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Open Source Textbooks

By Katelyn Marshall

Some students may feel that buying textbooks for their classes are expensive. However, some instructors at Volunteer State Community College use Open Source Textbooks.

“It’s free to the students,” Professor Len Assante said, an instructor at Vol State who has been teaching communication courses here since the fall of 1996. “Anything we can do to make books cheaper for students is a good thing.”

Assante also explained that Open Source Textbooks give professors flexibility because, “you can get a whole book or you can put together pieces of the book and make it your own and we combine it in the order we want to do it in and the only stuff we want to teach is in there, and there’s no extra stuff.”

According to Professor Jennifer James, who has been teaching communication courses at Vol State since 2007 and graduated with her associate’s degree here, “at Vol State, we have been, probably over the past two years, the Communication Department in particular had a desire to get away from expensive textbooks and find a way we can present rigorous content to students without charging them $100 or more.”

James said that there is a law in Tennessee, the annotated code, which requires faculty members to consider cost when they are picking resources to use for the class, including textbooks.

“I guess it’s not completely free because you have to have access to the internet and sometimes that means you have to have access to it at home, you have to have wi-fi,

perhaps. You have to have a device that can connect [to the internet],” James added. She also mentioned that for public speaking courses, Open Source Textbooks can save students about $150.

According to James, students can find out if they will be using an Open Source Textbook by looking at the website for Vol State’s bookstore and searching their course. “It could say there’s no required textbook for this course or it’s available free online for this course.”

Assante explained that there are a variety of ways students can access their Open Source Textbook. “It can be as simple as a PDF file. I can email it to you. It can be that simple or it can be something you go to a website like you can go to e-learn, you can have in each module on e-learn a link that takes you to an article or a chapter.”

James, commented about what she thought of Open Source Textbook by saying, “I am excited to offer resources to students everyone can access through a device that costs nothing.”

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