This is an upper division GE course for non-Biology majors. The aim of the course is to consider the major areas where human consumption of resources and consequent waste production has had an impact on specific environments and the species that inhabit those environments. The most recent version of my assigned text: Environmental Science by Miller costs about of $171 per student.
I was able to use a combination of online learning materials and scanned book chapters, (staying within the fair use guidelines) made accessible via Cougar Courses. As I develop this course further, I intend to continue increasing the online materials (OEM, open texts, etc.) and reducing the scanned textbook chapters.
It is hard to directly compare/assess the efficacy of the materials between my previous 16 week, face-to-face course and the 5 week online summer CALMed sections, however the midterms averages for my spring 2009 and Summer 2015 course were very similar, indicating no large difference in material mastery. At the end of class I surveyed the students and included a specific question about the uploaded chapters (vs. buying a textbook), and 12 of the 13 people (of 40 in the class) that took the anonymous survey included feedback: I’d like to share some of the student quotes:
“I believe it was great that there was no textbooks to purchase. Textbooks are so expensive now a days and being a student we can barely afford them. The lessons were very clear and helpful. I feel like it felt like a complete textbook that we went through since all the chapters were available and complete. Great experience and learning tool.”
“The upload chapters were very helpful, I tend to have a harder time reading a textbook, but when it was right on my computer screen it was a lot easier to read. It saved my money this summer, and helped me afford my textbooks for this fall. I would not prefer to buy a single text.”
“The PDFs were helpful in a sense that I was able to access it from my phone or iPad at any time.... but I would prefer buying a single text rather than reading from numerous sources. Less overwhelming. “
The total savings for this course was $6,840 for just the summer and is easily scalable to 120 students (2 sections of 60 per year) or more.