ATLANTA—Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) has awarded more than $470,000 to Georgia State University faculty to support their adoption and creation of free and low-cost materials for the classroom since 2015.
These grants have helped improve the retention and learning outcomes of nearly 7,500 Georgia State students while offering cumulative savings of more than $10 million.
Criminal justice sophomore Liany Valdespino enjoyed using the free course materials provided in Professor Scott Jacques’ class, Social Science and the American Crime Problem, last fall.
“The class required six books that would have been more money, but the free materials helped me because I didn’t have to worry about more fees,” Valdespino said. “It also made it easier for everyone to participate in the class. There are always some people that don’t want to purchase the books. Open access made it easier for everyone to be on the right track.”
Jacques began teaching with no-cost materials six years ago. He also spearheaded the AYS Open effort as one of three cornerstones of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ Digital Landscape initiative.
“Research shows teaching with open-access materials makes students less likely to drop or withdraw,” Jacques said. “By staying in the course, they progress more quickly to a degree and a job.”
Efforts to incorporate open educational materials were piecemeal when Jacques began using them.
“Now we’re getting more and more momentum with open access,” he said. “Department-by-department, it is becoming a college-wide effort affecting more students, classes and courses.”
AYS Open is also getting more attention and support by friends of the college. During Georgia State Day 2020, AYS Open collected $4,475 in gifts. The Arthur Blank Foundation recently granted $10,000 to the Andrew Young School to eliminate the cost of textbooks in courses with high enrollments that align with the foundation’s mission and strategy. With this gift, professors Ellen Ballard, Terri Lewinson and Joseph Hacker have curated no-cost course materials for Law, Justice & Social Change, Case Management & Community Resources in Social Work and Policy Leadership.
Shelby Frost, a clinical associate professor of economics, was awarded $29,000 in the latest round of ALG grantmaking. She and her team will use the funds to transform all sections of Principles of Microeconomics to no-cost learning materials. The course is required for all undergraduate economics major and some social science and business majors, and is an elective in the core curriculum.
“The textbook students purchase for this course costs $75 for access to an ebook and adaptive learning platform,” Frost said. “This is a substantial sum for any student, but especially ours as nearly 60 percent qualify for Pell grants. By replacing the book with free materials, we will save Georgia State students close to $200,000 every academic year.”
Although transformations to no-cost materials are expanding across Georgia State’s downtown and Perimeter campuses, Jacques would like to see it benefit even more students faster. Challenges remain.
“Initially, instructors are skeptical about the quality of no-cost materials,” he said. “But once they see all the benefits, especially how happy the students are, then they’re hooked. It becomes part of the culture. Affordable education is social justice.”
Students who took clinical instructor Natasha Johnson’s fall 2020 courses bear this out. Eighty-eight percent of those who completed her end-of-course survey for Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice preferred the no-cost online course materials, as did 100 percent of those in Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice.
“I spent money on a book subscription service that brought more stress on me because it was another bill on my plate,” said Sharna’l Angram-Ivory, who attended Jacques’ no-cost course last fall. “I really appreciated the books being free. It was even more helpful with the tough times the pandemic brought.”
Criminal Justice and Criminology
Scott Jacques is a Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University, and the Director of Criminology Open. His areas of interest are prevention, choice and opportunity, qualitative and mixed-methods, and offender-based research. His books are Code of the Suburb: Inside the World of Young Middle-Class Drug Dealers, coauthored with Richard Wright (University of Chicago Press 2015); Grey Area: Regulating Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops (UCL Press 2019); and, Jeremy Bentham on Police: The Unknown Story and What It Means for Criminology, coedited with Philip Schofield (UCL Press 2021). He serves as Director of CrimRxiv and is editor of two journals, The International Criminal Justice Review and The Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology. You can learn more about him at his website, below.