This year, the UNT Biological Sciences department took on the challenge of adopting a new textbook option for their standard prerequisite classes that would align with UNT's Affordability Initiative. These textbook affordability updates will benefit approximately 400-500 UNT students each semester.
"This has been a challenge and we are happy and proud that a group of nineteen faculty came together to go over our class offerings, how each of us teach, what each of us expect from our students, and the challenges we encounter in these courses," said Dr. Shah. "We decided that ensuring a quality education for our students as we work to help them learn and succeed in these courses was our top priority as we explored different textbook options with affordability in mind."
Dr. Lisa Welch took the lead in getting representatives from three textbook publishers to give the department presentations on their books and online resources that they provide for students and faculty. After exploring these options, the faculty members hosted discussions over zoom meetings to weigh the pros and cons of each of the textbooks and additional resources available from the publishers.
"I think what made the difference for us to come together and make this decision was being able to review the options and see what was available with the open resource option in comparison to options that would cost our students more money," said Dr. Welch. "By doing this it opened up the opportunity to discuss what was important, how certain features compared to saving the students money and making sure they had first day access to the textbook. I believe these discussions also created an atmosphere for sharing resources and ideas between faculty."
"Although each of us had our preferences, our common goal was to find the most affordable option while maintaining the quality of education we offer," said Dr. Shah. "We went into this knowing fully well that whatever decision we take as a team, all of us would accept it so that we have consistency across the different sections in these courses."
In the end the faculty voted to switch to an OER textbook Biology 2e offered by OpenStax, which applies to the two courses that most students take over two consecutive semesters, BIOL1710/1711 and BIOL1720/1722. The online version of this textbook is free to students and the printed copy has a nominal charge.
In alignment with the University of North Texas President's Affordability Initiative, the College of Science is exploring new ways to help support student success, including a revamp of our Dean's Student Support Fund which will now supply students with funding to subsidize their textbook costs. Applications are open here.
You can help support the academic success of math and science students at UNT by giving today. Every dollar donated to this fund will assist a student in purchasing their required course materials for a new semester: https://cos.unt.edu/give-deans-student-support-fund