Today@Sam Article

Campus Initiative Works To Eliminate Textbook Costs

April 15, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney

On the path to earning a degree, Sam Houston State University students spend approximately $1300 a year on textbooks, and these prices have increased more than three times the rate of inflation for decades, leaving many Bearkats without the funds to access required materials.

A new initiative from SHSU’s Reimagining the First Year (RFY), aims to solve this problem by sponsoring the inaugural Open Education Resources (OER) Course Redesign Grant to help lower textbook costs.

OER4OER’s are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and also carry legal permission for open use. “Open” permissions are usually defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the educational materials.

Erin Owens, scholarly communications librarian for the Newton Gresham Library, is spearheading the OER course redesign grant effort, along with Brian Loft, director of RFY who authorized the initiative. Owens believes equity and access are two of the most important benefits of OER materials. 

“I imagine an environment where a student registers for courses based on what they truly want to learn, not based on which textbooks they can afford,” Owens said. “The cost of a textbook should never be the barrier that prevents a student from taking a course or, in the worst cases, from being able to remain in college at all.” 

The RFY committee awarded 11 faculty, across all disciplines, a $750 stipend and the personalized support of a librarian and an SHSU Online instructional designer to find, curate and organize appropriate zero-cost materials applicable to their course goals and syllabus.  

“We want to provide enough flexibility for each pair of partners to find their own approach to collaboration,” Owens said. “Meanwhile, all of the librarians will also be working as a team, sharing exciting finds and helping each other overcome obstacles in locating content. We will each be maintaining communication with the appropriate SHSU Online instructional designer, for assistance in organizing selected course materials and presenting them most effectively.” 

OER6While OER adoption in higher education is growing, the movement is still in its infancy, and there are concerns about the quality and availability of content. However, Owens believes the benefits are still worth pursuing.

“The most exciting aspect of this initiative is the potential, both for immediate impact and for growth. We have an opportunity to make a direct impact on student out-of-pocket costs, across academic colleges and student classification levels,” Owens said. “If content selection is approached thoughtfully, starting from the foundation of faculty learning objectives and careful evaluation of content quality, I think an initiative like this has every likelihood of continuing to grow.”

The 11 faculty receiving the grant will use selected OER materials for a minimum of two semesters and will report their findings to the RFY committee. The goal is to implement their redesigned courses by the end of 2020.

 *Photos by Samuel Beard Jr., SHSU Online

The grant recipients are as follows:

  1. Glenn M. Sanford (Department of Psychology and Philosophy, CHSS), redesigning PHIL 2303, partnered with librarian Susan Strickland.
  1. Forrest Lane (Department of Educational Leadership, COE), redesigning his section of UNIV 1301, partnered with librarian Heather Adair.
  1. Zachary Montz (Department of History, CHSS), redesigning HIST 1301, partnered with librarian Erin Owens
  1. Carliss Miller (Department of Management, Marketing, and Information Systems, COBA), redesigning MGMT 3330, partnered with librarian Lisa Shen.
  1. Lawrence A. (Art) Wolfskill (Department of Agricultural Sciences, COSET), redesigning AGBU 3367, partnered with librarian Kat Landry-Mueller
  1. Grant Wiedenfeld (Department of Mass Communication, CFAMC), redesigning MCOM 2366, partnered with librarian Zach Valdes.
  1. Dana Grant (Residence Life), redesigning her section of UNIV 1301, partnered with librarian Heather Adair.
  1. Jill Pagels (The School of Teaching and Learning, COE), redesigning BESL 2301, partnered with librarian Ashley Crane.
  1. Mary Breaux (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, COCJ), redesigning CRIJ 3351, partnered with librarian Dianna Kim.
  1. Valencia Browning-Keen (Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, COHS), redesigning FACS 4373, partnered with librarian Lisa Connor.
  1. Autumn Smith-Herron (TRIES), redesigning her section of UNIV 1301, partnered with librarian Stacy Johnson and funded by Kay Angrove and the First Year Experience (FYE) program. 

- END -

This page maintained by SHSU's Communications Office:

Director of Content Communications: Emily Binetti

Communications Manager: Mikah Boyd
Telephone: 936.294.1837

Communications Specialist: Campbell Atkins
Telephone: 936.294.2638

Please send comments, corrections, news tips to