UCF Library Resources Help Biology Faculty Find $177K in Savings

The collective efforts of three biology faculty members to find digital textbooks for their lower-level classes recently resulted in savings of $177,006 for 1,207 students.

The savings were created in Biology I Honors and Biology II after their instructors moved the bulk of the class to online coursework and streamlined the curriculum. The only changes necessary when UCF moved to remote instruction this semester was switching to online lectures.

The faculty behind the savings — Assistant Professor Charissa de Bekker, Ph.D., Associate Lecturer Christa Diercksen, Ph.D. and Instructor Michele Yeargain — said it took work upfront to streamline a dense book with hundreds of pages, but the results are worth it.

One of the first questions faculty would ask when a student came to them with a poor grade was, “Do you have the textbook?” Students who couldn’t afford the book would try to cram as many assignments as they could in to the two-week free trial, or skip buying the book and hope for the best.

“This levels the playing field for students somewhat and gives them better access to the class,” explained de Bekker.

The UCF Library has a full team dedicated to helping faculty and student save money through the textbook affordability program. As of Spring 2020, UCF faculty have taught over 500 classes using open or library-sourced materials, in turn reaching almost 35,000 students and potentially saving them just over $3.2 million.

The benefits of their work extend beyond cost-cutting. Students with a textbook typically feel they have to study an entire chapter, when only several points are important. That ambiguity is erased by an online course created a la carte. The faculty credit the OpenStax system for permission to pick and choose what they needed from the Biology 2e text.

“A lot of students said it was much easier because it was clear what they needed to know and what was expected,” Yeargain said.

De Bekker credits the library staff for their dedication to helping their efforts. All three strongly encourage faculty building a course from scratch to check first with the library to find free resources.

“They’re excited to help you, and they’ll do a lot of the leg work for you,” de Bekker said.

Chair of the Department of Biology Graham Worthy, Ph.D., had high praise for the work of the three professors.

“What these dedicated faculty have achieved leaves a huge impact on students,” Worthy said. “With all of the challenges that our students are currently facing it makes me proud to see the faculty in our department continue to put our students first in order to help them achieve their education goals.”






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