Faculty gathered in the University Library Garden Room Friday to hear presentations and speakers present options for affordable course materials for college students.

“We’ve hosted workshops over the years, but nothing quite like this,” said Cindy Kristof, head of the copyright and document services in the library and associate professor at the University Libraries department, who coordinated Friday’s conference.

Faculty and staff members from all over campus came together taking notes, engaging in an open discussion and considered ways to get affordable materials for students to set them up for success.

“We wanted to get faculty together with librarians and a variety of people across campus who provide services, either to students or faculty or both, to start a conversation about affordable or free alternatives to traditional textbooks,” Kristof said.

The library hosted the conference for faculty and other departments on campus that provide services to students.

“We’re all here because we believe that learning should be affordable for all and we want to see student success,” Kristof said when welcoming the crowd to the conference.

Kenneth Burhanna, the interim dean of University Libraries, expressed hope that the workshop would lead to the sharing of ideas and create future partnerships for student success.

“This is just the beginning,” Burhanna said. “Today will be a day of sharing information and ideas and hopefully the start of new collaborations and partnerships all focused on the same cause, our students. Helping them achieve a high quality education at an affordable cost.” 

Mandy Munro-Stasiuk, the associate provost for academic affairs, shared with the crowd the issue of affordable course materials is very real and not going away. 

“It is a very hot topic right now, affordable course materials for students,” Munro-Stasiuk said. “We hear about this on a near weekly basis.”

Kathy Wilson, a professor of economics, gave a presentation on Open Stax and free textbooks. 

“Average cost of books and supplies is about $1,200 to $1,300 per year,” Wilson said “For our students, is a significant amount of money.”

Open Stax offers textbooks for the 25 highest introductory college courses and they are looking to expand beyond this, Wilson said. Open Stax is a free, licensed book from a non-profit with textbooks written by expert authors. The books can be customized and updated frequently online.

Wilson sparked a conversation about Open Stax materials for students. Wilson explained to the audience she uses Open Stax for her principles of microeconomics class and students and suggested others consider using the program for their classes as well.

While there can be concerns with using Open Stax, Wilson urged faculty to look into the resource to help students better afford textbooks and classroom materials.

“I want to make abundantly clear from everything I said today, Open Stax and other free or low cost textbooks are not right for every subject,” Wilson said. “They are not right for every professor.”

Throughout the conference, faculty and staffers from across the university, including Jason Piatt, the electronic and IT manager for student accessibility services and Deborah Smith, an associate professor of philosophy and Faculty Senate chair.

The conference also had service departments from campus present to the audience. Valerie Kelly, the interim associate vice president of the Office of Continuing and Distance Education, and David Robins, the interim director of visual communication design, gave a presentation on online courses and resources.

“I hope faculty get ideas for incorporating low or no cost course materials into their courses,” Kristof said. “We have lots of materials already available to us through licensed content such as electronic journals and books and through OhioLINK. I also hope to dispel some myths people may have about open access in general and open textbooks specifically. I hope at least a few will be inspired to write their own open textbooks. I also look forward to working with others across campus to make this happen. I love seeing students succeed.”

Taylor Robinson is the libraries reporter. Contact her at trobin30@kent.edu.

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