Minot State University students can easily shell out close to a $1,000 or more each semester for textbooks, so associate business administration and business information technology professor John Girard wants to help cut back on the book bill. Girard has offered the students in his Organizational Business class an opportunity to use a free, open-textbook online.
The textbook is published by Flat World Knowledge, a company that "aims to disrupt the traditional higher education textbook market by viewing students as consumers who deserve choices in how they want to access course material based upon their preferences and wallets," according to a press release issued by Minot State. The company hopes to make money with this new business model, said Girard. Students who want printed textbooks have the option of buying a print-on-demand black and white textbook for $30, a color textbook for $60 or a PDF version for $25. Those prices are about half the cost of a typical textbook, said Girard. They also can buy extras to help them study to the textbooks. Those who just want the free textbook can access it by logging into the Web site. The program will let students highlight the text on the page and also take notes that only the students will see.
Girard said a lot of traditional textbook publishers "are not excited about this option," but he sees it as a way that students can potentially save money.
"I really got the idea from students because students talk to us all the time about the cost of textbooks," said Girard. He said many students at MSU are determined to graduate with the least amount of debt possible, but that also means that students end up working more and studying less than their professors think is advisable. He sees reducing the textbook cost as a way to encourage his students to work less and study more.
Girard said this is a pilot project. He will be surveying students to find out what they like about the online textbooks and what, if anything, they dislike. He's not forcing any of his students to use the free online textbook but he thinks most of them will.
"Millennials (traditional college-age students) are very, very comfortable reading online," said Girard.
Girard said he's reviewed the online textbook and is convinced that it is high quality, was put together by academics like more traditional textbooks, and is comparable in quality to higher quality textbooks. Organizational Business is a core business class that is offered by most business departments at universities around the country, said Girard, so there's a real demand for this class. He said online textbooks might be more difficult for the company to offer for more specialized classes.
Girard said professors at Minot State have the academic freedom to choose their own textbooks, but he'd like to see other professors at MSU give this option a try. It's something that could cut back on the textbook bill for students.
Girard has committed to using the free textbook only for this semester and said neither he or Minot State is receiving payment for using it.