Faculty Stories Addressing Affordability

Several UNT faculty members actively address affordability of course materials throughout the courses they teach and provide great examples for ways to get involved. Faculty have options when addressing affordability of course materials, below are some highlighted stories that demonstrate the variety of approaches. The webpage will be updated to document innovative approaches UNT faculty are taking to lower the cost associated with earning a degree! 

Replacing a Textbook with Electronic Resources from the UNT Libraries

Dr. Jeff Doty, an Associate Professor of English, has adopted a number of library-licensed materials, including electronic books, articles, book chapters, and streaming media, for his undergraduate and graduate courses on Shakespeare and Studies in the Teaching of Literature, respectively. He says that his students have saved between $80 and $127 in textbook costs, and an average of $30 in movie rentals, per course through the use of these materials. He has been especially thrilled at the fact that otherwise prohibitively expensive scholarly works and streaming media are available through the UNT Libraries. He notes that, “the library has truly allowed me to present Shakespearean performance in ways that cost students no money or stress whatsoever,” and suggests that “we could not have a doctoral program in English without access to major repositories for journals or e-book licensing from important university presses.” 

Dr. Terra Schwerin Rowe, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, used to assign three required books for her course on religion and science.  However, she has worked with the UNT Libraries, which provided access to these three required readings as ebooks, plus selections from several other readings through the electronic course reserves system.  Instead of each student spending $135 to buy the three books, they can now access all course materials for free, saving her 42 students in Fall 2020 over $5,000 in total.  According to Dr. Rowe, “With great assistance from the UNT library staff, I was able to cut costs for my students this semester.” 

Replacing a Traditional Textbook with Open Educational Resources (OER)

Dr. Amy Petros, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, found that students in her General Chemistry classes were struggling with paying for textbooks and expensive homework systems, which was affecting their learning. She recently used the THECB's Open Educational Resources Grant Program to support the redesign of her course using exclusively OER materials. Since 2019, this has saved 967 students a total of $289,133. According to Dr. Petros, removing financial barriers to student success seemed like the obvious right choice. An alumna of UNT herself, Dr. Petros recalls eating a can of vegetables for dinner while an undergraduate to avoid student loans. Dr. Petros says "if I can make a decision and put some more work into my courses so my students can eat a well-balanced meal or make that car payment, I'm going to do it." 

As they struggled to purchase a textbook access code, students displaced by Hurricane Harvey fell behind in class and Dr. Priscilla Connors, Associate Professor in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, decided that this cannot happen again. She started writing Matter of Fact Nutrition, which she launched in her 2020 online classes, positively impacting the bottom line for 443 students, saving them approximately $44,000 in textbook expenses in 2020 alone. Now, Dr. Connors is collaborating with UNT Press and the UNT Libraries to create a free, downloadable version of her book that will be available on the new UNT Open Texts website, where it will reduce student costs, provide teaching flexibility, and forward UNT's commitment to open-access textbooks. 

Dr. Bibhudutta Rout, an Associate Professor in Physics, found that students in their Physics 1410 introductory class were too distracted by the amount of content in the conventional course materials.  So, they developed a fully web-based course with more focused content, example problems, simulations, and demonstration videos. To supplement these course materials, they also adopted College Physics from OpenStax. During the Fall of 2020, this has saved 200 students a total of $24,000. According to Dr. Rout, the students appreciated the free open access content, and the focused online modules provided plenty of information to meet the needs of the course, as well as the corresponding lab course. Students were more engaged with this customized material, and the class grade point average was found to be higher than in the sections using the conventional course materials. 

Dr. Lee Hughes, an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences, found that students in his BIOL 2041 Microbiology class were concerned about the high price of the required textbook.  So, he adopted Microbioloby by OpenStax, and since Summer 2019 has saved over 620 students a total of more than $124,000.  According to Dr. Hughes, “The OpenStax textbook provides a low or no-cost textbook of good quality that is easily accessible to students to support their learning in my course. 

Following an Inclusive Access Model 

Dr. Joseph McGlynn, an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies,  participated in UNT's inclusive access program, Access Day One (AD1) during its initial 2018 pilot and again during the full implementation study in 2019. He shared that providing affordable and immediate access to course materials creates a level playing field for all his students and cited this as an important element of his pedagogy. He noticed in nearly every class that there were certain students who do not or cannot purchase required readings which delays the start of the term and can negatively impact student learning. Through his participation in AD1, the cost of the course materials was negotiated from $137.42 to $90.06, a savings of $47.36 per student, approximate savings for all students in that course was $9,850.88.  Although AD1 is not currently being offered, Dr. McGlynn continues to take steps to decrease barriers to obtaining readings for his students such as using press books with much lower price tags than traditional textbooks as well as relying on readings available through the UNT online library. Additionally, Dr. McGlynn expressed the need to approach affordable course materials for graduate students. He shared that it takes more customization than simply using a textbook or a handbook for graduate students, but that he’s noticed how favorably the students respond to the efforts faculty are making to reduce the cost of course materials.