May 25, 2019  

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Southern Miss Physics Professor Proposes Free Online Textbook

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Dr. Michael Vera

Concerns about textbook costs are on the rise among college students nationwide. Each semester begins with finding which textbooks are required, price-comparison, and the daunting decision of whether to rent or buy. 

Dr. Michael Vera, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Southern Mississippi, has created a proposal to ease the burden for students called “Electronic Resources for Introductory Physics.” The idea is to help encourage the use of free online texts.

“Dr. Vera has piloted the use of an open, free, online text for our algebra and trigonometry-based general physics course that is available through the OpenStax College at Rice University, however, no such resource is available for our calculus-based course sequence,” said Dr. Chris Winstead, professor and chair for the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Southern Miss.

Vera noted that the material covered in the introductory physics course hasn’t changed in decades. Textbook companies are not only producing new editions, but spiking the price at $200-plus dollars in many instances.

Are electronic textbooks at least as good as paper textbook? That certainly would depend on how the student learns, however, there are pros and cons to weigh. There is no doubt that college is expensive, and after tuition, fees, and other expenses there might not be enough left for traditional textbooks.

“Not every subject would be able to transition to this free online text due to updates to certain subjects, such as Intro to Biology,” said Vera. “Introductory physics is all about can you systematically solve a problem, carefully read it, figure out what you got, and what you want and execute it? That’s what it’s really all about.”

Added Winstead: “Dr. Vera could reduce student costs for many years to come and provide an easily modified platform for improvements that actually impact students learning.”