Classes with­out text­books? More col­leges are giv­ing it a try

The Korea Times - - FEATURE - By Su­san Sny­der

PHILADEL­PHIA — When Natalie Flynn sur­veyed stu­dents in her Tem­ple Univer­sity in­tro to phys­i­cal ge­ol­ogy classes, she found half weren’t buy­ing the text­book she used.

Many couldn’t af­ford it. “We were de­vel­op­ing a very, very un­even play­ing field in the class­room,” she said.

That’s when Flynn de­cided to phase out print text­books from as many of her courses as pos­si­ble. She’s part of a small but grow­ing ef­fort at Tem­ple to use or cre­ate on­line ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing text­books that are openly li­censed and vet­ted — and per­haps most im­por­tantly, free to stu­dents.

Tem­ple of­fi­cials es­ti­mate the ef­fort, which be­gan in 2011 and has got­ten buy-in from nearly 90 of the univer­sity’s 3,850 full and part-time pro­fes­sors, has saved stu­dents $1 mil­lion.

In the last year, Tem­ple in col­lab­o­ra­tion with its li­brary and univer­sity press be­gan giv­ing pro­fes­sors $5,000 stipends and sup­port to write their own free, open texts. Eight projects are un­der­way via “North Broad Press,” in­clud­ing a book be­ing writ­ten by the crim­i­nal jus­tice de­part­ment for its in­tro course.

“We put it through peer re­view, copy edit­ing and pro­duc­tion,” said An­nie John­son, Tem­ple’s li­brary pub­lish­ing spe­cial­ist.

Many other col­leges lo­cally and na­tion­ally are tak­ing sim­i­lar steps to ease the bur­den of text­book costs, which can ex­ceed $1,000 a year, ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates.

“The goal is to try to cre­ate as much open con­tent as pos­si­ble,” said Steven Bell, Tem­ple’s as­so­ciate univer­sity li­brar­ian. “This isn’t some­thing that hap­pens overnight. This is a long-term project, but we are see­ing a rev­o­lu­tion.”

The move to­ward “Open Ed­u­ca­tional Re­sources” comes as print text­book sales con­tinue to drop and ren­tals and e-book sales in­crease.

“We’ve seen text­book sales de­crease by ap­prox­i­mately 10 per­cent per year as stu­dents switch from buy­ing new and used text­books to us­ing ren­tals, buy­ing from al­ter­na­tive sources and em­brac­ing dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tions,” said Lori Fried­man, a spokesper­son for Le­high Univer­sity. “Text­book ren­tals now ac­count for about 30 per­cent of our sales.”

Some states, in­clud­ing New York, are fund­ing ef­forts to make open re­sources more avail­able to stu­dents. In Penn­syl­va­nia, aca­demic li­braries are pushing for state fund­ing, as well as ed­u­cat­ing and train­ing fac­ulty about open re­sources, Bell said.

“Some ask why should fac­ulty give away their in­tel­lec­tual con­tent for free,” Bell said. “For many fac­ulty, it’s a so­cial jus­tice is­sue, one of ac­cess.”

(Philadel­phia In­quirer/Tri­bune News)

Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Tem­ple Univer­sity phys­i­cal ge­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Natalie Flynn talks to her stu­dents about us­ing a free web­site (on smart board) in­stead of a text­book, on the first day of class Aug. 26.

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