In an effort to advance educational innovations on campus and make course materials more affordable for students, the University of Wisconsin launched an eText pilot program that around 3,000 students will participate in during the spring 2017 semester.
The program is a partnership between Associated Students of Madison, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Registrar and DoIT Academic Technology, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Steven Cramer said in an email to The Badger Herald.
“The main motivation for this program is to reduce the cost for students, as eTexts are priced much lower than print books,” Cramer said. “We’re hoping that this pilot is the next step in making course materials more affordable at UW.”
Cramer said each UW student spends around $1,200 per year on books and course materials. By switching to eText, Cramer said savings are between 40 to 80 percent per textbook compared to new print list prices.
UW’s recent Unizin membership allowed the opportunity to explore eText in a way that would be affordable to both students and the university, Cramer said.
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A total of 16 courses across five different schools will be part of the pilot program and students were aware of this prior to enrolling in the class. Students were then notified about the pilot program as well as given information about costs, billing and the option to opt out, Cramer said. All costs are added to the student’s tuition bill, and students have the ability to opt out 45 days before the course start date.
Associate professor Heather Kirkorian’s human development and family studies class will be one of the classes participating in the program.
Kirkorian has allowed her students in the past to choose between the eText and the paperback version of the book. In the past, she said the vast majority chooses the print option, but she expects the majority of students this semester to use the eText because it’s substantially cheaper.
The main reason Kirkorian volunteered to participate in the pilot was because of the cost-saving benefit for students. But, she also added it made sense for her class to mainly use the eText.
“This is a fully online class, so it makes sense to just integrate the textbook with the course website so everything is in one place,” Kirkorian said.
Another issue the program looks to address is that currently few students have their materials on the first day of class, Cramer said.
Students enrolled in classes participating in the pilot program have access to the eText and assignments in advance of the first day, he added. Libraries will continue to have print copies on reserve for students.
“[We want to] provide faculty and instructors with improved means of acquiring materials for their courses so that all students have access to materials on the first day of class and enhance their interaction capabilities with their students,” Cramer said.
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Other Big Ten campuses have been using the same Unizin Engage reader, and feedback on those campuses from students and instructors has been favorable, Cramer said.
When it comes to evaluating whether or not the program will be successful, Cramer said they will look at usability, accessibility, the experience of both students and faculty, learning outcomes and cost savings.
If the program is deemed successful, he hopes it will continue in upcoming semesters with more courses participating.
“Our hope is that eTexts, as well as other types of more affordable course materials, will become a standard offering across campus,” Cramer said.