CEHD decreases textbook costs by giving out iPads

The college uses open textbooks because its students have tablets.
Freshman CEHD student Andrea Harpestad uses her University-provided iPad to read and highlight a text while typing a related assignment on a computer on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.
  • Lisa Persson
November 14, 2013

After three years of testing out iPads in University of Minnesota freshmen classes, the College of Education and Human Development has found surprising new ways to save students money.

Other colleges nationwide are reaching out to CEHD for guidance with open textbooks — free, open-source, peer-reviewed publications — which the college implemented while it searched for ways to use the iPads.

Since last year, 11 CEHD faculty members have used open textbooks for their courses. CEHD information technology director Dave Ernst estimated the switch saved students $145,000 over three semesters.

The University’s library houses 140 open textbooks, Ernst said, which more than 178 countries have used.

“It’s gone way beyond the University,” he said.

This week, Ernst received a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to help other schools implement open textbooks.

Although schools across the nation are interested in the program, Ernst said the University hasn’t been as receptive to open textbooks.

“There are a lot of questions,” he said. “When you’re choosing academic materials … it’s a sensitive thing with faculty, because they really care about their textbooks and the course materials for their students, and they want them to be the best.”

The Minnesota House of Representatives introduced a bill advocating open educational resources last legislative session, but it failed.

Students and faculty are also divided on whether the iPads, which are funded with private donations, should remain in CEHD.

The college spent $216,000 to give 440 iPads to incoming freshmen in 2011. Ernst said the college will continue distributing iPads to freshmen for at least the next year.

In an email, Office for eLearning director Bob Rubinyi said the Provost’s office isn’t pursuing initiatives to give iPads to the University as a whole.

A CEHD survey showed that students generally used their iPads for classwork, but some students say they’re unnecessary.

Family social science sophomore Zac Henderson said he wasn’t aware of the open textbooks and rarely uses his iPad.

“It can be helpful for people who like to look at lecture notes online,” he said. “For me, I think writing down in pencil and paper is most effective.”


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