Highlighter: Affordable Materials Project
Welcome to “The Highlighter,” where we’ll be exploring the various new and old services and resources available through the Falvey!
A linguistics textbook-workbook combo that costs $300, a communication disorders text that costs $170, we all have our horror stories. Even if you’re just purchasing books for a regular course-load, the costs can really add up. Are you a student or a faculty member who wishes you could do something about this phenomenon?
Allow me to introduce you to the Affordable Materials Project, an initiative geared toward ensuring the highest quality scholarship and resources at the lowest price. Allow me to introduce you OERs, while I’m at it and Open Access Week (Oct. 21-28)! As part of our ongoing celebration, which includes Pankaj Patel’s “Open Your Mind to Open Access” talk, I asked a few questions of the AMP committee here at Falvey:
What was your initial vision for the Affordable Material Project? Whose efforts brought the project to fruition?
The initial idea came from our colleagues at CASA. They had observed students struggling as a result of the high cost of textbooks, and had created a lending library for students in their programs. When they approached the library about it, we saw that this was directly aligned with a number of issues the library was already thinking about, namely the rising cost of resources across the board, and the movement toward open access alternatives.
At the beginning of each semester, librarians field questions from students looking for library based access to assigned course readings. We wanted to find a more systematic way to help students get what they need without spending a lot, so we are taking a more proactive approach to course reserves, purchasing electronic resources when available, and promoting open education resources.
What sorts of problems do students with hefty textbook bills face? How does your project resolve these issues?
Not every student at Villanova has an unlimited budget. Students try to get through their courses without buying the books. They anticipate that their professor might assign only a small portion of a text, and they want to save the money, or some students delay purchases for a variety of reasons, and then they get behind in the readings. That’s too big of a risk, really, and students end up struggling in class. It’s also stressful, which adds to the problem. We want to make textbooks and other course materials easier to access, so people can focus on learning.
How can professors contribute to AMP?
Professors are responsible for assigning the highest quality materials—period. Many faculty members already take the cost of materials for their students into account by using course reserves, and selectively compiling course packs. The Library would like to collaborate with faculty to identify resources that are free to students — whether they’re library-based e-books or open access textbooks.
What are other schools doing to help students deal with textbook costs?
Textbook affordability projects have been around for a few years now. In fact we modeled our textbook matching program after a similar program at the University of South Florida and made use of their open source coding. The models are different in different places. Some schools focus more on open access, for instance, and some try to build collections of print textbooks. Some schools give faculty stipends to redesign courses around open educational resources or to write and publish open access textbooks. Some community colleges have created “Zero” degree programs that rely entirely on no-cost open access resources.
AMP is a collaboration between CASA, Falvey Library, the Office of the Provost, and the Villanova Bookstore.
Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant in the Communication and Marketing Dept. at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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