuring our their textbook strategy. Which ones can they borrow from friends that took the course before. Can it be rented in e-format from B&N, Amazon, Google or Chegg? Does the bookstore have a used copy? For which courses could a textbook purchase be delayed or even ignored? With the high cost of textbooks, figuring out how to get them at the cheapest possible price is high on the students’ beginning of the semester to-do-list.
That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions at the Temple Libraries during the first week or two of the semester is about textbooks. Students want to find out if the Libraries hold a copy of their textbook. Some assume we buy them, but they find out that’s not the case. Sometimes their book is placed on course reserve by the instructor. Sometimes a fairly out-of-date edition, a past reserve item, can be found in the book stacks. Some students will choose to take that outdated edition over the current edition.
Student interest is growing in having faculty point them to open education resources instead of assigning traditional textbooks. In a research paper titled “Online and Campus College Students Like Using an Open Educational Resource Instead of a Traditional Book“, Brian Lindshield and Koushik Adhikari of Kansas State University, report that data gathered over several semesters using an alternate textbook they called the “flexbook”, that utilized an open-source textbook platform to allow faculty to collaboratively offer freely available learning materials, was preferred by students over the traditional textbook. They conclude “that students are willing to move beyond traditional print textbooks.” An article in Inside Higher Ed titled “Expense Experiments” identifies how different institutions are experimenting with both e-textbooks and technology for reading them.
Additionally in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Almanac of Higher Education 2013, there is a chart that summarizes student responses to a question asking them what technologies they would like to most see their professors using – and what they’d like to see used less often. Nearly half of the students surveyed indicated that they would like to see more use of freely available course content beyond the student’s own campus. A slightly lesser number of students wanted more use of e-books and e-textbooks.
The Temple University Libraries offers a resource page for faculty seeking more sources for open educational resources – such as the University of Minnesota open textbook catalog that can subject search the holdings of numerous open textbook repositories. The Libraries also owns thousands of e-books that may be used as an alternate to a textbook. Using the SUMMON search (on the Libraries homepage) it is possible to modify a search to locate book chapters in electronic sources:
With the growing number of open educational resources available to faculty, and the increasing student acceptance of e-resources, the possibility of replacing traditional textbooks with open learning materials is greater than ever.