February 20, 2019

Pilot project saved Nebraska students $117,000 on textbooks



The first cohort of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Successful Teaching with Affordable Resources initiative saved students $117,836 in textbook costs during the fall 2018 semester. Savings for the 2019-20 academic year are projected to be at least $275,000.

"Affordability is part of Nebraska’s land-grant mission and OER can provide substantial savings for students while maintaining academic excellence," said Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education. "We are very happy with the results of the pilot program and expect a bigger impact on students' ability to afford higher education as the program grows."

Open education resources are teaching and learning materials in digital media collections curated from around the world that are available online at no cost for instructors and students. They include full courses, course modules, homework, quizzes, and classroom activities. When instructors use these resources, they can often reduce or eliminate the need for textbooks in their classrooms.

"I found OER materials to be more up to date and flexible than traditional textbooks," said Courtney Hillebrecht, associate professor of political science. "They made my international relations classes interactive and engaging."

According to a 2018 Achieving the Dream report, students using project materials saved $66 to $121 per course. A survey of students found that 41 percent reported this affected their ability to afford college. Students in the university's pilot program saved an average of $61 per course.

In Nebraska's mathematics department, instructors created materials for four precalculus courses in the pilot program. More than 1,300 students used them, saving $90 to $170 depending on the course.

"We are very happy with these new materials, and analytics show students used them extensively," said Allan Donsig, professor of mathematics. "Based on this success, we're looking at creating OER for other high-enrollment courses."

Overall, the inaugural cohort included seven faculty and six graduate teaching assistants who revamped 12 courses and delivered material to 18 sections covering almost 2,000 students.

The next cohort will participate during fall and spring semesters of the upcoming academic year. Faculty interested in participating should contact bsevera@nebraska.edu and submit a proposal by March 31.

STAR is made possible by an Open Education Resources Kelly Grant provided by the University of Nebraska Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and administered by a team from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, Information Technology Services, Innovative Instructional Design, and the University Libraries.

More information can be found on the OER website and during STAR workshops on Feb. 21 in the morning for instructors and staff and in the afternoon for faculty and graduate teaching assistants. 2018 grant recipients will also lead a workshop at the Spring Teaching and Learning Symposium on Feb. 22.