The University of Georgia has become a national leader in the use of free online textbooks, and a new grant program funded by the Provost’s Office will help save students even more money while improving the quality of their learning experience.
This semester, 14 faculty members in 10 academic units received funding through the Affordable Course Materials Grant program to transition from costly textbooks to open educational resources. The $50,000 that was distributed through the program is expected to save 7,400 students a total of $770,000 in textbook costs each year.
“The enthusiasm with which faculty have embraced open educational resources underscores their outstanding commitment to our students,” said Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris. “Free and low-cost course materials play an important role in helping make a University of Georgia education more affordable while also improving student success metrics such as retention and completion rates.”
In the department of chemistry, Geoffrey Smith will use funding from the grants program to replace the $150 textbook and $40 workbook for his thermodynamics course with free online content. He plans to bundle relevant materials from the nonprofit website LibreTexts and also to develop his own online workbook that will be made freely available for faculty members and students at other University System of Georgia institutions and around the world.
Many of the grant recipients will be creating open educational resources for courses that are required for multiple majors. Bjørn Stillion Southard, for example, will work with a team of colleagues in the department of communication studies to create an online textbook for “Introduction to Public Speaking,” which enrolls more than 2,700 students each year.
Free course materials created through the program also extend beyond textbooks. Melissa Hallow, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the colleges of engineering and public health, will be replacing subscription-based analytics and data visualization software with RStudio, a free, open-source programming language and software. The transition will save each student a $99 subscription fee while increasing the number of online resources, tutorials and help forums available for students.
The Affordable Course Materials Grants program was administered by the UGA Libraries and the Center for Teaching and Learning, which both offer consulting and information for faculty interested in open educational resources.
“A growing body of literature is linking the use of open educational resources with greater student satisfaction and better student outcomes,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “The benefits tend to be particularly pronounced for students with limited financial means, which is why boosting the use of open educational resources also helps improve access.”
The University of Georgia was recently named the No. 2 school in the nation for saving students money through the use of open educational resources. The latest data from the Center for Teaching and Learning shows that the use of open educational resources have saved nearly 60,000 UGA students a total of $5.8 million since 2013.
Affordable Course Materials Grant recipients
This semester, 14 faculty members in 10 academic units received funding through the Affordable Course Materials Grant program to transition from costly textbooks to open educational resources. The recipients are:
- Brad Barnes, lecturer, and Michael Cotterell, lecturer, department of computer science, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
- Suzanne Ellenberger, director of general chemistry, Franklin College
- K. Melissa Hallow, assistant professor, College of Engineering and College of Public Health
- John Knox, professor, department of geography, Franklin College
- Ann Massey, senior lecturer, and Adam Safer, lecturer, department of cellular biology, Franklin College
- Wan-I Oliver Li, associate professor, department of physiology and pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine
- Bodie Pennisi, professor, department of horticulture, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
- Geoffrey Smith, professor, department of chemistry, Franklin College
- Inseok Song, associate professor, department of physics and astronomy, Franklin College
- Bjørn Stillion Southard, assistant professor, department of communication studies, Franklin College
- Amy Taylor, clinical services and research librarian; Stephen Wolfson, research and copyright services librarian, School of Law