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Zero cost textbooks: Southern Cross psych students to save thousands in equitable new approach

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Published
18 September 2023

Southern Cross University psychology students are being spared the cost of expensive traditional textbooks, potentially saving thousands of dollars thanks to a social justice initiative led by senior lecturer Dr Desirée Kozlowski.

The use of Open Educational Resources (OER) means Bachelor of Psychological Science students can save between $2,000-$4,000 over the course of their three-year degree. For the 173 commencing students in 2023, it opens the way for hundreds of thousands of dollars remaining available to them and their families. 

OERs include e-Textbooks and other freely available online learning resources. Following the psychology example, the Southern Cross University Library has since created a special collection to map OER texts for all faculty areas.

“Since the start of 2023, all 16 core units within the Bachelor of Psychological Science have adopted the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) program and are also exam-free,” said Dr Kozlowski, who is based at the University’s Coffs Harbour campus.

“This is an equity issue and a social justice issue. Apart from the often prohibitive costs of traditional, prescribed textbooks, many do not represent the changes in social and gender equity now integral in today’s society, and they are not relatable to the careers our students can and will pursue.”

“This is an equity issue and a social justice issue. ”

A woman smiling into the camera

While Dr Kozlowski stopped assigning prescribed textbooks six years ago, the impetus for broader transformation began in 2020 when a former student admitted – for the first time – they had been unable to afford a single textbook during their entire degree.

“I had invited the student to speak to first-year students and they explained how much extra pressure this had placed upon them,” said Dr Kozlowski. “Their story spurred me on and when I became Course Coordinator, I decided to try to make a material difference to all students of psychology at Southern Cross University.

“In 2020, I presented the psychology team with the challenge of transitioning to a ZTC course with a goal of 2023 to achieve that, and we committed to it with a lot of encouragement and support from the Southern Cross University Library team.”

Librarian (Library Education & Research) Ms Carlie Daley said OERs had been on the Library’s radar for some time as it wrangled financial barriers created by academic publishers and sought to enable student access to free learning resources.

“Desirée immediately popped into my mind as a possible OER champion because of her innovations and passion for student learning,” said Ms Daley.

The OER initiative affirms the University’s commitment to teaching practice that places students at the centre. Hopes are it will also encourage greater representation of female students, students from diverse groups and the disadvantaged.

Current Course Coordinator, Dr Dylan Poulus, described the initiative as a home run for students.

“It is an important and timely breakthrough, especially for those from low socio-economic situations,” he said.

“For many students, who are often the first members of their families to come to university, just getting here can be a big enough struggle without then facing the high cost of prescribed textbooks.

“This initiative helps to relieve stress, enhance studies and student retention, and will eventually boost the health sector.”

  • On September 19, Dr Desirée Kozlowski, Ms Carlie Daley and Library Director Ms Clare Thorpe will discuss the Southern Cross University OER initiative in a webinar hosted by the Open Educational Practice Special Interest Group.

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