Professors change textbook policy to save students money

Whitley CombsMultimedia Journalist

Photo from pixnio.com. 

Some professors on Tarleton’s campus are forgoing the mandatory purchase of textbooks and the overall use of textbooks. In previous years, it has been required for students to purchase a textbook or multiple textbooks if they wanted to pass the course. This trend is now changing in some departments on Tarleton’s campus.

Christopher Gearhart, Communications Department Head and Associate Professor, is no longer requiring his students to purchase textbooks for his class.

“The intended outcome was to reduce the increasing financial burden on the students,” Gearhart said. “Textbook costs have gone through the roof in the last decade or so with books regularly costing a hundred dollars or more. I also try to give students alternative buying options such as renting, purchasing older editions and also loaning out my previous editions to help students have more affordable access to textbooks.”

Gearhart says that other employees in Communications Studies are also making changes in this area.

“As a department, Professor Jennifer Edwards and Assistant Professors Karley Goen and Tracey Holley are exploring the use of free, open resource textbooks for our core curriculum classes,” Gearhart explained. “Switching to this alternative would save costs for hundreds of our undergraduate students. As a department, textbook price is one of the most important factors we consider when choosing our core curriculum texts.”

Jennifer Edwards, Communication Studies Professor, has not been requiring students to use textbooks for four years. She says she has seen a positive outcome for her students.

“…I have actually observed a higher passing rate from students who are enrolled in classes,” Edwards said. “If students have access to the material they need for class without a financial barrier-affording textbooks- in addition to tuition-or a time barrier-ordering books from the internet-they are more prepared to succeed in college. To supplement the electronic resource articles, I also produce YouTube videos…, host livestreaming sessions, and remain in constant communication with my 100+ students through Twitter direct messages.”

The hope is that students will be successful regardless of whether or not they are required to purchase a textbook for the course. Gearhart has conducted and published a study that analyzed student usage of online supplemental materials. The study found that students who were required to purchase the additional online materials fared only slightly better than students not required to buy them.

“Decisions to require a textbook take many factors into consideration including cost, student performance, student feedback, changes of editions, et cetera,” Gearhart said. “And there are many factors that also influence student success, so it would be difficult to pin-point the requirement of a textbook to any specific student performance outcomes.”

To view Gearhart’s study, go to  https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1106331.pdf.

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