January 7, 2019
Estimated Savings from Rutgers Open and Affordable Textbooks Program Tops $2.3 Million in Third Year
Rutgers University Libraries continue to combat the financial strain of rising textbook costs, with the 2018 Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program slated to save an estimated $209,824 for 1,801 students across the university.
August 1, 2018
Open and Affordable Textbooks Program Applications Open September 4, 2018
Open and Affordable Textbooks Program application period will be from September 4, 2018 through November 2, 2018. If you would like to speak with a librarian about your OAT plans, please reach out to:
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Roberta Fitzpatrick, Associate Director, Smith Library
Zara Wilkinson, Reference/Instruction Librarian, Paul Robeson Library
Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Kayo Denda, Head, Margery Somers Foster Center & Librarian for Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, New Brunswick Libraries
Laura Palumbo, Chemistry & Physics Librarian and Science Data Specialist, New Brunswick Libraries
Bonnie Fong, Physical Sciences Librarian/Head of Emerging Technologies, Dana Library
July 16, 2018
Free Digital Textbooks vs. Purchased Commercial Textbooks
A large-scale study at the University of Georgia has found that college students provided with free course materials at the beginning of a class get significantly better academic results than those that do not.
The Georgia study, published this week, compared the final grades of students enrolled in eight large undergraduate courses between 2010 and 2016. Each of these courses was taught by a professor who switched from a commercial textbook costing $100 or more to a free digital textbook, or open educational resource, at some point during that six-year period.
By comparing the before and after results of these eight courses, the study found that switching to OER increased the number of A and A-minus grades students received by 5.50 percent and 7.73 percent, respectively. The number of students who withdrew or were awarded D or F grades (known as the DFW rate) fell by 2.68 percent.
May 9, 2018
Textbook Alternatives Take Hold at Community Colleges
Institutional funding for a high-profile affordable textbook initiative in one of the nation’s largest community college districts is on track to run out as scheduled this spring -- but the program exceeded the district’s expectations by a wide margin, and efforts will continue in a new form.
Meanwhile, a Michigan community college is on schedule thus far to meet an ambitious goal for 70 percent of its instructors to be exclusively offering open educational resources in their courses by 2020.
These two-year institutions are among several across the country that have in recent years doubled down on commitments to providing open educational resources. To Una Daly, director of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, momentum around OER is translating into concrete results.
February 23, 2018
Open and Affordable Textbooks Program Saved Students $2.1 Million Over Two Years
A Rutgers program developed to combat the soaring cost of textbooks has saved more than 11,000 students $2.1 million since its inception two years ago.
The Open and Affordable Textbooks Program – initiated by Rutgers President Robert Barchi in 2016 – works with Rutgers faculty to switch high-cost textbooks with low- and no-cost course materials.
“The goal of the program is to make textbooks more affordable so that all students, regardless of their financial situation, have access to the course materials they need to succeed,” said Krisellen Maloney, vice president for information services and university librarian.
February 23, 2018
Kimberlee Moran, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Rutgers University–Camden intends to use multiple media platforms to create an immersive experience in the course Forensic Science Methods & Techniques and to improve the student experience.
“In this course, students are introduced to a different forensic method each week. Topics range from fingerprinting, to ballistics, to pathology, and touch on all the major sciences,” explains Moran. “We move at a fast pace, so it is critical that students complete assigned readings.”
Moran hopes that a shift from printed materials to fully digitized Open Educational Resources (OERs) will improve student outcomes by providing easy, free access to assignments. She plans to assign topical articles that keep pace with real-world trends and developments in forensic science and to fill a gap in the existing literature by developing short modular videos to demonstrate methods and concepts.
“This award will allow me to use multiple media platforms to create new course materials in areas that don’t already have OERs readily available. Hopefully this will help students, at Rutgers and elsewhere, achieve greater success in their forensic science courses.”
October 1, 2017
Applications for Open and Affordable Textbook Program Awards Open Today
Rutgers University Libraries are pleased to announce that applications for 2017–2018 Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program awards 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.
October 1, 2017
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.”
October 1, 2017
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.”
September 15, 2017
Petros Levounis, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at New Jersey Medical School, received a grant to work with students to develop new course materials for their Psychiatry Clerkship at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences based on real world experiences with psychiatric patients.
“Instead of $150.00 worth of textbooks, we can reduce the cost to under $5.00 and make it more interactive,” says Levounis. “This process benefits both the students who are researching the case studies and the students who will use the textbook in the future. Our students have their finger on the pulse of what is needed to be successful in taking certification and course exams and will share their insights in the textbook.”
February 23, 2017
Open and Affordable Textbooks Project Will Save Almost $1.5 Million in First Year
Students at Rutgers University received welcome news this spring. More than 32 classes are switching over to low cost or no-cost textbook solutions as part of the Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Project, with a projected savings of $1,597,444.00 over the next year.
In 2016, President Barchi asked the Libraries to pilot the OAT Project to address soaring textbook costs and to introduce more affordable materials into the classroom. The original plan was to provide 12 grants to faculty to incorporate low-cost course materials into their classes. Thanks to higher than expected faculty interest and the quality of their proposals, the Libraries quickly expanded the pilot program to 32 grants, impacting courses across the university in fields ranging from psychiatry, sociology, and public affairs to English, business, and physics. (For a complete list of grant recipients, please click here.)
February 23, 2017
At Rutgers-New Brunswick, associate professor Neil Sheflin will use his grant to further refine, expand, and extend his use of open and affordable course materials for his courses, including Intro to Macroeconomics where students currently use a free textbook from OpenStax, a nonprofit based at Rice University that is partially funded by the Gates Foundation and other foundation grants.
Sheflin supplements the text with online readings that address current issues and are drawn from the public, governmental, and private sources, including the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury. Student response has been positive so far.
“Students have been happy with the content, convenience and cost,” says Sheflin. All students can easily obtain the textbook and have access to it and other materials wherever they might be. And of course, lost textbooks are not possible. He hopes more teachers will follow suit, even though he acknowledges it can create extra work for instructors.
“Finding current, relevant, and suitable open and accessible material is a lot of work, but that is an important role of the instructor and leads to a much more focused course,” he explains. “Plus the students also seem to appreciate the personal role I have in delivering this information to them.”
February 23, 2017
Rutgers-Newark psychology faculty member Matthew Giobbi is assembling a textbook from open source materials for his course History and Modern Viewpoints in Psychology. The textbook that was previously used for this course cost more than $300.00, but Giobbi is now using free materials drawn from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, original writings by thinkers, and video clips like “The School of Life” by Alain De Botton.
The emphasis on primary sources has changed the student experience in unanticipated ways, says Giobbi.
“In a textbook, you get quotes from the thinker that’s being discussed, but when you’re actually reading the book, it’s like you’re spending time with the thinker,” Giobbi explains. “Students are used to material that is neatly abstracted and presented in a textbook. Now they are engaging with longer academic articles and they have to decide what they can take from this material, what is most relevant to their interest.”
Students have also appreciated the introduction of streaming media into the course in the form of films, video clips, and even audio books. “Don’t privilege the written text,” warns Giobbi. “There are great resources that can be used for learning and teaching. Students can download stuff to their phone and listen on the subway, watch a video in their living room, and read primary materials. These things are all equally effective at getting info across.”
February 16, 2017
Thank You from Rutgers NJPIRG Students
September 22, 2016
Rutgers University Libraries Launch Open and Affordable Textbook Project to Provide Relief for Soaring Textbook Costs
The sticker shock of buying college textbooks is a rite of passage for new and returning students at the beginning of each semester at Rutgers University. According to NJPIRG, students at New Jersey’s flagship university pay an average of $1500.00 for textbooks each year, nearly 15% more than the national average $1300.00. These costs force students to make tough decisions: seven out of ten report that they skip required textbooks due to cost and nearly 60% wait for financial aid to pay for textbooks.
With the launch of the Open and Affordable Textbook (OAT) Project, Rutgers University is taking action to address textbook affordability and improve the well-being and education of our students.