Digitalizing Lecture Notes – A Piece in the College Affordability Puzzle

By Rob McCaffrey

As you may know, the college has put forth a lot of effort recently to make textbooks more affordable. Part of this is motivated by the simple desire to make college more affordable, but we are also being driven to some extent by state lawadministrative code, and recent work commissioned by the State Board of Education in this area.

I was in a meeting on Monday to review our current practice, and the group realized there might be an area of low-hanging fruit that could be immediately addressed in a way that saves students money and saves the college’s resources.

The idea centered on the concept of printing out lecture notes for students. It was apparent from the report I looked at that we have a significant number of sections where we do this, with costs rising to as high as $60  per student in a single class section. I’m not referring here to supplemental materials that are being sold to students at a profit – that is another issue entirely. I’m referring to the practice of providing notes to students at a cost.

The suggestion I have for those of you who plan to give students copies of your notes is that you no longer submit them for printing. Our college-provided versions of MS Office can convert electronic notes to Portable Document Format (PDF). In cases where documents only exist in paper form, campuses have word-processing support that can type or scan the notes into electronic form. The resulting electronic documents can be sent to students via email or posted in Blackboard at no additional cost to the college or the students. This has the added benefit of using less paper over the course of the year.

Naturally, if your printed material is serving a function other than what can be achieved electronically, then this idea doesn’t apply. But if it’s a simple matter of providing notes for reading, then digitizing can expedite the process of distributing them to students and lower the cost for everyone.

This piece is easy to do, but in no way is it a stopping point in the fight to lower material costs. The college is moving forward on some of the recommendations of our local Learning Resources Task Force, and I will be trying to work with the campus presidents and Faculty Council to update our textbook policy to accommodate some of the changes required by the affordability laws.

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