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ULM Online replacing textbooks with digital materials

Published October 9, 2018

To help ease the financial burden on students, University of Louisiana Monroe leaders decided to change from expensive commercial textbooks to cost-effective digital books and related materials. As a result, students will save approximately $340,000 per year.

Known as Open Education Resources (OER), the digital study materials include textbooks, eBooks, software and internet resources. 


The ULM Online general education courses will be redesigned to OER first, and later face-to-face classroom core courses will follow.

The projected cost to students for the digital materials is no more than $75 per course. This can also be used as a marketing tool for the affordability of ULM.

The Office of ULM Online, the ULM Library, and the Office of Extended Learning are overseeing the project, which will rely on faculty/staff members who will form a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) to redesign the courses using OER materials.

The project is funded by the ULM Foundation for $27,000 per year. 

For the next three years, 15 faculty members/staff members will be selected to serve on the Faculty Learning Community. These members will research, design, redesign and demonstrate how to use OER materials and create OER courses. 

Facilitating the FLC are Director of the Library/Associate Professor Megan Lowe, Interim Director of ULM Online Katie Dawson and Director of Extended Learning Noelle Prestridge.

"This opportunity for faculty to collaborate and build courses using Open Educational Resources will enhance the academic experience of the students at ULM. Collaboration is key to innovation and the efforts of ULM Online, ULM Extended Learning, the ULM Library, and ULM Faculty shows the willingness of this institution to create an affordable and engaging academic experience for all students. Thank you to the ULM Foundation for supporting these efforts,” said Dawson.

The plan is to have all core courses transitioned to OER for incoming students by fall 2020. Currently, eight courses have been redesigned to use OER  materials, COMM 2001, UNIV 1001, ENGL 2005, ENGL 2003, HIST 2002, PHYS 1001, ATMS 1002, ENGL 1001, and ENGL 1002.

“Not everybody can buy all the textbooks and course materials before the first day of class,” said Lowe. “They may not even be able to after they receive financial aid. In order to ensure that our students have equitable access to all the resources they need to fully participate in class and do their very best, this FLC is focusing on helping faculty learn about Open Educational Resources, how to identify them, and how to redesign their courses to effectively incorporate those resources.”

ULM Online has identified another 30 lower-level undergraduate courses to be converted over the next two years. It is hoped as support for OER grows, more upper-upper level undergraduate and graduate courses — both online and in the classroom — can be incorporated. 

Organizers understand that some courses, especially in professional programs, are not suitable for OER.

The benefits of the program include, but are not limited to:
1. ULM helping students manage or reduce costs, promoting fair and equitable access to course materials.
2. OERs represent an opportunity for faculty/instructors to create their own resources compatible with traditional classroom courses, hybrid courses, and online courses; these resources can be licensed and shared with a global audience. 
3. Many ULM Online and dual enrollment courses have already transitioned (or will be transitioned) to OER materials. 
4. OERs represent student-driven, multimodal learning opportunities. 
5. This initiative is a significant opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration. 
6. Adoption of OERs where feasible demonstrates ULM’s alignment with the Board of Regents Affordable Learning Louisiana initiative.

For more information on the OER program or the FLC, contact Megan Lowe, 342-3041, Katie Dawson, 342-3119 or Noelle Prestridge, 342-1032.