Guest Column: 'Textbook Heroes' Help Students Save Money

Guest Column: 'Textbook Heroes' Help Students Save Money

By University Libraries
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Joceline Lega of the Department of Mathematics, Suzanne Delaney of the Department of Management and Organizations, and Brian LeRoy of the Department of Physics are "textbook heroes" for saving students money by adopting open textbooks.
Joceline Lega of the Department of Mathematics, Suzanne Delaney of the Department of Management and Organizations, and Brian LeRoy of the Department of Physics are "textbook heroes" for saving students money by adopting open textbooks.

In a 2016 survey by Florida Virtual Campus, 66.5 percent of Florida college students reported not purchasing the required textbook for a class due to cost. They also said the price of required textbooks had caused them to take fewer courses (47.6 percent), not register for a specific course (45.5 percent), earn a poor grade (37.6 percent), and fail a course (19.8 percent).

The high cost of textbooks can be a barrier to student success. And while University of Arizona BookStores does everything it can to keep textbook prices down, publishers have increased the cost of textbooks more than 1,000 percent (three times the rate of inflation) since 1977.

What does that mean for an average student? For 2016-17, the University's financial aid office estimates the annual cost of books/supplies was $800 for undergraduates and $1,200 for graduate students.

An increasing number of educators insist that textbooks don't have to be expensive. In fact, digital textbooks can be free. Open textbooks are high-quality, freely available learning materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared by anyone in the world. Because open textbooks are available online, students have immediate access from the first day of class. Students can keep the books, which is not possible with textbook rentals. Faculty can customize open textbooks to meet the learning objectives of their courses.

An Open Educational Resources Action Committee formed at the UA in 2016, with members representing University Libraries, the Office of Instruction and Assessment, UA BookStores, the Office of Digital Learning, University Information Technology Services, the Disability Resource Center, student government and the faculty. The collaboration is dedicated to helping faculty find, use and create open content for teaching.

"The faculty who have made the effort to incorporate open-access materials into their classes are really textbook heroes to me," said Cheryl Cuillier, open educational resources librarian. "They are innovators and their students are the beneficiaries."

Based on a conservative estimate of $100 per student, savings from using open educational resources exceeded $300,000 during the 2015-16 school year for students at the UA.

Find out how to become a textbook hero by visiting the Open Educational Resources website or by contacting Cuillier at

As part of Open Education Month, University Libraries is offering the following free events. All are open to the public:

MOOCs at the UA and Arizona State University: What's New in the World of Massive Open Online Courses
Monday, March 20, 3-4:30 p.m.
Main Library, Room A313

  • Kevin Bonine, Director of Education and Outreach at Biosphere 2, UA
  • Jason Denison, Technologist, EdPlus, ASU
  • Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, UA
  • Katrina Miranda, Associate Professor of Chemistry, UA
  • David Soren, Regents' Professor of Anthropology, Classics and Art History, UA
  • Josie Strahle, Instructional Designer, Office of Digital Learning, UA

An 'Open' Conversation: Why Free Educational Resources Matter Now More than Ever
Friday, March 24, 4-5 p.m.
Student Union Memorial Center, Kiva Room

  • Cable Green, Director of Open Education for Creative Commons
  • Cheryl Cuillier, Open Educational Resources Librarian

The ABC's of Open Textbooks: What It's Like to Adopt, Build or Create a Free Resource
Tuesday, March 28, 10-11 a.m.
Main Library, Room 313

  • Suzanne Delaney, Senior Lecturer of Management and Organizations, Eller College of Management
  • Amy Fountain, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics
  • Joceline Lega, Professor of Mathematics
  • Brian Leroy, Associate Professor of Physics

UA Open Access Policy One Year In
Wednesday, March 29, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Student Union Memorial Center, Copper Room

  • Kimberly Chapman, Director, Campus Repository Services
  • David Cuillier, Associate Professor and Director, School of Journalism
  • Heidi Harley, Professor, Linguistics
  • Arum Park, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies and Classics

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