Internet2 / EDUCAUSE Etextbook Pilot

Posted April 17th, 2014 in Programs, stories by Alexander

The University of South Florida joined twenty three other universities in the Internet 2 / EDUCAUSE Etextbook Pilot which spanned over three semesters, including the fall 2012, spring 2013, and fall 2013 terms. USF’s reasons for participating in the pilot were to offer cheaper alternatives to expensive textbooks, enhance learning, and explore emerging etextbook technology.

  • The pilot was based on a successful etextbook model used at Indiana University in 2009 by Bradley C. Wheeler, the university’s vice president for information technology.
  • The model promoted the idea that if a university bought etextbooks in bulk and charged a mandatory course-materials fee to cover the costs, the university could negotiate a much better price per book for their students.
  • USF utilized Student Technology Fee funds to pay a flat fee for inclusion in each pilot phase, which covered the e-reader platform (Courseload) and publisher-provided content.
  • The USF Tampa Library lead the project with support from USF Information Technology.
  • Over 3,000 USF students participated and were provided their textbooks at no cost for the duration of the pilot.
  • The Courseload e-reader, a digital learning platform designed to enhance etextbooks with greater mobility and studying tools, was required to access the etextbooks in the pilot.
  • The etextbooks and Courseload were integrated onto Blackboard and Canvas.
  • Courseload was intended to encourage students to take advantage of their etextbooks by enabling them to print what they needed, highlight passages in the text, create annotations, and use the collaborative features in order to engage more with fellow students and their professor.
  • At the end of the pilot, students and faculty were asked to provide feedback through a survey developed on Survey Monkey about their experience with the etextbooks and the Courseload platform in order to assess the effectiveness of the pilot.
  • Internet2 / EDUCAUSE collected the survey data from all of the participating universities and created an official summary report. You can access the report here.

If you would like to see a summary of the USF data, click here!


Monica Metz-Wiseman – Project Lead – (, 813 974-9854)
Laura Pascual – Liason to Faculty, Publishers, and Internet2 / EDUCAUSE – (
Alexander Neff – Assessment and TAP Website – (

USF Students Create Swap Shop Mobile for Buying and Selling Textbooks

Posted April 16th, 2014 in stories, Undergraduates by Alexander

Marcus Ducheine and Travis Tyson are two USF students behind a new textbook buying and selling mobile application called Swap Shop. The purpose of Swap Shop is to facilitate the buying and selling of textbooks between students, allowing sellers to set their own prices and buyers to shop around their area for the best deals.

Marcus and Travis began development of the Swap Shop application in January 2013 with the help of the USF-based application developer Simply Advanced. Their working experiences with expensive textbooks compelled them to develop the application, hoping to benefit their fellow students with more affordable textbook options. Marcus worked in the Center for Student Involvement for three years and frequently observed student complaints about the burden of expensive textbooks, while Travis tutored high-school students struggling to prepare for college.

One of the most interesting features of the application is the ability to locate textbook deals using mobile GPS. The user inputs textbook information (title, author, or ISBN) and all potential seller locations and prices will appear on the map, allowing the user to find the cheapest prices offered in the area. If a desired textbook is not currently available, the user can choose to be notified by phone when a seller lists the textbook for sale. Other features include the ability to search for a textbook by scanning its barcode, a local and online bookstore price comparison tool, and a messaging system to facilitate communication between sellers and buyers.

The application will always be free for buyers, but it is only free to sellers for the first year. After the first year and two complimentary listing credits, sellers will need to pay a fee of $0.99 per sale listing.

The Swap Shop application is currently available for Android phones, with an iOS version planned for the future. You can download it at the Google Play Store, as well as on their website Swap Shop Mobile.

University System of Maryland Enters Open Access Pilot

Posted April 11th, 2014 in News by Alexander

Since the start of the spring 2014 semester, the University System of Maryland began to conduct a textbook pilot program to reduce textbook costs by using open access materials. The pilot program is a recent strategy of the University System of Maryland to enhance and expand their online learning offerings, while trying to save students money. Their method is to redesign courses with a stronger web presence and open access materials, and using class time specifically to focus on discussion.

The university system estimates the pilot saving 1,100 students a total of $130,000 over the semester. The participating universities within the system include the University of Baltimore, Bowie State University, Copping State University, Chesapeake College, and St Mary’s College of Maryland.

The pilot program stems from a partnership with Lumen Learning, a Portland, Oregon-based company that helps instructors access and evaluate open access content, tests, graphics, and other materials for course adoption. Through grants, Lumen Learning is providing this service for free to the Maryland system, along with 19 other universities nationwide.

If you would like to read the full article, visit:,0,6567208.story

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Encourage the Adoption of Etextbooks Nationwide

Posted March 28th, 2014 in News by Alexander

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene recently introduced bipartisan-supported legislation in Washington, DC to encourage the use of low-cost or open access digital course materials in higher education. The legislation, termed the E-BOOK Act (Electronic Books Opening Opportunity for Knowledge), aims to develop pilot programs at public institutions across the United States in an attempt to increase access to digital content, expand the availability of e-readers for low-income students, and encourage instructors to adopt emerging learning technologies into their courses.

If the E-Book Act is passed, it would give permission to the Department of Education to award $20 million in grants to establish the pilot programs. The expansion of access to the newest and emerging learning tools will provide college faculty and administrators with the ability to improve learning outcomes and save their students hundreds of dollars on textbooks.

If you would like to read the press-release, visit:

Washington Students Push for Open Access

Posted March 12th, 2014 in News by Alexander

As the prices of textbooks continue to rise, Washington college students are organizing to push professors into adopting more open access textbooks. The goal is to provide faculty with the option of free or low cost textbooks and create competition with publishers, who may respond by lowering their prices.

Recently, the University of Washington Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution encouraging professors to consider using open access textbooks and other less-expensive materials. The resolution does not require professors to choose open access materials; however, it will provide them with information and assistance.

At Tacoma Community College, students voted to use student funds for a pilot project to assist professors in identifying online materials suitable for textbook substitutions. The college’s student government hired an OER (open educational resource) specialist to help professors find low-cost or free alternatives to traditional textbooks.

The Tacoma pilot project, currently in its second year, is regarded as a success by the college. Within its first nine months, it was able to pay for itself through student savings. College officials have estimated that the project has saved students around $643,000 in total.

If you would like to read the full article, visit:

Student PIRGs Releases a New Report About the Effects of Expensive Textbooks

Posted February 13th, 2014 in News by Alexander

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund and Student PIRGs recently published a report describing the continued effects of high textbook prices on students and higher education, indicating that students may be interested in alternatives to the traditional textbook.

During the fall of 2013, Student PIRGs surveyed 2,039 students from 150 universities. The results from the survey showed that the high cost of textbooks is deterring students from purchasing their assigned materials, despite a potential negative impact on their grades. 65% of the students reported that they did not purchase a textbook because of the cost. Out of those students, 94% were concerned about the impact on their grades.

The survey showed that the high cost of textbooks has a ripple effect on students’ other academic decisions. Almost half of the students reported that the cost of textbooks impacted the number and types of classes they enrolled in each semester, which may limit the scope of their academic progress and increase the overall length of their education.

Traditional textbook alternatives, such as open access, were popular among students. 82% of the students perceived that a free online textbook (with an optional hard copy available for purchase) would have significantly improved their performance in the course.

The study concluded that the high costs of textbooks will continue to be a problem for students if textbook alternatives are not offered alongside traditional options. Open access textbooks must be adopted on a national scale if the prices of traditional textbooks remain the same or continue to increase.

If you would like to read the full report, visit:

University of Utah Explores Open Access Textbooks

Posted January 24th, 2014 in News by Alexander

According to the American Enterprise Institute, textbook costs have increased by 812 percent since 1978. At the University of Utah, the average cost of textbooks and supplies for students is about $1,000 a year, on top of $7,000 of in-state tuition fees.

Understanding the financial barrier of a higher education, the new University of Utah Academic Senate committee has made it their goal to help students by exploring options to make textbooks cheaper. The option they currently chose to pursue was to encourage the adoption of open-access textbooks for lower level courses. The committee is aiming to save each student about $500 a year on their textbooks.

Ethan Senack, a higher education advocate with the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), has championed open-access textbooks as an ideal solution for introducing more competition into the textbook market to help drive prices down. In the current textbook market, the buyers (students) do not make the purchasing decisions. They buy the textbooks their professors require them to obtain, which is usually  from a selection of similarly priced $200 textbooks, and this removes the urgency for publishers to lower prices. The introduction of open-access textbooks have the potential to make the publishers offer more competitive pricing if they want their textbooks to continue being adopted in courses across the country.

The Academic Senate committee has stated they will look into other options to save students money, such as a textbook exchange, and continue to offer an online textbook price comparison tool and semester-long textbook rentals at half the price of a new volume at the university bookstore.

The committee is scheduled to report its findings in April 2014.

If you would like to read the full article, visit:

USF Oracle Publishes Article About Expensive Textbooks and the Textbook Affordability Project

Posted January 10th, 2014 in News by Alexander

As students are finalizing their course lists and beginning to shop around for their textbooks, the USF Oracle has published an article about the high cost of textbooks and the steps the University of South Florida has taken to help students overcome this issue.

The article shares the stories of several USF students who have been affected by expensive textbooks. Some of the students stated that their textbooks purchases have caused them to incur debt, while others claimed they will have to cut spending in other areas of their life to accommodate the costs.

In addition, the article includes an interview with Monica Metz-Wiseman, head of the Textbook Affordability Project (TAP), with a comprehensive background of TAP and other initiatives that USF has approved to help students with their textbooks costs.

An online version of the article can be found here:

OpenStax College Releases a New Open Access Textbook

Posted December 20th, 2013 in News by Alexander

The non-profit organization OpenStax College recently released its sixth open access digital textbook: Introductory Statistics.

OpenStax College publishes free, open access and peer-reviewed textbooks for undergraduate college courses. Their goal is to improve student access to quality learning materials and to provide access to everyone desiring a higher education.

So far, OpenStax has released 5 other textbooks, such as College Physics, Introduction to Sociology, Biology, Concepts of Biology and Anatomy and Physiology. They are continuing their work by planning seven additional titles to expand their coverage of economics, science, and social sciences.

According to OpenStax College, in less than two years, their open access textbooks have saved over 52,000 students about $5 million in total costs. More than 360 community colleges, four-year colleges, and research universities have adopted these textbooks.

Introductory Statistics is available now as a free download via

If you would like to read the full article, visit:

City Colleges of Chicago Partner with Akademos to Save Students Money on Textbooks

Posted December 13th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Recently, the City Colleges of Chicago Board of Trustees approved a contract with Akademos that will soon give students access to a range of affordable textbook options. The new contract is expected to save students a total of up to $4 million annually compared to the previous textbook vendor arrangements.

The new contract with Akademos provides students with a 24/7 online bookstore and marketplace. Students will be able to purchase textbooks in their preferred format – digital, new, used, or rental – and apply for financial aid and vouchers to complete the purchase electronically.

The textbooks will be significantly discounted. More than 50,000 etextbooks will be offered at a 30-60% discount off of the publisher’s physical textbook list price. Textbook rentals will cost an average of 50% less and used textbooks will be offered at 60-75% off the publisher’s list price. In addition, students will be able to sell their textbooks through the Akademos marketplace to recoup some of their cost.

Under the new contract, Akademos will provide a $5,000 annual textbook scholarship to the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation, hire paid student interns, create kiosk stations at each college to assist students with textbook purchases, and more. The college bookstores will continue to sell school supplies and other retail items, but they will no longer sell textbooks.

The City Colleges of Chicago faculty members will be able to search for the textbooks they wish to use in their classes through Akademos’ textbook adoption tool.

The new system will launch on April 4, 2014, the first day of registration for the summer term.

If you would like to read the full article, visit:,-Saving-Students-Up-to-$4-Million-Annually.aspx