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There are a number of compelling reasons why an instructor may forgo use of a traditional textbook in the classroom: to save our students money and ensure equitable access, to encourage student engagement with course material, or to improve the quality of course content, to name a few. This guide provides basic information on a number of textbook alternatives, including open educational resources (OER), coursepacks, and the library's course Reserve service. Ultimately, employing one or more of these alternatives may contribute to student retention as they have the potential to improve student performance. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that these textbook alternatives are not necessarily applicable to all disciplines or appropriate for all classroom situations. We do, however, invite all teachers at Saint Rose to explore this guide and thoughtfully consider whether one or more of these options is viable.
Some reasons to select an alternative to a traditional textbook:
1. Save our students money and ensure equitable access
Textbook affordability has been a hot topic of conversation in higher education for the better part of the last decade. Many of our own students experience financial barriers when it comes to access of course materials, which has the potential to affect academic performance while also being a source of stress and alienation. 99% of Saint Rose students receive some form of financial aid, whether it be from the college, the state, or the federal government, and the high cost of textbooks only adds to the financial burden of college attendance. Using an alternative to a traditional textbook can help mitigate the high cost of college attendance for our students.
The Neil Hellman Library's informal survey on textbook cost impact on students (administered from 10/25/19-10-31/19).
This survey was modeled on a survey administered by the Florida Virtual Campus (see bibiliography for more information).
2. Encourage student engagement with course material
Adoption of textbook alternatives, especially OER, has the potential to encourage student engagement through:
Expanded Access: Students anywhere in the world can access OER at any time, and they can access the material repeatedly. Students commonly delay purchase of their textbooks until they have received financial aid. Using digital resources allows students to access course material on day one.
Open Pedagogy: Adopters of OER can also engage in open pedagogy, allowing students to create and contribute to course content and educational resources.
3. Improve the quality of course content through customization
OER are meant to be adapted so courses can be customized around student needs and desired student learning outcomes. Textbooks or course material can be updated or customized to best fit classroom needs, saving students from having to purchase expensive new editions, as in the traditional textbook model.
OER allow for adaptation - teachers can edit, reorder, delete, or remix OER materials as they see fit. Licensing for OER material is clearly defined and users do not have to intrepret Fair Use and TEACH ACT guidelines.
Additionally, teachers can combine and custom build textbooks and even include additional supplemental material that directly support individual class needs. The same can be done when creating coursepacks, all the more easily when utilizing readily available library-owned material. In the case of coursepacks, however, instructors do need to be aware of copyright limitations.
General Questions About Textbook Alternatives
Contact: Reference Desk
Integrating Alternative Course Material into Canvas
Contact: Online Learning Services
Contact: Mike Stratton