You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

Patty Goedl, a light-skinned woman with long brown hair, teaches accounting at the University of Cincinnati at Clermont.

Accounting professor Patty Goedl created her own open-source textbook to make her course more affordable and increase the availability of free educational materials.

University of Cincinnati at Clermont

Many college students are worried about the financial impact of higher education, and course materials are one key example.

A 2023 survey of Pennsylvania college students found 71 percent of students are worried about meeting their course material costs for the term, and 16 percent have failed a class because they could not afford the course materials.

Despite nearly two-thirds of faculty members viewing textbook affordability as a top priority, a spring 2023 Student Voice survey from Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse found 26 percent of students believe their professors do not take affordability into account when choosing course materials.

College leaders are petitioning faculty members to reduce the overall cost of course materials through promoting open educational resources (OER) or highlighting the student experience in paying for textbooks.

Patty Goedl smiles in a window-lit room, wearing a black button-up shirt

Patty Goedl, accounting professor at the University of Cincinnati at Clermont

University of Cincinnati, Clermont College

Patty Goedl is an accounting professor at the University of Cincinnati at Clermont who wrote and published her own textbook as an OER, making the resource free and available to anyone who wants to use it inside or outside her institution. The textbook features video lectures, practice problems and the features of a traditional text, but it saves students thousands of dollars each month.

In the latest episode of the Voices of Student Success podcast series, Goedl spoke with Inside Higher Ed about how she made her book and what faculty should know before undertaking a similar project of their own.

An edited version of the conversation follows.

Inside Higher Ed: When did you first learn about open educational resources and what was that first kick-start to get involved?

Goedl: About mid-2015, a couple of things happened at once. First, our college started offering a stipend to investigate OER resources, and I participated in the pilot. And it was interesting because, back then, there were only two: there was a resource for financial accounting, which I teach, and a resource for managerial accounting, which I teach, which are both introductory accounting courses required for most business majors.

So back then there were very few [resources], and the resources, quite honestly, weren’t that good. Then fast-forward a year or two: both of my daughters enter college. And I am, of course, buying textbooks. And I realized that I have two girls in college taking four to five courses each per semester. And each one of those resources required a $200 textbook. It was overwhelming. I just couldn’t believe it.

So I was saying something to my daughters, and they’re like, “Oh, Mom, you don’t even have to buy half of those. We don’t even open them.” And I’m like, what?

It really got me thinking about the price of textbooks, the value of textbooks, how much students use textbooks. I started polling students and asking them, “Do you use your books? Do you buy the books?” and I found that a lot of them don’t. So I started thinking about reducing those costs for my students, what that would look like, and I decided that I was already creating so much content for my courses—and really, I wasn’t using the book that much—that I might as well just write a book, and I did.

Inside Higher Ed: What goes into selecting course materials on your end? What are the things that you value?

Goedl: I think that every professor would have a slightly different answer. For me, there were a couple of factors in selecting course material.

First, it was, what are my colleagues using? We have multiple sections of these classes; there are introductory financial accounting classes for all business majors. So at UC, we tend to talk about what books we’re using so that all sections use a comparable book.

However, professors do have the academic freedom to choose whatever title they want. And in accounting, the second thing that I was really looking at were the supplements: the online homework managers where students can log in, have an account and then do homework online. So those were the two factors. Definitely, for me, the homework manager was the most important factor … in my opinion, the best homework manager.

Inside Higher Ed: So, you are inspired to write your own book. What is the first step in the process? Where do you go to learn more about open educational resources?

Goedl: Oh, wow, it’s an overwhelming process. And I think if I would have known all the steps at the beginning, I may have hesitated before I started the journey.

I just jumped in. I think that that’s how most good things end up: you say, “I’m going to do this,” and you jump in and you get started.

First, let me go back to the format of the book, which is really interesting. So I call it a video e-text. And it is a traditional textbook in that, if you read a traditional college-level textbook, it has all of the elements, the traditional texts with the examples and the problems, where you work out a problem and it has the side stories, and the entire chapter review and those sorts of things that you would expect in a textbook.

Every section also has a video lecture in which I explain the traditional text and demonstrate the traditional in-text problem that, in prior era and a regular textbook, you would have to read. And then I have a “check your understanding,” or embedded activities in the book … after they either read the text or watch the videos, they can go online, check your understanding or homework review problems that are automatically graded. So they get that feedback—“do you understand the concept?”

Essentially, a student that learns best by reading could read the textbook and not watch a single video and learn all the concepts. A student that learns better by watching videos could watch all the videos and not read a word of the book and learn all the concepts. And then the student who wants a deep understanding could read the text and watch the video. It really is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of format, which I like; it’s very accessible to students that learn differently. The first iteration of the textbook was really a collection of the materials that I was already using; I pulled them all together and then I added some verbiage. And then I decided to add videos and, slowly, the textbook in its current form emerged.

Inside Higher Ed: What was your experience level with making video content prior to this? What was the inspiration behind that?

Goedl: I’m an advocate of online education, an unapologetic advocate of online education, although I teach online and traditional face-to-face, and I think both are great.

I think they’re just two different ways to disseminate information and learning. They’re just two formats of classroom learning. And for most disciplines, I feel that a well-designed online class can be equivalent or even better than a well-designed face-to-face class.

So in the online realm, I had already been using videos because I still feel like accounting is a subject in which you need to learn it from an expert. It’s lecture based; you’re not going to learn it by reading a textbook. You need to have an instructor explain the content.

Even in my face-to-face classes, I was a pioneer in lecture capture; I was capturing the lectures and recording them and making them available online for students that either missed class or [if] they didn’t understand it the first time, they could review it. I’ve been using video work for over a decade now.

I think it’s so very important. I did a survey … it’s been a continuing survey. It’s close to 400 students, and I said, “What [is] the value of textbooks? Do you buy your books?” And I also asked them, “How do you prefer to learn? Do you prefer to learn by reading the book? Do you prefer to learn by watching a video? Do you prefer to learn through lecture?”

Hands down, 90 percent of the students prefer to learn by watching a video. It’s the YouTube generation, the young students—and even the older ones, quite honestly—selected video. With my textbook, I created what I’m calling a video e-text—it has video lectures embedded throughout the textbook, a very interesting format.

Inside Higher Ed: What were the biggest challenges in developing the book? And what have you learned since writing your own textbook?

Goedl: The challenges, I think, are really time. Because as a professor, I’m teaching a lot of classes, I’m serving on committees, I’m actively researching. So it was finding that time for the book. I’ve probably spent over 1,000 hours on [it]. I gave up a lot of my personal time to write the book.

And the second challenge was really resources. I wanted to do a video e-text. And in order to do something like that, you need an online publisher or a format in which you can publish the book and make it available to students, you need an online storage to host the videos. And thankfully, my university is supporting open-access textbooks and providing those resources. But at the beginning, I didn’t have access to those because I was paying out of pocket.

I think those are the two things to consider if you’re considering an OER, is the time commitment to do it and then the resources to support the book. Where are you going to publish it? Is it going to be freely available to students? Can you store videos if you use them?

Inside Higher Ed: You mentioned student surveys. What have you learned [about] the impact of your book on students’ affordability of your course, but also just in how they learn and how they engage with course materials?

Goedl: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Some of the things I asked students on the survey—which, I survey all the students every semester to continually get feedback, because, you know, they’re the users of the book, and I get a lot of valuable feedback from them. Overwhelmingly, one of the questions I say is “Is this equivalent to a standard textbook that you would purchase, like the one you purchase for the class previous?” “Absolutely.” Over 95 percent [say], “this is an equivalent resource.”

“Did you prefer to watch the videos or read the book?” Of course it was watch the videos. And then, “If given a choice of using this textbook, or purchasing a textbook, which would you prefer?” and it’s always using the textbook.

In addition to that, I get a lot of open-ended comments. I have open-ended comments on the survey, as well as on my course evaluation, where students are so grateful for the resource. “Thank you so much for providing this,” “One textbook is a week’s worth of groceries.” And I think we forget about that; we forget how expensive these books are and that students also have other things, other financial obligations.

Inside Higher Ed: That’s something that really struck me about your text—not only is it free and accessible for students who want to learn at their own pace, on their own time in your course, but it’s open to anybody. They don’t have to be at your institution; they could just be really interested in accounting and pick up your book, or your e-text, I guess, and engage with the video lectures. It seems like, not only is it affordability at the heart, it’s access and inclusivity. Would you say that that is a trend as well?

Goedl: Absolutely. I think you’re going to see more of that, individuals learning on their own just so that they can upskill and they can advance in their career and maybe better understand a subject that they’re interested in. Absolutely.

My textbook is freely available to anyone that wants to learn basic managerial accounting, which I love. It’s a very practical course for anyone that is thinking about starting a small business or that works in management because … it teaches you how to make managerial decisions about money: “When should I buy this? Should I advertise? What costs should I charge? What kind of cost structure do I mean?” So it is freely available; the only difference would be you’re not enrolled into a college-level credit course and you’re not taking an exam to earn that credit. But you can learn everything that I teach in the course just by going to the free textbook.

Inside Higher Ed: Do you see a future of continuing to evolve your book or writing new books? Where do you see yourself in that picture?

Goedl: I’m going to add more to my book. A couple chapters I want to add, I want to string through some technologies; Microsoft Excel is used a lot in accounting in the professional world. So I want to string through an Excel example for every chapter so that they can also learn accounting and Excel at the same time.

I definitely want to work on my OER. I’m not sure if I am interested in writing another one right now, but maybe [in] a few years when the memory of the hours and hours are a little further away, I would consider writing another one for financial accounting.

Inside Higher Ed: If you had to give advice to a faculty member who’s interested in writing their own book, what would you share? Or what would be your encouragement for somebody looking to develop their own text?

Goedl: If they’re interested and they are thinking about it, my advice would be: just do it. This has been one of the most worthwhile projects that I have done; it’s been so well received. It’s helped me professionally, of course—it’s a professional development opportunity. And affordability is a hot topic at universities. So it will help you in your reappointment, promotion and tenure process.

It’s so beneficial for students. I’ve received so much positive and kind feedback from students. And I feel like I’ve made such a difference. I have saved so many students a little bit of money every semester. To talk about the savings and the impact of one faculty member—I am one person that wrote one book, and I published it going on two years now. And in two years—just at my institution, and the managerial accounting courses offered at my institution, because every section and every instructor is using the book for this class—I’ve saved students over $200,000 in just a couple years. Every semester, I’m saving students another $30,000. I mean, just one person at one institution, one textbook.

It’s so worthwhile. If you’re interested and your heart is leading you that way, I would say, do it. You won’t regret it.

Listen to previous episodes of Voices of Student Success here.

Next Story

Found In

More from Academic Life