Purchasing textbooks is hardly a favorite memory for the many Baruch graduates who struggled to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other college-related expenses. Reducing that burden is one of the goals behind the University-wide initiative to create Zero Textbook Courses (i.e., Z sections).

Supported by a grant from CUNY, Baruch’s faculty—working with the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the William and Anita Newman Library, and Baruch Computing and Technology Center—are creating no-cost textbook courses using open educational resources (OERs), scholarly and professional websites, CUNY library databases, multimedia lectures, and more.

The initiative, embraced by faculty from all three schools, has already produced 21 zero-textbook courses that will have saved 2,500-plus students more than $240,000 by the end of the Fall 2018 term. Allison Lehr Samuels, CTL director and the lead for Baruch’s OER Initiative, estimates that the number of Z courses will continue to increase.

“Students at four-year public universities spend an average of $1,250 per year on publisher textbooks and related course materials,” says David P. Christy, PhD, Baruch provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “For Baruch undergraduates—60 percent of whom come from households with incomes less than $40,000 a year—this can be a limiting and sometimes impossible expense to bear.”

Of course, cost savings aren’t the only benefit. “This initiative inspires faculty to rethink how they teach their course and how they can bring a more global and diverse perspective to their subject by including a wider range of open materials,” says Ms. Lehr Samuels, who is also on the faculty of the Narendra Paul Loomba Department of Management.

Arthur Downing, PhD, vice president for information services and dean of the Newman Library, concurs. “In contrast to traditional print textbooks, new digital tools and content offer 21st-century educators the opportunity to adapt learning materials to local needs through reusing, revising, and remixing open content.”

– Diane Harrigan

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