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Applications for Open and Affordable Textbook Program Awards Open Today

October 1, 2017
Wendy Woloson

Wendy Woloson won an OAT Program award for her Perspectives on History course being offered this semester.

Sarah Allred

Sarah Allred's OAT Program course Research Methods in Psychology will be offered in fall 2018.

Rutgers University Libraries are pleased to announce that applications for 2017–2018 Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program grants open today.

The OAT Program will award funding to 20 full- or part-time faculty, adjuncts, part-time lecturers, or other instructors at Rutgers who adopt open, free, or library-licensed materials and teaching aids in their courses. In the program’s inaugural year, the Libraries issued 32 OAT awards that brought an estimated savings of nearly $1.6 million to 8,400 students across the university.

Wendy Woloson, associate professor in the Department of History at Rutgers University–Camden, received an OAT Program award last year for her Perspectives on History course, which is being offered this semester. This course uses the life of famed 19th-century pickpocket George Appo to explore topics such as race, ethnicity, and the criminal justice system while teaching students essential research and writing skills.

While the required materials for the course in its original configuration would have cost students upward of $300, Woloson was able to reduce the costs to about $20 per student by opting for open and affordable alternatives. This is welcome news for Rutgers students, who spend an average of $1,500 on textbooks and course materials each year, according to NJPIRG.

“I understand that Rutgers–Camden students especially have complicated lives. They are often working one or several jobs,” Woloson noted. “Part of my mission as an instructor is to take as many of the pressure points off as possible. I never want my students to worry about how much money they have to spend to get through my class.”

Woloson credits librarian Julie Still of the Paul Robeson Library for her role in identifying alternatives to the original course materials. These include primary resources as well as writing and research guides that can be accessed by her students online for free.

“These materials are actually superior to the guides that I had been using,” explained Woloson. “And they probably would never have come to my mind had I not worked with the library.”

Sarah Allred is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers–Camden who has received an OAT award for her fall 2018 Research Methods in Psychology course. Though her class will not be offered until next year, Allred is already reviewing free alternatives to the traditional textbook in the Open Textbook Library and, with the help of librarians Katie Anderson and Zara Wilkinson, identifying supplemental resources that her students can access for free online.

Allred believes that the transition to open and affordable materials will be a boon to both student and instructor.

“In my eight years of teaching at Rutgers, I’ve noticed that students often don’t purchase a textbook even if it is listed as required. And I’m always dissatisfied with any particular textbook because the presentation of material is right in some chapters but not in others,” she said. “Using openly licensed resources will afford me the flexibility to compile information from different sources and present the course material in the best way possible.”

Allred cites the Open Textbook Network workshop hosted by the Libraries last year as a motivating factor in her pursuit of an OAT award.

“Hearing the data that’s been collected about how difficult it is for students to afford textbooks and how that compromises their education, I realized that this isn’t just my experience—it’s happening across campus,” she said. “I wanted to make a more concerted effort not just to make textbooks more affordable but also to connect students to the most useful resources available.”

“Ultimately, my goal is simple,” Allred explained. “A better, more affordable learning experience for my students.”

The deadline to apply for OAT Program awards is December 15, 2017. For more information, visit the OAT website at libraries.rutgers.edu/open-textbooks. If you are a student interested in encouraging your professor to adopt open educational resources in your class, visit our OAT Program student website.