In the hopes of lessening students’ financial strain, UCSB recently launched an online survey to gauge interest in discarding course readers in exchange for electronic documents.

UCSB’s online questionnaire – sent out to honors students via e-mail last quarter – was designed to determine the extent of student expenses incurred from readers and to encourage a shift to online materials. The survey, helmed by the College of Letters and Science, is part of the university’s effort to improve instructional technology and to better serve students academically and financially. Although the survey has not yet ended, initial tallies show that students spend an average of $60 per quarter on course readers, with some students paying as much as $300 per quarter.

Alan Moses, Technical Coordinator for the College of Letters and Science, said he anticipates that the online survey will provide substantial support for a move to using online course resources.

“There’s a long list of online technology that other campuses are using that are either not done here, or just up to faculty to figure it out,” Moses said. “What we’ve been trying to do this academic year is identify those things we can point to that would have the most impact on the student experience.”

Bryant Wieneke, Assistant Dean for Policy in the College of Letters and Science, said the online survey would help determine how to best allocate campus resources and shelter students from unnecessary spending.

“During these times, students are spending an incredible amount of money on schooling,” Wieneke said. “One way to help this is to try to figure out how much students are spending on readers, and then figure out a way to make it better and cheaper for students.”

Moses said digital alternatives to conventional readers could circumvent such spending.

“I’m always surprised at the cost of readers,” Moses said. “The survey is a driver for the financial importance of choosing this instead of other things. I’ve seen a range of responses, but I expect that for some students, not having to pay for readers will have a significant impact on their finances.”

Julie Whirlow, a second-year psychology major, said she would welcome an online option for course materials.

“Fall Quarter I had to get a lot of expensive readers for my classes and I got frustrated when the professors don’t actually use them,” Whirlow said. “I spent about $250 on readers last quarter. I would prefer an online solution because it would save me a lot of money and it’s good for the environment. I pay enough for tuition – I shouldn’t have to be spending all of my money on readers.”

Meanwhile, Wieneke said professors in the College of Letters and Science are also being encouraged to use programs like ERES to post materials online.

“The state of instructional technology on campus is not very good. The college feels that we’re way behind the times,” Wieneke said. “Using online course materials can improve presentation in lectures and course technology can provide a bunch of web-based tools, like quizzes online. These are all things that other campuses are doing, and UCSB should be heading in that direction.”