New Options Save Students $1 million in Books Since 2016

Humboldt State University faculty have saved students $1 million in textbook costs since 2016 by adapting their teaching materials and classes.

HSU’s Department of Geography and nearly 100 professors from all three Colleges were recognized for a commitment to affordable student learning at a recent celebration of teaching and learning innovation at the Library. Several staff and faculty members demonstrated ways they’ve been able to lower or eliminate the costs of supporting materials for their classes.

As gaps persist for many students between the costs of attending school and grants, 65 percent of students report they’ve chosen not to buy a required book because of the cost, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Most surveyed students are aware this will negatively affect their academic performance.

Research shows that having access to course materials has a profound effect. Students have more success and complete their courses at higher rates if they have their course materials on the first day. The more affordable those materials are, the more likely that is to happen.

The CSU system’s Affordable Learning Solutions program helps faculty to choose and provide more affordable class materials, and helps students advocate for and find low or no cost resources.

HSU’s Geography faculty were commended for a department-wide effort to transform courses, including swapping textbooks for open educational resources (OER), which are free and open-licensed teaching materials. Other changes included changing how students are assessed, incorporating multimedia and other materials, utilizing social media to share student work, and having a textbook that evolves with the class.

Instructors shared efforts to create free courses, which involved exploring fair use copyright rules and utilizing library resources. Students appreciate no-cost courses, they say, and it gives instructors greater control of course content.

Other technology presented at the showcase promised to transform course materials into a variety of accessible formats. This is important not just for students with disabilities, but also for students who choose to engage with texts differently, and it addresses the realities that some students face. For example, creating audiobooks of texts and other materials allows students to listen while they commute to school or work.

Instructors and staff shared insights about project-based learning, using Canvas to develop student learning like the Interactive Wellbeing Map, and how teachers can encourage teamwork through low-stakes testing and collaborative feedback.

For more information, visit the Library’s HSU Sustainable Learning website.