Assistant College Lecturer
Urban Studies Department
Course: UST 200 - Introduction to Urban Studies
Faculty Winner’s Impressions:
Why did you apply for the Textbook Affordability Grant?
I applied for the grant for my large Introduction to Urban Studies class. It is a core class for Urban majors, but it is also a popular General Education course enrolling students from across the university. Total enrollment for two sections is about 150. The cost of the book varied from $75-$130, which in my mind seemed like a lot to pay for a book, especially for non-Urban majors. I also found that not having the book made it very difficult for students to complete the assignments, and therefore put it on reserve in the library. That did not help students who were taking it online, but out of the Cleveland area. Getting the book was a barrier to about 25% of the students. When I saw the Textbook Affordability grant, it dawned on me (as a relatively new faculty member) that I had the power to suggest new material, and in particular, a low- to no cost set of material. I am on a 9-month contract, so I do not earn a salary in the summer for any work done. The grant gave me the financial support and information about free materials that could be used in lieu of the textbook. It was a win-win opportunity.
How did the project process go? What advice do you have for other faculty considering applying for a Textbook Affordability Grant?
The process was straightforward, and the support was excellent. While I didn't need much support, it was helpful to know where to look for open materials and having an expert available to ask questions of. If I was to offer advice, it would be to identify the topics you want to cover upfront and plan enough time looking through the available materials and knowing what format you'd like to present them as (an e-book, lecture-by-lecture or module-by-module packets), or if you want the materials to be available to more than just you and your students.
What were the results of your project on student engagement and academic achievement?
Transitioning from a hard copy book at a high cost to online, open materials has been a vast improvement. The 25% of students who had trouble accessing the book has now dropped to 0. I can also easily update readings and/or activities without having to change a textbook. All students can access the materials online, at any time, and students can keep the open materials after the class ends for other classes or projects. There's no need to sell the books back! Also, in light of the recent pandemic, having open materials was especially important when CSU transitioned to remote learning. All materials were already available and in the expected format.