In the palm of her hand

Student finds power to access textbooks from her phone

Mary Hirtreiter went to her favorite coffee shop to study, pulled out her notebook and her phone. This was all she needed to access her entire college algebra textbook, homework and videos of her instructor’s step-by-step notes taken in class, all in the palm of her hand from her phone.

Math professors at Kansas State University have created online resources for students to use in their classes through the Open/Alternative Textbook Initiative, also known as Textbooks 2.0. The grant program provides funding for K-State faculty and instructors to develop affordable alternatives to traditional print textbooks.

“The reason these open/alternative textbooks work so well, especially in math, is that you can’t learn math by reading a textbook,” Hirtreiter said. “For some reason I still remember the Pythagorean theorem. Why? Because my instructor taught it in a way through our digital textbook that I was able to dive deep by watching videos of my instructor doing the problems step by step.”

Hirtreiter used Textbooks 2.0 in her college algebra class and in chemistry, where instead of paying $240 for each textbook, she paid $10.

“I think the biggest benefit of this program is that it’s making college affordable for everyone involved. It’s making it fair,” Hirtreiter said. “As a first-generation college student who also works two jobs just to be able to go to school, I love that I don’t have to keep shoveling out more money I don’t have, in order to get the same knowledge that everyone else does.”

Her professors at K-State created these books customized with information they specifically want their class to learn in a way they know students will be receptive to.

“Most of the time you can’t quote what a teacher is talking about in a textbook because they didn’t write it, but with Textbooks 2.0, it’s the complete opposite. You can find exactly what your instructor is talking about at any time because it’s tailored to exactly how they teach,” Hirtreiter said. “And you can find that literally in the palm of your hand, and that’s crazy.”

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