Library working to make course content more affordable for students

Affordable Course Content

The UC Berkeley Library strengthened its commitment to making course materials more affordable for students by joining the Open Textbook Network, which supports access to freely available and openly licensed textbooks and course content.

The high and ever-increasing cost of textbooks is a significant concern for Berkeley students. Textbook prices have risen 88% in the past decade, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and many textbooks cost upwards of $200. Print course-pack costs further compound student financial burdens.

Berkeley will work with the Open Textbook Network to advance the use of open practices on campus by offering resources and workshops to explain and expand adoption of open textbooks. Not only do open educational resources (often called “OERs”) reduce student costs, they also have a positive impact on student success by providing access to assigned course materials from the very start of class. The Open Textbook Network also maintains the Open Textbook Library, a premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks. All Open Textbook Library textbooks are free and openly licensed for use, adaption or modification.


Other new initiatives to improve the student experience

Joining the Open Textbook Network is one of several important initiatives the Library has embarked upon with campus partners to address course content affordability issues. In cooperation with the Associated Students of the University of California, Educational Technology Services, and the Center for Teaching & Learning, the Library launched an informal working group in Fall 2016 to explore how we might reduce student costs for assigned course materials. The working group obtained a charter for two pilot programs that will run in Fall 2017. The Library received financial support for the scholarly communications program, which supports the Open Textbook Network initiative and the pilot services, from The Arcadia Foundation.

With the first piloted service, the Library will process participating instructors’ syllabi to locate copies of open, free, or Library-licensed or acquired resources that otherwise students would have had to purchase as print course packs. With the second service, the Library and its partners will offer grants and programmatic support to instructors to enable them to adopt or create open books or textbooks, thereby reducing student expenditures on high-priced materials.

“Not only will this partnership reduce student costs, but also it can advance pedagogy through the development of new and innovative course content,” says Richard Freishtat, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “I’m very excited to see what new teaching and learning approaches arise from this collaboration.”

These efforts align with campus-wide action by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, which concurrently established a new task force to identify strategies to educate the campus about the cost of course content, and encourage practices that lower costs for students.

“While the campus has long been investigating the issue of course content affordability and has made progress, much work still needs to be done,” explains Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland. “We must further reduce course content costs and utilize accessible digital library resources to provide an equitable and engaging learning environment for our students.”

Kicking off the affordability discussion

First up on the slate of related outreach are two open discussions to be held with faculty on May 5th and May 8th. Freishtat and the Library will discuss the landscape for course content affordability issues at UC Berkeley and the campus-wide efforts being undertaken to address them. Registration is available through the Academic Innovation Studio’s events page.

Learn more or participate in the pilots

For more information about the Library’s membership in the Open Textbook Network, or with questions about the two Fall 2017 pilot programs, please contact Rachael Samberg, the Library’s Scholarly Communication Officer.

To explore programmatic support for the adoption or creation of OERs, please contact Richard Freishtat at the Center for Teaching & Learning.

To locate open and affordable educational resources or learn more about them, please visit the Library’s Guide to Open, Free, & Affordable Course Materials.