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Sunday, January 29, 2023

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The Immediate Access program has produced significant discounts on course materials. The Immediate Access program has produced significant discounts on course materials.

Increasing Access and Savings For Students

Many departments around campus are collaborating to save students money on course materials.
By Rebecca Williamson

Books and course materials can be a daunting expense for university students around the nation as each semester gets underway. But San Diego State University is working to cut those costs in a collaboration involving the SDSU Library, SDSU Bookstore, Montezuma Publishing, Instructional Technology Services and faculty across campus.

Two programs, Open Educational Resources and Immediate Access, last year saved students more than $6 million compared with the full price of printed textbooks. Faculty using available library electronic books and journals as course readings, or who create and use their own materials, can save students even more.

Open Educational Resources offers ebooks, journals, case studies, data sets, videos and more that can be freely edited and combined, allowing faculty to create materials that are customized to their class. Kate Holvoet, electronic resources librarian and assistant head of content organization and management, said these materials provide faculty and their students with low-cost or free alternatives to bookstore prices.

Montezuma Publishing and the Student Ability Success Center help ensure the final product is accessible, said Holvoet, co-chair of the SDSU Affordable Learning Solutions committee. In addition, Montezuma Publishing provides printed copies at a low cost for students who prefer print to electronic format.

Physics professor Arlette Baljon is trying this approach for the first time this year. Searching for a new textbook to meet the changing needs caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Baljon found a learning engagement platform called Odigia. 

“It has the free textbook loaded online, and it is adaptable to the instructor so I can correct, delete and add content,” Baljon said. “It also has engagement build around it, like practice questions, discussion board, and homework, as well as an assessment system. So it is all integrated and very powerful.” 

The Immediate Access program, a collaborative effort among the SDSU Bookstore, publishers, ITS, faculty and multiple other campus offices, has produced significant discounts on course materials.

Ben Compton, course materials manager, and his team work with publishers to establish deeply discounted rates for electronic versions of specific materials, usually 40-70% off the full printed textbook price. Students have free access to the electronic version for a two-week free trial and can opt out to avoid any cost.

Since these are electronic versions of the course materials, they often also include extras such as the ability for students to share notes, link to additional materials, and tools for accessibility.

By the 2018-19 school year, the discount program had grown to 461 courses with an estimated savings to students of more than $1.7 million compared with the cost of purchasing digital materials and $6.2 million with the cost of new printed texts.

Compton, co-chair of the affordable solutions committee, said the program continues to grow each year. “We always look to make it better, to save students more, to put students first,” he said. “We want to make course materials as inexpensive as possible.”