UHV to participate in project aimed at providing free textbooks to students
University of Houston-Victoria students soon may have access to free textbooks in some of their courses.
The university is joining more than 60 other institutions this fall in the OpenStax network by participating in the 2021-2022 OpenStax Institutional Partner Program. The educational initiative, which was created by Rice University, partners with foundations, educational resource companies and other universities to provide students with high-quality openly licensed college textbooks that are free online and can be bought in print for a low price.
UHV’s decision to join the network relates to how the university serves its students, said Nicole Eugene, a UHV assistant professor of communication and chair of the university’s Textbook Access Committee. The committee did a survey of UHV faculty members that looked at student access to textbooks. Many faculty members responded that they had students in their classes struggling to afford to purchase textbooks.
“This is an ongoing issue for UHV and every other university in the country,” Eugene said. “At the beginning of the semester, so many students do everything they can to try and find a less expensive option for their textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars. But while they’re spending all that time and effort looking for previous versions or even an online PDF of the book, they are falling behind in their studies. Open-source textbooks are a low-cost answer that can address those needs.”
Openly licensed textbooks, or open educational resources, have become a popular option for students and universities, Eugene said. UHV’s textbook committee was inspired by an announcement by Lamar University that all the university’s core undergraduate courses would use open resources. UHV hopes to reach a similar level of access to open resources for its students. To encourage UHV faculty members to participate in the project, OpenStax will be offering a $500 stipend to two faculty members who begin using OpenStax resources in their classes.
Individual UHV faculty members already have made some use of open resources. For example, Joseph Locke, associate professor of history, is co-creator of The American Yawp, an open-source history textbook, and members of the university’s mathematics faculty have been using open-source math books. The UHV Library also offers a selection of open resources that can be accessed through the library’s website at library.uhv.edu/oer.
Jennifer Ortiz-Garza, a senior lecturer in psychology, has been using OpenStax books for her introductory psychology courses for the past five years.
“My students are always excited when they learn that their book is available free online,” Ortiz-Garza said. “It can take a lot of time and research to find the right resources for courses, but if it helps just one student, it’s worth it.”
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.