At UTK, students had the opportunity to nominate faculty for the 2018 SGA awards for their use of Open Educational Resources. In nominating mathematics professor Vasilios Alexiades, one student wrote, “The instructor shared with us open-source programs, tutorials, books, papers, and more. This course is all about how to solve real-life mathematical problems… The case problems in this course are so different that any textbook cannot contain all information and resources necessary to understand and solve them. When you use OER material, this opens the door to find more and useful material of the same kind… This makes a huge impact in your learning process because you participate actively in your learning process.”
“This is not just about ‘free’ textbooks, this is about a good textbook that Dr. Alexiades makes great through his teaching.”
Overall, UT students are very satisfied with courses that use open and affordable course materials. They tend to prefer courses that use a majority of online course materials, finding them more readily available and accessible. Almost all UTC students who were surveyed recommend affordable courses, with 70% saying they would recommend them highly.
Feedback from professors across UT campuses has also been consistently positive. Open and affordable materials are described as high quality and relevant for their courses. Faculty find that open and affordable course materials allow them to incorporate a wider variety of learning materials, thus expanding what they can assign and cover. Dr. Meece, professor of education at UTC, commented on how rejuvinating the use of OER is pedagogically, saying it was “intellectually stimulating” to be able to customize a textbook for his course. Although some faculty report that the initial search for suitable material can be time consuming, the pedagogical freedom and students’ appreciation of low-cost and no-cost materials make it worth it.
There are currently over thirty courses at UTK with at least one section using an open textbook or other OER. Over the last 5 years, UTK students have saved over 3.6 million dollars through the use of OER. This number is expected to increase each year.
As of spring 2019, 31 courses at UTC have been revised through the Affordable Course Materials Initiative. These courses represent every college and range from introductory to graduate level. Twenty-six faculty members have successfully worked with the ACMI to revise their courses. Since the ACMI began in 2016, over 3,200 students enrolled in ACMI-revised courses, generating over $550,000 in potential savings in course materials. In the fall semester of 2019 alone, the ACMI reached just over 650 students who saved over $100,000 on course materials.
UTM’s Textbook Affordability Leadership Team also supports textbook affordability and OER development on campus. State and federal legislation mandate that faculty strive for maximum use and minimal cost of instructional materials to alleviate the economic burden on students. The UTM Textbook Affordability Leadership Team was created to support and lead this initiative.