The Course Materials Initiative offers digital textbooks, often at a lower cost than the same books new in print. Photo by Mickey Kovich
Starting Spring 2016, the Course Materials Initiative was created in the hopes that it could reduce the price of textbooks while making them more accessible to students. It meant more integration of online resources in UMBC’s classrooms, and the Student Government Association supported the program. Now, nearly three years later, how is the UMBC community adapting to the use of these materials?
Since CMI’s debut, the UMBC Bookstore has periodically polled students regarding their thoughts on the program. Most students each year want more classes to use it. Many students praise the program for reducing the cost of supplies. “I wish all classes used it because I feel like your college tuition should come with books otherwise you can’t learn anything,” said Dya Stewart, a senior studying media and communications studies.
Materials included within CMI, such as Cengage, ALEKS and books within VitalSource, are included in students’ tuition. Once students complete the courses participating in CMI, their Ebooks on VitalSource will be accessible for three more years, and their ALEKS and WebAssign accounts for an additional two years. When asked how they felt about this issue, students generally agreed that having cheaper books was worth giving up a physical copy.
The UMBC Bookstore, as well as the AOK Library, still have physical copies of textbooks for students. Additionally, students are given the option to print their CMI books using print-on-demand should they want or need a physical book. However, students must also purchase this secondary printed copy of the text in addition to the cost paid in their tuition.
CMI has also assisted instructors since its debut. Professor Jordan White and Dr. Kalmen Nanes explained that they enjoyed knowing that their students should have the same materials before the first day of class. Furthermore, they thought it was beneficial for students to have access to their books in advance because it ensured that they would have a study aid throughout the year. White commented, “I feel like it could also be used to keep track of course material … It can be with you wherever you go. You can use it on your phone. You can use it on your computer. You don’t necessarily have to live around the book.”
By allowing professors to incorporate online resources into their course curriculum through Blackboard, UMBC gave them a more streamlined means than they previously had to connect with today’s technology-dependent students. “It was cheap and gave student access from day one,” commented Dr. Eileen O’Brien, a senior lecturer in UMBC’s psychology department. “What I have learned is these students are very good at using a digital textbook alongside online labs and learning the content.“
Overall, students and staff both value having CMI as an option. UMBC wanted to be ahead of its fellow colleges by using digital content and making their textbooks more affordable for students — CMI has certainly achieved this. The integration of online technology into schools may be taking a new form, but from what the campus is saying, CMI is one program that should stay and grow.