WMU Libraries' grants save students $184K in the spring semester

Contact: Sara Volmering

 KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Six Open Textbook grant recipients successfully adopted and used an open textbook in their spring courses, saving 798 Western Michigan University students over $184,000 in textbooks costs. The grants, awarded in December 2019 by the University Libraries, provide support and incentive to instructors interested in adopting open textbooks—low or no-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks.

The six courses were spread across disciplines in three different colleges—College of Arts and Sciences, Haworth College of Business and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Instructors reported that their students were appreciative of not having the extra expense of textbooks. In a follow-up survey, 69% of student participants reported that they felt their class performance was better because they had access to a free textbook. One student commented that, "The free textbook provides significant financial relief. It caused me to have a more positive attitude towards the class right away, and I believe this encouraged me to do better in the overall course."

The 13 remaining grant recipients will implement open textbooks in their classes later this year.

The courses supported by the grant could potentially save over $800,000 in textbook costs for 4,400 WMU students in 2020-21. The actual total savings will be affected by class enrollment.

Instructors interested in using open textbooks or other educational resources in their courses are encouraged to contact their subject librarian for support. Open textbooks are readily available online for students to access without concerns about shipping or backorders from publishers. The ease of access, low cost and high-quality content are significant benefits to instructors and students using open textbooks, especially for courses delivered fully or partially online.

Open Educational Resources and Textbooks

Open educational resources are educational materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license. This permits them to be freely used, changed and shared with others. OER includes everything from images and videos to textbooks and course curriculums.

Faculty at colleges and universities have developed open textbooks and course content in response to concerns about the affordability of traditional textbooks. Textbook prices have risen 1,041% since 1977, higher than medical costs and the Consumer Price Index.

Many students who can't afford their textbooks have found a simple, but concerning solution—they don't buy them. According to research sponsored by Florida Virtual University in 2018, 64% of students did not purchase a required textbook. In addition, 42% of students took fewer courses and 22% dropped a course due to textbook costs. Open education resources, including open textbooks, provide an alternative to expensive textbooks.

Visit Open Education Resources to learn more about the open education initiative at WMU.

For the latest WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.