Online textbooks could save students money

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office clip art
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office clip art

Attending a four-year university can be an expensive means of gaining an education. Between the tuition and housing, attending a university is a huge financial commitment.

One of the most expensive parts of attending college is purchasing the textbooks for classes. At Colorado State University-Pueblo, members of the Associated Students’ Government are working on a plan to bring the cost text books way down.

President Timothy Zercher and information technology director Jim Wiley have proposed a new idea to help save students the cost of expensive textbooks. After stumbling upon a few free textbooks online, Wiley decided to write up a proposal for free online textbooks. The proposal could land CSU-Pueblo a spot in the Open Textbook Network, a collection of renowned universities already utilizing the free textbooks.

According to Zercher, there are 37 courses at CSU-Pueblo that have the means to transfer their textbook curriculum online. These courses mainly consist of lower level freshmen and sophomore classes as well as some other general education courses. This means that for these 37 courses, almost all the material students need from the books will be online and free to access.

Implementing a free online textbook catalog has major advantages. According to the Minneapolis Community and Technical College website, the estimated textbook expense for a full-time student is $450 per semester. Moving these books to the Internet for free would not only save college students money, but they would have immediate access to their books at all times.

Teachers who implement this online system would benefit as well.

When CSU-Pueblo students were surveyed and asked their reasons for not purchasing textbooks from the bookstore, the most popular response was that large sections of books are not used in class.

With online books, professors would have complete creative freedom over the publications. Professors could cut out unnecessary or outdated chapters, add in their own lessons and customize the textbooks however they want. This eliminates the problem of buying an entire book and only using a few of the chapters.

Although there are great benefits to the program, implementing this system is going to come with some challenges. The main hurdle to overcome is the extensive amount of time it would take.

According to Zercher, almost every department chair at CSU-Pueblo is on board with the plan. However, in order for the free online books to have credibility at the university, they would have to be read, re-read and read again. This means each department head would have to take the time to fact check each book on their subjects.

Despite the time to transition, most agree that this would be well worth the effort. President Lesley Di Mare was on board after the ASG members proposed the idea.

“If the president thinks free textbooks online is worthwhile, we should absolutely look into it,” Zercher said.

For the skeptics who aren’t sure about the idea, the CSU-Pueblo bookstore would still be readily available. Since it is the professor’s choice whether or not to offer their textbook online, they can always stick to traditional paper textbooks.

In order for CSU-Pueblo to be innovative academically, many steps must be taken. The process of implementing free online textbooks would certainly help to qualify the university as a modern, progressive school, a goal many universities strive for. Colleges such as Purdue University, The Ohio State University, The University of Oklahoma and many more have all taken the steps to become a part of the Open Textbook Network.

ASG is determined to launch CSU-Pueblo toward progressive learning and academic innovation. Free online textbooks would not only increase our universities academic standing, but save students thousands of dollars while improving the way they learn.