University System of Georgia grants allow textbook-free classes

University System of Georgia grants allow textbook-free classes

Kennesaw State professors were awarded grants from the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents this month to be able to teach classes without making students pay for the textbooks.

Professors who won include Interim Assistant Dean of the College of Computing and Software Engineering Rebecca Rutherfoord, Senior Lecturer of computer science Sarah North, Senior Lecturer of sociology Daniel Farr, Assistant Professor of systems engineering Lin Li, Assistant Professor of information technology Dr. Meng Han, Assistant Professor of interactive design Uttam Kokil and Lecturer of geographic information systems Uli Ingram.

KSU was awarded the highest amount of grants out of other Georgia colleges and universities, according to KSU News. The grants total $139,400 and are from Affordable Learning Georgia, a USG initiative which has been giving grants to KSU professors for the past four years, Rutherfoord said.

“The grants are to create courses with no textbooks or very low-cost textbooks,” Rutherfoord said. “The maximum size of a grant can be five courses at $30,000. [The USG] is paying the faculty to develop these courses.”

Professors with these grants have them for a year and are in charge of creating content for their classes, which includes finding external links, videos and more.

Rutherfoord said that with these grants, the end goal is to create a “z-degree” within the information technology major, which means a student would be able to graduate and never have to pay for any textbooks.

Professors have a year to develop their course material minus textbooks. After the course material is developed by the professor, the professor teaches the course and a survey is sent to students asking how they felt about taking a class without a textbook.

“[Feedback] has been extremely positive. All the students feel like they’re getting the same experience they would have, having a textbook,” Rutherfoord said. “They like saving the money and so it’s been really rewarding for the students for us to do this. And actually I think it’s rewarding for us as faculty, because we’re deciding what’s important for the course.”

Rutherfoord said that the IT field is constantly changing, meaning that IT textbooks are almost outdated by the time students have to buy the book. Being able to create their own courses helps faculty keep up with the ever-changing field.

North said that her classes have had lower withdrawal rates since the introduction of the grants and she hopes the same will occur with this grant.

“Not having the textbooks in the course, students feel more relaxed and comfortable and it seems like they are able to meet the curriculum and succeed better,” North said.

North said ALG centers the success of students and she feels privileged to be able to provide these opportunities for students.

“I think the University System of Georgia [through the ALG initiative] realized that student success is not enough,” North said. “Students have to reach for excellence. So I’m very fortunate and privileged to be part of this project and hope we can continue to do the same for as long as [the program] lasts.”

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