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Affordable course materials: reducing costs and promoting student success

We all remember textbooks. Memories of those big chunky books organized into chapters and sections, with tons of figures and charts explaining everything there is to know about a discipline. We stayed glued to them throughout each semester for the assigned activities and exercises they included. We studied them front-to-back for midterms and final exams.

From Anthropology to Zoology, textbooks are still used heavily. They are written by experts, reviewed by experts, and published by reputable academic publishers and other media companies—they are reliable. The problem is that prices have risen sharply, students in turn are paying more and must often turn to alternatives or choose different paths in the curriculum if none can be found.

Multiple studies have broken down the rise in the price of textbooks. A study concluded early in the last decade showed that between 2002 and 2012 the price of textbooks increased 82%. Another looked at 2006-2016 and found an 88% increase. More studies are underway. As the price of textbooks rises students are spending more; in the 2018-2019 academic year, students spent over $1200 a year on average on course materials, mostly textbooks.

When students can’t afford new textbooks, they have no alternatives but to pool funds to share books, rent, or purchase used copies, or use a copy on reserve at the library. Sometimes the only option is to purchase a new copy of a required textbook when the book includes accompanying online content in the form of activities, quizzes, or other coursework—a used or shared copy is of no use. Given these factors, in various surveys students have reported making decisions on which courses to enroll in based on what the required textbook(s) will cost.

It is no wonder there is a growing movement to utilize free/open educational content, and Northeastern University Library is on the front lines. Working with faculty and partners across the institution, librarians are helping faculty discover, evaluate, and integrate freely available textbooks and other Open Educational Resources (OERs), many of which are authored and reviewed by experts. In the case of Biology, multiple faculty members discontinued use of costly textbooks in favor of freely accessible, open texts: students enrolled in various Biology courses have saved over 100K since the summer of 2018. In related work, librarians are working to ensure faculty know how to maximize use of library-subscribed content such as online journal articles and e-books through dynamic reading-list creation tools and other services.

The library is actively presenting, creating partnerships, and raising awareness about the issues students face, and the options faculty have for finding and integrating alternatives and utilizing existing library content. Savings will continue to grow as the library works with more departments. The library is proud to be a part of this important movement.

For more information, visit the Affordable Course Materials guide.

Expanded Access to Online Research During COVID-19 Situation

While the COVID-19 virus has made completing the spring 2020 semester more complicated, including leading to the closure of the Snell Library building, Northeastern University Library’s staff is dedicated to continuing to provide quality research service and resources to students, faculty, and staff. Users can still get assistance from library specialists and can access our databases and electronic books, journals, and streaming videos online. For more information about accessing library services remotely, visit library.northeastern.edu/resilience.

In addition to the efforts of Northeastern University Library staff, many publishers of scholarly resources have attempted to ease the stress of this difficult situation by temporarily making their resources freely available. The library will be updating Scholar OneSearch to reflect this new access, and you can see the list of new resources below. This list will be updated as new resources become available.

AccessAnesthesiology

AccessAnesthesiology is an award-winning medical reference and teaching platform that delivers world-renowned, interdisciplinary content integrated with analytical teaching and learning tools. McGraw-Hill has made its AccessAnesthesiology collection available until September 14. Northeastern University credentials required.

AccessEngineering

AccessEngineering is an award-winning engineering reference and teaching platform that delivers world-renowned, interdisciplinary engineering content integrated with analytical teaching and learning tools. McGraw-Hill has made its AccessEngineering collection available until September 14. Northeastern University credentials required.

Annual Reviews

Annual Reviews provides definitive reviews in 37 scientific disciplines, focusing on biomedical, physical, and social sciences. It is an excellent source for finding overviews of new topics. Annual Reviews has made all journal content freely available until June 15.

Cambridge Companions

The Cambridge Companions collection contains guides to literature, authors, topics, periods, and more. Cambridge University Press has made access to this collection free until at least June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

Cambridge Elements

The Cambridge Elements collection combines the best research on a topic from various sources, on topics throughout the arts and sciences. Cambridge University Press has made access to this collection free until at least June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

Cambridge Histories

The Cambridge Histories collection provides access to more than 350 volumes in 10 subject areas focusing on various aspects of history. Cambridge University Press has made access to this collection free until at least June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

Cambridge Textbooks

Cambridge Textbooks provides access to more than 700 textbooks in a wide variety of disciplines. Cambridge University Press has made access to these textbooks free until June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

De Gruyter Ebooks

De Gruyter has made more than 69,000 ebooks available through June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

EBSCOhost Databases

EBSCOhost has made the following database collections available through June 30. Northeastern University credentials required.

GeoScienceWorld

The Geological Society of America and several of their partner publishers have made their ebooks freely available on GeoScienceWorld through June 30.

Harvard Business Review Ebook Collection

More than 600 titles from the Harvard Business Review Collection are available through EBSCOhost through June 29. Northeastern University credentials required.

JoVE Science Education

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) Science Education is a video database dedicated to teaching laboratory fundamentals through simple, easy-to-understand video demonstrations. Each video is paired with additional video resources for you to view practical applications of the technique and other complementary skills. JoVE has made all Science Education modules available through June 15. Northeastern University credentials required.

JSTOR Archival Journal Collections

JSTOR has opened additional journal collections for use, including Ecology & Botany II, Hebrew Journals, Jewish Studies, Ireland Collection, and Lives of Literature, through the end of 2020. Northeastern University credentials required.

JSTOR Primary Source Collections

JSTOR has made the Global Plants, 19th Century British Pamphlets, Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa, and World Heritage Sites: Africa primary source collections available through the end of 2020. Northeastern University credentials required.

JSTOR Public Health Journals

This set of  26 public health journals has been made freely available by JSTOR in collaboration with various publishers through the end of 2020.

LitCovid

LitCovid is a curated literature hub for tracking up-to-date scientific information about the 2019 novel Coronavirus, compiled by the National Institutes of Health. It is the most comprehensive resource on the subject, providing a central access to more than 1000 relevant articles in PubMed. The articles are updated daily and are further categorized by different research topics and geographic locations for improved access.

Microbiology Society Journals

The Microbiology Society has made their collection of scientific journals focused on microbes free for until further notice.

MIT Press Direct

MIT Press Direct contains ebooks on wide variety of subjects. MIT has made more than 3,000 of those titles freely available through June 30.

PolicyMap

PolicyMap is a mapping tool for accessing data on demographics, real estate, health, jobs, and more about communities across the U.S. to make better-informed decisions. It is freely available through August 15. Northeastern University credentials required.

ProQuest Coronavirus Research Database

ProQuest has assembled a database of only available articles concerning coronavirus and related topics. All content is open, although Northeastern University credentials are required.

The Royal Society Journals

The Royal Society has temporarily removed all paywalls for its journals, which focus on the sciences.

University of California Press Journals

The University of California Press has made all of their journal content freely available through June.

Data Fest is coming in February

Since Love Data Week and Endangered Data Week both happen in February, we thought we'd use this month to showcase some of the great data-related services and resources we have to offer here at Snell. We're calling it Data Fest, and you're invited!     Here's a taste of what we have planned: Stop by and lend a hand at our Citizen Science: Health Hackathon Make friends with your command line at our Intro to the Unix Shell workshop Learn how to create impressive charts & data visualizations at our workshops on Tableau and free web-based tools   And more! Check out the full lineup and register here: http://bit.ly/snelldatafest18   

Boston Library Consortium signs letter to President Obama about Open Educational Resources

In June, the White House called for suggestions from the public for its third Open Government National Action Plan, to be released later this year. The purpose of this plan is to increase transparency in government as well as support open research and learning tools, which were identified as areas for development in the first two National Action Plans. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international group of academic research libraries, has responded to this call with a letter advocating for increased support for the development of open educational resources. The Boston Library Consortium, of which Northeastern University is a member, has added its name as a signatory of this letter. We are proud to voice our support for open educational resources! Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible learning objects that support teaching and learning at all levels - from kindergarten through higher education. Because they are openly licensed, educators can customize OERs or create mashups of different resources to provide their students with the material that best meets their teaching objectives. OERs include textbooks, audio and video materials, tests, software, interactive modules, and much more. Many are peer-reviewed either before or after being publicly released, so teachers can be assured of their quality. OERs benefit students as well as educators—they serve as free alternatives to costly traditional textbooks. A recent NBC News story about the astronomical increase in textbook prices (more than triple the cost of inflation since 1977) quotes an incoming Northeastern first-year student on the struggle to afford college textbooks. OERs would help him and thousands of others get a high-quality education at a more affordable price. The Open Education Group, which conducts an ongoing review of empirical research on the use of OERs, reports that studies show students and educators using OERs are satisfied with the quality of these resources and that learning outcomes are equivalent to or better than those in classrooms using traditional resources. Instructors and students, are you interested in learning more about open educational resources? Check out my guide to OERs and textbook alternatives, and please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

Open Access Week Breakfast with David Weinberger: Thursday, 10/25!

Don't miss the keynote event of Open Access Week! Join us tomorrow morning from 8:00-9:30 a.m. for continental breakfast with our special guest speaker. David Weinberger is an American technologist, professional speaker, commentator, and a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society. At the Berkman Center, David writes about networking knowledge and the effect of technology on ideas, business and society. He is the author of Too Big to Know, Everything is Miscellaneous, and Small Pieces Loosely Joined, and a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Open Access Week Breakfast with David Weinberger

When: Thursday, October 25, 2012, 8:00-9:30 a.m.

Where: Cabral Center, West Village F

All are welcome!