No textbook? Not a problem.


By Sarah Jane Atkinson


The concept of Z-Majors is making its way towards the CSU Bakersfield campus.

CSU Channel Islands was the first California State University to introduce Z- Majors which do not require textbooks, but instead offer sources from online. This introduction has provided many benefits to the school and especially the students.

In an article published by educausereview, Jacob Jenkins and Jaime Hannans wrote, “once believed impossible to accomplish at a four-year university, Z-Majors offer students a pathway through their curriculum that does not require the purchase of a single textbook.”

Zero-cost course materials are materials in which students can find online, for free, compared to their counterpart, textbooks. This the defining characteristic of a Z- Major. Affordable Learning Solutions & Textbook Affordability Coordinator Sandra Bozarth, spoke on the subject stating that, “if students are being provided their textbooks for free, in whatever format it is, I think that is going to help them succeed better in class.”

She also mentioned the importance of equal access among the wide variety of students on campus.

The basis of a Z-Major is its ability to provide zero-cost course materials, which are materials that are ultimately free and accessible for students. This affordability and accessibility is to better prepare students for their classes.

If Z-Majors are adopted into CSUB, students will be able to major in specific areas that provide zero-cost course materials, allowing them the better access.

Bozarth mentioned courses that are attempting to become fully zero-cost course material based, these include Child, Adolescent and Family Studies (CAFS), Chemistry and Biochemistry.

CAFS Department Chair, Elaine Correa, explained that professors who introduce zero cost course materials to their students show their support because it reduces the costs of textbooks, which makes a difference for students.

Chemistry Department Chair, Danielle Solano, said that she opted to write lab manuals for her students to save the them money. She also referred to CHEM 100, a lecture course that does not require a textbook. She said that these no-textbook courses provide students open sources allowing them the best options for their preferences.

The effects of Z-Majors and zero-cost course materials range from a spectrum of positive to negative. The benefits of these include degree completion and retention of students within their majors.

In terms of degree completion, Bozarth said that most important was “sticking with that major, because your textbooks are not going to be a problem.”

This means that students are more likely to finish with the major they started in if their learning materials are more accessible.

Boazarth mentioned a few of the concepts within the zero-cost course materials aside from internet sources.

“There are non-traditional things like maybe watching videos, you might have items that are on reserve in the library,” said Boazarth.

She also mentioned the use of Foxit Reader, a multilingual PDF tool, as well as guidance from the media lab in the Walter Stiern Library.

Though Z-Majors seem like a good idea to most students and professors, it may be difficult for some. Students who don’t have internet access may not be able to access the free materials online. Students in this situation have access to the library in order to find these materials, but things such as printing and studying may be a little bit more difficult to do without one having their own sources.

Another issue regarding zero-cost materials is that professors may have to change their entire curriculum in order to provide no-cost materials. Many professors have been using the same textbooks for years, so it may be difficult to transition to online course materials.

Junior business major Simon Sanders said she welcomes open-source materials.

“I would benefit from it. I would save money and still learn,” said Sanders.

Sanders mentioned an issue of financial aid and how many students may not receive enough aid making it harder for them to purchase textbooks. Free online course material would make it much easier for students like her.

At CSUB, the option for selecting courses that that don’t require course materials to purchase is already available through students’ myCSUB accounts when enrolling in their courses. Though Z-Majors are not available on campus just yet, students are able to select courses that do not require textbook fees.

When enrolling for classes online, there is an option underneath “course attribute” titled “Zero-Cost Course Materials.” When students select this option for their classes, it will direct them to courses that offer free course materials, one step further in the direction towards Z-Majors.