Friends Corner: Marni Pilafian
“This ongoing Affordable Course Content effort is keeping more students in their libraries and classrooms rather than working a job to buy the book to stay in that classroom.“
I remember studying with a study group two nights a week my first year of college. The next year, three students in our study group had to drop out to take part time jobs to pay for their textbooks. This made me sad because they were working a job to buy their texts which were required to enroll in the course, rather than learning collaboratively from our study group. Also, the economy of education, or ‘edunomics’ caused textbook prices to rise each year, and also drove students away from collaborative learning since they had to work to afford the texts. Another dilemma was saving my budget by buying used texts, yet most years the publishers would produce a new edition which made parts of my used text obsolete. How could students survive these issues? The normal excitement of learning was being hijacked by the stress of affordability.
Fortunately, this was an edunomic issue that was challenged by concerned faculty and VCU Libraries to create a work-around by inviting faculty to create their own course learning materials, presented in various modalities such as film, podcasts, instructors’ publications, and projects to include experiential learning and students’ inventive interpretations of the subjects on topic.
Called “affordable course content initiative,” VCU Libraries collaborated with faculty to provide resources to help them sculpt their curriculum from the wide array of media, archives, primary source references, and historical donations of original papers from politicians, historians, artists, and entrepreneurs engineering unique pathways to change our world. There is an inherent excitement in learning from relevant primary resources such as actual letters and notebooks of projects that actually launched a social justice movement or that created a new style of painting. VCU Libraries connected with other universities to share resources and develop collaborative curriculum, and grants were created to which faculty members could apply to help find and develop course content. This ongoing effort is keeping more students in their libraries and classrooms rather than working a job to buy the book to stay in that classroom. We have learned that as for textbooks, ‘the Sage is not the page.’
— Marni Pilafian, Friends of VCU Libraries Board
Learn more about Open and Affordable Course Content at VCU Libraries.