7 Ideas for Making your Course More Affordable

Keeping Affordability in Mind

As educators, we are constantly thinking about how to refine and rethink our course to make it better. However, affordability of course materials usually takes a back seat to some of the other major components of our courses. As you think about making improvements and changes to your course, ask yourself: Where does my course stand on the Affordability Scale?

Affordability Scale – Total Cost Student Pays:

  • $0.00 to $60
  • $61 to $120
  • $121 to $180
  • $180 or more

If the price of course materials and the amount of money students are paying is something that concerns you, here are 7 ideas for making your course materials more affordable:

#1: Contact the publisher and ask them to lower the price  

If you currently use a book you love, try reaching out to the publisher and ask them to lower the price. It never hurts to ask. Some of the faculty at FIU have had success with this strategy.

Some publishers have the ability to create a custom etext for specific courses. You can also lower the price of the book by eliminating certain chapters you don’t cover in great detail. It will also be less expensive if offered exclusively as an electronic text instead of printed.

#2: Swap the book for scholarly journals and videos

Many instructors opt to point students to articles found in scholarly journals. These can be accessed for free through the large list of databases provided by the FIU Libraries.

Videos are also a great way to cover content normally covered via text in a traditional textbook. For online courses, NBC Learn has a large catalog of videos in all sorts of disciplines and fields. Some other ideas for videos: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video. The subscriptions to these services are affordable and contain documentaries and films. Bonus: students might already be paying for some of these services.

#3: Find a low-cost vendor

Not all publishers are created equal. More and more, low-cost vendors are starting to appear. Some of these low-cost vendors use Open Educational Resources as a base and then add to those resources with slides, assessment questions, videos and other resources at a fraction of the cost of a traditional, large textbook publisher.

Flat World Knowledge and Boundless are two examples of low-cost vendors. Also, check out the list provided on lowcost.fiu.edu.

#4: Use an OER book

The volume and quality of Open Educational Resources has been steadily increasing as affordability comes to the foreground. Open Educational Resources are commonly free, easily available and can be edited and remixed.

Searching the OER Commons is a great place to start.

#5: Use the library

The distance learning librarians at FIU are ready to help. You can schedule a meeting with one of the distance learning librarians who can help you search for free Library content.

Check out the Distance Learning Librarian page on FIU Online’s website.

#6: Search lowcost.fiu.edu for ideas

On the Affordability Counts website (lowcost.fiu.edu) there are over 100 courses that have received the Affordability Counts Medallion. The course materials used by each course is listed there for this very reason: to give others ideas on what low-cost materials to use.

Try searching for your Course ID or general keywords to see what comes up. You just might discover a new low-cost option!

#7: Publish your own free book!

Self-publishing is most definitely an option! It’s also not as difficult as it sounds. Some of the faculty here at FIU have self-published and are offering the materials for free to their students.

There are multiple platforms that offer an easy to way for faculty to create their own textbook.

Take Action – go for $60 or less

So there you have it; seven different ideas for making your course more affordable for students. They range from making a quick phone call to creating your own content.

However, remember this: you have resources and staff that are at your disposal. If you teach online, have a conversation with your instructional designer, reach out to the distance learning librarian or attend a workshop provided by the Center of Advancement of Teaching.

Once you’ve hit the Affordability Counts goal of $60 or less, make sure you submit your course to receive the Medallion.

05/01/20 Note

NBC Learn will be discontinued by the end of Summer A 2020. Any of the following resources may serve as valuable alternatives: YouTube videos, PBS videos or LinkedIn Learning videos. You may also elect to coordinate with Sarah Hammil, FIU’s distance learning librarian, for other solutions.

Honors College Faculty and former FIU Online Educational Technology Manager.

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