UGA uses grant to consider e-textbooks to reduce costs for students

The University of Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning is looking at ways to save students money by offering free e-textbooks for introductory biology courses at UGA through a $25,000 University System of Georgia Incubator grant awarded this summer.

UGA students who take the entry-level biology courses pay around $97 for a new biology textbook. This grant will collectively save students enrolled in these courses approximately $150,350 in the coming academic year as the project is being developed and $198,850 in subsequent years according to Eddie Watson, CTL director.

According to a 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement, more than one-third of UGA students had unmet financial needs, which contribute to attrition and graduation rates.

Like other schools in the University System of Georgia, UGA has made a commitment to meeting the goals outlined in the statewide Complete College Georgia Plan. The objective of the project, coordinated by the CTL, aims to save students money and increase access to education without impacting the quality of instruction by providing free textbooks and other learning materials through Open Education Resources, or OERs.

The CTL is working with 2013 Meigs Award recipient Peggy Brickman, along with fellow faculty members Erin Dolan and Tessa Andrews, to replace textbooks in two introductory biology courses with OERs from OpenStax, a non-profit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials.

Brickman's OER textbook "Concepts of Biology for the University of Georgia" can be found at https://openstaxcollege.org/pages/GeorgiaBiology and will be used in her sections of Biology 1103: Concepts of Biology this fall and beyond. The team is currently preparing material through OpenStax for Biology 1104 that will be taught spring semester. More about the OpenStax project can be found at http://openstaxcollege.org.

OERs include textbooks and other learning materials in public domain with open copyright licenses that are available at no cost to faculty, students, or the institution. Materials are authored by highly regarded faculty from peer and aspirant institutions. Content is reviewed in the same manner as printed textbooks. Because content is accessible online, the texts provide a foundation for faculty course development.

Instructors also have the ability to pull from and combine multiple OERs to create content specific to their class giving them an opportunity to create a custom textbook. Because faculty have the ability to edit OERs, they also have the opportunity to integrate the most current and relevant information into their e-textbooks without the expense and time of publishing traditional textbooks according to Denise Domizi, coordinator of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the CTL.

The USG Incubator grant supports proof-of-concept and start-up projects aligned to the priorities of Complete College Georgia. The grant provides early-stage funding and other support for innovative institutional, multi-institutional, or regional level projects aimed at increasing college completion. In addition to funding, the grant will place a strong emphasis on sharing promising practices and methods growing from these projects.

About the Center for Teaching and Learning
As a unit of the UGA Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the CTL serves faculty, administrators and graduate teaching assistants in each of the university's schools and colleges by coordinating a wide variety of programs and activities aimed at supporting and promoting excellence in teaching and learning. Since its inception, the CTL has sought to promote vitality among faculty and administration and to foster an institutional climate that reinforces excellence in teaching and learning. The CTL provides instructional grants, consultation services, faculty and TA development programs, publications, activities planning, and teaching resources and media services. In addition, seminars, workshops, and conferences that address a wide range of topics are offered throughout the year. For more information, see http://ctl.uga.edu.

Story also available at http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/uga-uses-grant-e-textbooks-to-reduce-costs-for-students/

Story covered at http://onlineathens.com/uga/2013-08-25/are-free-digital-textbooks-future-uga-students