Lower cost, higher engagement among reasons many support new textbook initiative

Melissa Hostmeyer, freshman in business administration, teaches Kylee Smith, freshman in environmental design, how to navigate and use the new Read & Write program to edit her essay on Sept. 29, 2015. With the Open Textbook Initiative, students have the opportunity to get hands on experience in class without the high costs of purchasing regular textbooks. (File Photo by Paige Schlitter | The Collegian)

To combat the rising student cost of textbooks, K-State Libraries and Student Governing Association have partnered to support the Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative.

Initially made possible through funding from Student Centered Tuition Enhancement funds with supplemental allocations provided by K-State Libraries, the initiative arrived on campus two years ago. In fall 2014, the Offices of the Provost and President committed funds to the initiative for two years.

Textbook prices have skyrocketed in recent years, increasing 1,041 percent since 1977, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. While the initiative is currently saving students money, Student Body Vice President Joe Tinker said it has not yet reached its goal.

“The goal is to have 75 percent of all 100 and 200 level classes be part (of) this initiative,” Tinker, senior in psychology, said. “All (professors) have to do is submit a proposal to the open textbook committee. The review committee will evaluate the proposal and make grants based on the selection criteria.”

Molly Gabrielson, senior in elementary education, used an alternative text in her education class with Thomas Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction. To Gabrielson, the alternative textbook materials made class more interesting.

“(Vonz) wrote our book,” Gabrielson said. “It was actually in the form of an ebook and I could open it up on my phone or iPad. I think that what I liked best was I knew what I was reading was important.”

Gabrielson said she felt that when the teacher used personal examples or chose specific readings, she had more connection to the teacher and the class.

The students are not the only ones benefitting from the initiative, however.

“Teachers are going to benefit because of more personalized experience,” Tinker said. “Students are more connected because resources are provided by the teacher. So (there’s) better engagement.”

The initiative allows teachers to compile their own articles, documents, videos and examples as reading material for the class.

“The professor accumulates a huge variety of resources, but with this you can accumulate articles, YouTube videos and more,” Tinker said.

The initiative does require more work from teachers though, since they have to compile articles and materials for a class packet or book.

“Teachers will have to reallocate their time significantly to write a book, so that’s a deterrent for the program,” Brady said.

Gabrielson, however, said she felt more invested in classes because the reading materials were more interactive. Videos, guiding questions and side notes were some of the features that helped her connect with class material better than a textbook.

“It made reading more engaging,” Gabrielson said. “I didn’t dread reading (and) it didn’t seem as boring.”

Like some students, Gabrielson said she was not sure she liked the idea of virtual class materials.

“I was skeptical in the beginning,” Gabrielson said. “I’m used to old-fashioned textbooks.”

Some students like Gabrielson may have concerns about the program, such as the electronic medium of the materials.

“Some people may have a hard time reading on electronic readers,” Becky Brady, senior in elementary education, said. “Some students like having the physical versions of the books.”

Students having a hard time with the technology can talk to their professor to get access to physical copies of the materials, according to Brady.

Gabrielson said she believes students can learn to adapt to the new style, though, just as she did in her class.

“I’m a visual learner, so I like having it in my hands,” Gabrielson said. “But by the third week in, I realized that I really did like it better.”

The initiative provides a new medium for textbooks and class materials for students and professors in an age of changing and new technology.

“Students respond better than to textbooks,” Tinker said. “In this way, we are catering to the needs of students in this generation.”

My name is Jamie Teixeira and I am a senior English and journalism with a minor in Leadership. I am the president of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, a tutor at the K-State Writing Center,and a member of the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble. My future plans are to become an editor or publisher of children's literature. Outside of school I love to read and cuddle with my kitten, Bert.