Campus Exposed: Alternative Textbooks and Additional Parking

By Erik Squire

Education Major
demolition1-brighterGreetings fellow students! I certainly hope you’re enjoying the warm(er) weather. We now have less than a month to go before the semester ends; some of you have all your projects done in advance, some of you will finish everything in the last week, and some of you will hide under a rock. Whatever your personal style of getting things done may be, there are two things that all of us returning in the fall can look forward to: professors who are looking out for their students and increased parking availability.

Many professors around campus recognize the steep price that even used textbooks can come at, and they also realize what small budgets students often have.  Despite the seemingly high cost, course texts are required in order to complete many of SMCC’s class. To address this issue a number of professors at SMCC have been looking at alternative ways for their students to acquire their textbooks. One of the predominant solutions being considered is open source textbooks. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, the New York Times explains; “Open-source textbooks are created under an open license, so they can be downloaded free or printed at low cost; instructors can even rearrange the sequence of material, to suit their preference. There’s a movement to make faculty-written, peer-reviewed open-source textbooks available to professors and students, to help keep a lid on the cost of textbooks.”

In an E-mail of collaboration amongst his colleagues, Professor Harry Applin discussed his thoughts on open source texts and the impacts it might have on SMCC’s students; he writes:

demolition2-brighter“There was a meeting a couple weeks ago on the direction of SMCC. One of the things that was mentioned was the cost of education, which in part is the cost of textbooks. I found the textbook used in my courses was ~$200. But I could buy a small tablet computer Toshiba Encore 2 for less than that and I could find the replacement textbook as a PDF or Kindle version.

I don’t know about you, but I walk into class and half (at least) of the students have their face into their digital phone. Would this be an option in reducing education costs and maybe engaging the students? Other things to think about is that the tablet could be used in other classes and students maybe more likely keep their textbooks (future access) then using them for doorstops.

There was an interesting article in the NY Times that discussed the issue. Here is an excerpt…”

College students could save an average of $128 a course if traditional textbooks were replaced with free or low-cost “open-source” electronic versions, a new report finds.

The Student Public Interest Research Groups, state-based advocacy groups that promote affordable textbook options, analyzed open-source pilot programs at five colleges and found that the savings for students can be significant.

Textbook costs are particularly burdensome for students at two-year community colleges; the cost, more than $1,300, is about 40 percent of the average cost of tuition, according to the College Board.

Previous research by the Student PIRGs found that the high cost of textbooks can interfere with education. Some students, for instance, may delay buying the required text for a class, and fall behind; or they simply don’t buy it at all, putting themselves at a disadvantage.

“If tablets and PDF files are used, a number of costs drop for the student and the school. If a student comes into Math020 and gets a tablet and a PDF textbook (available) for the price of an equivalent textbook, the student will leave the class with the tablet and the PDF file. The tablet can be used in other classes and they still have the text for future review.

The positive attributes definitely outweigh the negative attributes and again, a pilot program should be setup. The world is going in this direction and education should lead.

As for having all students use tablets, is it necessary? If a student opted to purchase a book, fine. If a student opted for a laptop fine. What it does is that we move into the future both the school and the student.

It also moves the school (and students) into a more sustainable future, reducing paper usage as well as reducing printer ink, and wear and tear on school equipment.”

Finally, as you may have read in your E-mail, SMCC’s South Portland campus is adding 66 new parking spots by demolishing two of our buildings. The buildings being taken down were on Benjamin Pickett Street, and the additional spaces that will result from this work will be added to parking lot A. The parking construction should be finished towards the end of the summer semester and ready for the heavy parking demands of the fall semester.

As you can see, there is plenty to look forward to, so we hope to see a good portion of you returning in August!

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