McMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

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A&S Ready to Tap into E-text Advantages


As the Ohio Board of Regents partners with an open textbook publisher, the Psychology Department is already set to offer students the benefits of the affordable and accessible digital textbooks.

Date: 6/27/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot   The textbook – one of the most-recognized symbols of higher education – is going through a 21st century electronic evolution, and the University of Cincinnati is ready to take advantage.

The Ohio Board of Regents partnered with publisher Flat World Knowledge earlier this month to expand the statewide use of affordable open textbooks among faculty and students, and provide administrators with data about the impact of this new model on student retention and academic achievement.

With help from the Psychology Department in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, UC is already onboard with the low-cost, e-text revolution.

“The Psychology Department has been working with the Ohio Board of Regents to reduce textbook costs since the summer of 2008,” says associate professor educator Charles Ginn, who led a text selection committee last fall. “A recent psychology textbook choice was the result of having the six major publishers present their products and e-text options with Flat World proving to be the best at the time.”

This fall, thousands of UC students will have the chance to test out digital texts from Flat World when they enroll in the “Introduction to Psychology” course. The book, “Introduction to Psychology” by Charles Stangor, can be read for free online versus price tags topping $200 for some traditional hard-copy books. Mobile formats of the book – to be read on portable devices such as smartphones or tablet computers – or a black-and-white print copy will cost $35. The university and the publisher have agreed to a four-year commitment to maintain prices, and as many as 5,000 students a year are expected to benefit from the initiative, since UC’s “Introduction to Psychology” course also satisfies academic college requirements for non-psychology majors.

The Ohio Board of Regents’ deal with Flat World will be effective for the 2012 fall semester and builds upon a pilot program that took place this spring. Under the initial agreement, the board purchased 1,000 seat licenses to Flat World’s course content as a way to encourage faculty and students to try a new digital textbook model and significantly lower costs and increase access.  

The board says the 987 student participants in its spring pilot program saved an estimated $121,000 in textbook costs, based on a savings of $122.95 per student, per course. Flat World’s content is openly licensed, meaning the digital files don’t expire and students can freely move their e-texts among devices. Another benefit to e-text is the potential for customization. Because of the unrestricted nature of Flat World’s e-texts, faculty can tailor an e-textbook’s content to meet their curricula.

“With open access, each professor or department can modify a given text right down to the paragraph level” Ginn says. “Thus, we are able to modify the text to fit our needs. For example, the Psychology Department has added letters of introduction to the Psychology Club, Psi Chi psychology honor society, a list of all of our professors and a profile of our 17 research labs right into the ‘Introduction to Psychology’ textbook.”

Flat World plans to partner with administrators directly to roll out the program, which is open to all University System of Ohio universities and community colleges. For more information about Flat World, go to www.flatworldknowledge.com.

Ginn says today’s generation of students are more comfortable with relatively new technologies such as e-texts and open access material. In an effort to appeal to such a burgeoning market, Ginn says there are a number of UC faculty who are rapidly adapting to this new vehicle for the exchange of knowledge.

“We have a number of faculty across UC adopting e-texts now and that trend will likely increase quickly as initial efforts in given colleges and departments are successful from both the faculty and student perspectives,” he says.

Dawn Fuller contributed to this story.

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