Moving Mountains: Lessons Learned from a Campus-wide Free Textbook Initiative in Response to a Global Pandemic
- Open Educational Resources,
- institution-wide change,
- faculty development,
- free course materials
Students are experiencing enormous economic precarity as a result of COVID-19. Reports indicate that those hardest hit by job loss due to the coronavirus are of lower income (Beer, 2020). While economic recovery is underway for more affluent workers, the same cannot be said for those toward the bottom of the wage scale, particularly underserved populations (Long, 2020). The University of Pikeville (UPIKE) in Central Appalachia recognizes the impact that emerging and existing financial inequities have on our institution’s most vulnerable populations. Even pre-pandemic, students had indicated the costs of purchasing textbooks was stressful and discouraging. As a result, the institution decided in April 2020 to convert all classes to free materials by the start of the Fall 2020 semester.
Written by those who supported faculty in this transition, the goal of this article is threefold:
- To describe our research methods in seeking out appropriate free material for instructors and how we guided faculty in developing their own knowledge in search strategies,
- To detail the process we established for faculty to apply for funding when appropriate materials could not be found, and
- To share the lessons we learned along with emerging success stories.
We hope that this guidance will encourage other institutions to implement similar initiatives. Based on anecdotal experiences as well as our own ongoing research, we believe similar efforts are essential in addressing systemic inequities and creating cross-campus collaboration, particularly in the face of unprecedented challenges that were not created by, but have been exacerbated because of the global pandemic.