Longhorn Textbook Access

Longhorn Textbook Access (LTA) is a new initiative in partnership with the University Co-op that is designed to reduce the cost of digital textbooks and other course materials for students. Faculty will be able to choose learning materials as they have done in the past, without constraint, to best support their course learning objectives.

With a goal of reducing the cost of all course materials for students, LTA ensures the best possible price for commercially-published course materials selected by faculty members while also encouraging faculty use of Open Educational Resource (OER) course materials that are free or low cost for students. The program also promotes student success by making all materials available on the first day of class, and for the first 12 class days, without upfront payment or commitment.

A discussion about Longhorn Textbook Access (LTA)

Jen Moon, Associate Professor of Instruction, College of Natural Sciences
David Platt, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Longhorn Textbook Access Recommended Syllabus Disclosure

“The materials for this class are available through the Longhorn Textbook Access (LTA) program, a new initiative between UT Austin, The University Co-op and textbook publishers to significantly reduce the cost of digital course materials for students. You can access your required materials through the “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas. You are automatically opted into the program but can easily opt-out (and back in) via Canvas through the 12th class day.  If you remain opted-in at the end of the 12th class day you will receive a bill through your “What I Owe” page and have until the end of the 18th class day to pay and retain access. If you do not pay by the 18th class day, you will lose access to the materials after the 20th class day and your charge will be removed. More information about the LTA program is available at universitycoop.com/longhorn-textbook-access.”

If you are considering LTA course materials for your class but already use a commercial textbook and/or courseware, please do the following:

Step 1:
Contact either your publisher’s representative or the University Co-op. They will determine:

  1. Whether a digital version is available.
  2. The correct ISBN for the LTA version and pricing

Step 2: 
Using the correct LTA ISBN number, contact the University Co-op to adopt your course materials.

If adopting LTA course materials used in a prior semester, you will see the correct ISBN in the Co-op’s adoption tool and can also adopt it that way.

Or (if applicable) contact your departmental assistant or other support staff.

Step 3:
With Open Educational Resource (OER) materials, you can link them from your course’s Canvas page.

You can also adopt them with the Co-op, as described above. It will allow your OER materials to appear on the “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas with the rest of their textbooks at no additional cost.

If you are interested in Open Educational Resource (OER) — free, open, or lower cost alternatives to commercial textbooks, please do the following:

Step 1:
Contact the UT Libraries for assistance and information on sources of OER materials and a network of OER users at UT Austin with experience in helping instructors to find such materials.

Complete this form and someone will contact you, or contact the Open Education Librarian.

Step 2:
With Open Educational Resource (OER) materials, you can link them from your course’s Canvas page.

You can also adopt them with the Co-op, as described above. It will allow your OER materials to appear on the “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas with the rest of their textbooks at no additional cost.

  • Faculty members choose, without restriction, their textbook and any related course materials for their classes.
  • If an instructor is comfortable using a digital course materials, including the textbook if applicable, then the ISBN for the digital LTA version of chosen materials can be obtained from the Co-op or from a publisher’s representative. This ISBN is then entered into the same textbook adoption system that has been run by the University Co-op for many years.
  • The LTA price is guaranteed to be the lowest commercially available price for the material, but if a non-digital printed version is preferred by the instructor, they will choose the non-LTA version, same as before.
  • If the instructor selects the LTA version, the course and its students are automatically included in the LTA program. Students are opted in to the LTA course materials by default, but can easily opt out to pursue other options as described below.
  • For non-commercial materials (OER), the instructor can still choose to adopt them through the Co-op’s adoption system, if they choose. That will allow the materials to be read in a new section of the course’s Canvas site called “MyTextbooks.”
  • LTA materials are available to students as soon as the class page of Canvas is made active, which should be no later than the first class day.
    • Students can use OER materials from then on, in accordance with the OER license applied.
    • Students can use commercial LTA materials at no cost and without obligation during the opt-out period, which at UT Austin goes until the end of the 12th class day.
  • Students can opt out of any LTA materials through the My Textbooks tab in Canvas and, even more easily, using a link that is sent to all students enrolled in an LTA class by the University Co-op. They may opt out of some and stay opted in to others, as they choose.
  • During the opt-out period, students can see the pricing and can easily opt out of the LTA materials in order to acquire the required course materials in a different way, if they choose. They can also opt back in again. They retain LTA access throughout the opt-out period as they are exploring their purchasing options and perhaps waiting for materials to arrive from another source, even if they have already opted out. No one using LTA materials will be without their course materials during the first 12 class days.
  • After the opt-out period ends, students are billed for any LTA course materials they have not opted out of. At UT Austin this is done in the What I Owe (WIO) non-tuition billing system. They have until the end of the 20th class day to make payment. If they do not, the bill in WIO is cancelled and their access to the material is removed (see FAQs for more detail).

In addition to reducing the cost of commercially-published course materials for students, LTA promotes the use of free and affordable OER course materials and, through UT Libraries (UTL), provides support for faculty members wishing to understand, identify, and use these low/no cost materials. Note that OER includes alternative textbooks and other materials that are made available by OER providers, but UTL can also help you identify commercial materials licensed by the Libraries that can easily be made available through Canvas for students. They also help faculty learn how to make their self-developed materials available to a wider audience via OER.

For additional information and support for adoption of OER course materials, please visit the UT Libraries OER Guide. If you would like help identifying OER materials for a particular course, please use this Free & Affordable Course Materials Review Request form.

  • July 1 — LTA course materials adoption deadline for faculty
    This deadline allows us to meet state-mandated reporting and approval requirements. Note that regulatory deadlines apply to both commercial and OER textbooks.
    If you plan to use non-LTA printed materials, the Co-op asks that you make Fall adoption requests by May 15, in order to allow buy-backs from students.
  • August 25 — First class day
  • September 10 (5:00pm CT) — Last day of LTA opt-out period for students (12th class day)
  • September 10 (after 5:00pm CT) — Student LTA bills posted to What I Owe
  • September 20 (5:00pm CT) — Student LTA bills due for payment (18th class day)
  • September 21/22 — Two-day student financial bar
    This temporary bar gives students a two-day final warning in which to make payment. It also allows certain scholarships to be applied and can, in some cases, make emergency loans possible.
  • September 23 — Financial bars are removed. Unpaid LTA bills are cancelled and corresponding student access to LTA course materials is terminated.

For the 11 courses in the LTA commercial pilot in Spring 2021, the average textbook price reduction negotiated with publishers on the basis of implementing LTA was 32%, and sales-tax-inclusive prices ranged from $28 to $84. The total student savings in the pilot were over $115,000.

For the six courses in the pilot in Spring 2021 that operated as a full-featured program, including default student opt-in with easy opt-out and billing within the UT Austin What I Owe system, 73% of students chose to stay opted in (i.e., 27% chose to opt out).  A total of almost 3000 students were enrolled in these courses as of the 12th class day, and average savings per participating student was about $32. Participation varied by course from 57% to 84%.

Key Observations Regarding Spring 2021 Pilot Outcomes:

Average participation rate was 73%. This is lower than usually cited by other universities for similar programs (>90%) for two reasons:

  • It was a new program, and because it was a limited pilot we did not communicate about it to students from the University to avoid confusion. This lack of awareness will improve with greater and broader promotion.
  • We included stand-alone e-books that had no associated courseware (three of seven books in the six courses), which have a lower adoption rate because of more used (print) and rental alternatives.

Participation rate range: 57% to 84% 

  • Lowest rates are for stand-alone e-books (avg  64%), which is exactly what we would expect and hope. Students can trade off price vs. the effort to find a lower-priced alternative according to their own utility curves (priorities). The university provides full access to the book for the first 12 days (opt-out period) to support them in making that effort.
  • Participation rate for bundled products including both a book and courseware: 78%. Negotiating a lower price is particularly valuable for non-stand-alone-ebook products (courseware and e-books bundled with courseware) because there are often not good alternatives, as discussed below. This rate should easily exceed 90% once the program is familiar to students.

Availability of printed versions

  • In courses using McGraw-Hill course materials (genetics and accounting), students were able to purchase a printed, loose-leaf version of the text through the University Co-op as a $25 add-on to the LTA price (likely close to at-cost, as these are long, extensively illustrated texts). Given that option, 10% of students (122 students out of 1,215) chose to do so.
  • Pearson declined to make a print add-on available.
  • Cengage made a print add-on available only in one of their courses, and at a cost $44, resulting in only eight students (1.5%) purchasing that print add-on.
  • Availability of a print option is important and we are negotiating this for the Fall 2021 rollout.

Term of access to course materials

  • All LTA materials in the pilot were 180-day access. It is important for students to have an option to access materials in subsequent courses.
  • Cost for 5-year access would have been approximately $15 higher for every student. Knowing that many students choose to sell their used books, we prefer not to impose this fee on every student.
  • If we can resolve the printed-version issue (above), this provides a solution. If not, we will need to revisit this decision.
  • Instructors may choose to specify a longer access period during the adoption process.

Student savings in LTA pilot for students not opting out (full-featured pilot courses only): $32 per student per course, $72,285 total student savings

  • LTA price range, per course (including 8.25% state sales tax): $28 to $84.
    • Several of these books were previously >$100 before
  • Average savings vs. next-best available new book price: 32%

Extrapolation of student savings from pilot to steady-state savings suggests about $2.5 million savings per year

  • Avg savings of $32 per participating student per course (above).
  • 40,048 undergraduates (UT Austin Statistical Handbook, Fall 2020) x 5 course per semester (needed to reach 120 cr hrs @ 3 hrs per course) = 200,240 student-courses per semester
  • Total potential = 200,240 x $32 = $6.4 million (approx.) per semester
  • But only some courses will adopt LTA and some undergraduate students will opt out
    • Assume that in steady state 25% of course-seats adopt LTA and 80% of students participate.
    • $6.4 million x 25% x 80% = $1.28 million per semester or $2.56 million per year (two long semesters)
  • This is likely a minimum estimate for UT Austin. Add to that:
    • Expanded use of OER, with its free/affordable materials (pilot was commercial only)
    • Added savings in summer semesters, which we are trying to grow
    • Possible use in some graduate courses. E.g., the MBA program uses quite a few textbooks
    • Possible faculty adoption above 25% of course-seats. (Many courses that use textbooks tend to be the lower-level courses that serve the most students, i.e., have the most seats.)
    • Possible student participation rates >80% when the program is more familiar.
    • Use of courseware by faculty is becoming more prevalent and that increases the benefit of LTA because the used/rental markets are limited.

Are all commercial textbooks available in the LTA program?

As long as a textbook is available in a digital format, and the publisher is participating (most educational publishers are), then it can be adopted in an LTA version.

Am I required or expected to participate?

No. We are making this option available to save money for students, but instructors are not obligated to participate. If you do not believe it is right for your students, you will just continue with your regular adoption process.

Can I adopt LTA course materials for Summer 2021?

LTA is not available until Fall 2021. However, after that time we expect to have the program available for all semesters, including summer.

I am considering LTA course materials but I have questions. Who can I contact?

See the list of contacts on the LTA main page.

If I want to participate, how do I indicate in the adoption that I want the LTA version for my students?

You simply use a different ISBN number. Otherwise the adoption process is the exact same process as always. The LTA version has a unique ISBN number that you can get from your publisher’s representative or from the Co-op (see contact list on the LTA main page). After you use LTA course material the first time, it will be visible to you the next time in the Co-op’s adoption software.

Where do students find their course materials, and how do they know which are available through Longhorn Textbook Access?

All of a student’s assigned course materials that have been adopted through the Co-op will be listed on the new “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas. The tab is available on each of their class Canvas sites, and it lists the assigned materials for all courses for which they are registered. LTA course materials can be identified by the “Opt Out” button that appears beside them during the first 12 class days (more on opting out below). Students can also read their textbooks via the “My Textbooks” tab, or sometimes via a publisher’s site (usually when there is bundled courseware).

How do I know what Longhorn Textbook Access materials cost?

During the textbook adoption process, you will be told the price of the LTA materials and also the prices of other versions of the textbook that are available. For students, the “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas will indicate the price of the course materials. The price shown for LTA materials includes state sales taxes of 8.25%.

Do my students have to take any action to acquire the LTA materials in my course?

No. If you choose LTA course materials, your students are opted in to those materials by default (they can easily opt out, more on that below) and the LTA course materials are available to them as soon as your course’s Canvas site is published.

Why are students opted in to LTA materials by default?

Knowing that all students begin the course opted in, and will remain that way through the first 12 class days, allows you to plan your course assuming that all students have their course materials from the first day of class. In addition, the LTA model includes direct billing of students (the ones who don’t opt out) for LTA materials by the University, instead of requiring the retailer to be an intermediary in the transaction. The process is very efficient for students: other than paying the What I Owe bill, getting their LTA course materials is effortless. The efficiency and predictability for students, together with consistent low pricing, typically result in very high participation rates by students (low numbers of opt-outs), while the efficiency and high student participation provide incentive for publishers to set the lowest possible prices on their LTA materials.

How does a student opt out of the LTA program?

During the first 12 class days (the “opt-out period”), use of LTA materials is no-cost/no-obligation. No student is required to participate in LTA, and we do not want anyone to feel stuck in the program if they can acquire the right course materials at a lower cost. Accordingly, we make it very easy for a student who prefers to acquire the required course materials in a different way to opt out during the opt-out period. In the “My Textbooks” tab in Canvas, each LTA book has a prominent opt-out button next to it until the end of the 12th class day. Even easier, the Co-op sends emails to every student who is in an LTA course that prominently includes a link to opt out. No explanation is required (though we do ask why, optionally, so that we know why students are opting out).

What happens to the student’s LTA materials access if they opt out of the program?

The student is responsible for acquiring access to the required course materials for your class. If they prefer to acquire them in a way other than LTA, they can easily opt out of the LTA course materials. When they opt out any time during the first 12 class days (prior to the opt-out deadline), they will continue to have access to the LTA materials until the opt-out period ends. So you can safely assume that everyone has access until the end of the 12th class day. If they do not opt out, but they do not pay the LTA bill in What I Owe by the payment deadline, their LTA bill is canceled and they lose access to the materials at that point.

If students are enrolled in several courses that are participating in the LTA program, can they opt out of LTA in some classes but participate in others?

Yes, students can opt out of LTA materials in each course independent of the others. They only pay for the LTA materials where they have not opted out.

Can students change their minds after opting out and opt back in to the LTA course materials?

During the first 12 class days, students can freely opt out and in as much as they want to. Their access to the materials is not actually changing during this period.

Is there any way for a student who opted out during the opt-out period to opt back in to the LTA materials after the 12th class day (the end of the opt-out period)?

Not through the normal simplified opt-out/opt-in procedures in “My Textbooks” or using the URL provided by the Co-op. However, if the LTA payment deadline in What I Owe has not yet passed (18th class day), they can contact the Co-op and request reinstatement and the Co-op will try to accommodate.

Is there any way for a student to get back into LTA materials if they have not paid their LTA bill in What I Owe by the payment deadline?

We place a two-day financial bar on the accounts of students who have not paid by the announced payment deadline, without removing access, to give them a final chance to pay. If they have not paid their LTA bill by the end of the two-day bar, the financial bar is removed, their LTA bill is cancelled, and their access to the LTA materials is removed. At that point, they can contact the University Co-op which will provide them with information about other ways to access the materials, generally via the publisher’s direct web site, but usually at substantially greater cost.

Can students still borrow a book from a friend, buy a used book, or rent a book, instead of acquiring the course materials through LTA?

Yes. They just have to opt out of LTA during the first 12 class days to avoid being billed.

What if there is courseware, such as a required homework manager, for which there is no used market? Can students still buy the textbook used, or rent it, and then acquire the courseware separately and not through the LTA program?

Yes. State law requires that publishers who bundle courseware with a textbook also make it available for purchase separately. In most cases, this would be done via the publisher’s direct website. However, because of the lower prices arranged via LTA, the LTA price, including digital textbook and courseware, will usually be lower than the price of the courseware alone.

Are all LTA course materials digital, including the textbook?


Is there a difference between the LTA version of a text and an otherwise-available digital version?

Not for the same textbook. The LTA version carries a different ISBN number with special, preferential pricing. But it is otherwise the same book. Sometimes the LTA version is bundled in a particular way (e.g., including a homework manager), but that would be based on your needs and would have been discussed between you and the publisher’s rep.

Is a printed version of a digital LTA textbook available?

This availability varies by publisher. We feel strongly that it should be and are continuing to negotiate this issue with publishers. If you want a printed version of the text to be available to your students and encounter difficulty with a publisher, please notify the Co-op or the Provost’s Office (see contact information on the LTA main page).

How long does access to the digital Longhorn Textbook Access materials last?

Standard access period for LTA materials from most publishers is 180 days, which is enough for one semester. If access for a different term is needed, arrangements can be made by contacting the Co-op or the publisher’s rep. There is generally an increase in cost to all students for the extended access period. An alternative to consider may be asking the publisher to provide a low-cost print add-on option that can be purchased by students who want or need longer access for reference purposes (e.g., in subsequent classes).

How do students get help if they have questions or problems with LTA materials?

For information about course materials, the University Co-op plays the same role in LTA that it does for any other textbook required for a class, but with enhanced online communication. Students in a class that uses LTA materials adopted through the Co-op receive multiple emails from them just prior to the semester, telling them how to find their course materials, how to opt out if they wish to acquire the materials a different way, and providing a special email address for quick response to LTA questions (LTAHelp@universitycoop.com). They can also visit the Co-op with questions. For information related to billing and payment for the materials, students can contact the Texas One Stop just as they do for any other financial question.

Is student data safe in this program?

To the best of our ability to ensure that it is, yes. All of the software used to facilitate LTA, including that provided by outside vendors, has been reviewed and approved by the relevant UT Austin units for FERPA (student data privacy), data security, and ADA accessibility. The student integration runs through Canvas and is subject to all of the privacy controls that control student information in Canvas, and the vendor that hosts the textbook side of the process, VitalSource, has affirmed that they do not collect Personally Identifiable Information and that “we will never share or sell our partners’ data.”

Does UT Austin make money on the LTA program?

No. The cost of LTA materials only includes the direct costs of the discounted course materials.

What is the difference between LTA and “Inclusive Access?”

Inclusive Access is the generic term for the commercial textbook part of the LTA model. Longhorn Textbook Access is a UT Austin-specific brand that encompasses Inclusive Access for commercial materials but that also takes a broader approach to managing the acquisition and use of course materials, including promotion of Online Educational Resource (OER) materials. Our goal with LTA is a comprehensive approach to course materials that achieves the best results in student success, affordability, and faculty satisfaction.

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

OERs are “teaching, learning and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others” (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). OERs can be textbooks, full courses, lesson plans, videos, tests, software, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.

Why would I want to use OER as course material?

One of the key benefits is cost savings to students; OER is typically free of cost (or available at a very low cost for printed materials). In addition to this, using OER in the classroom presents a unique opportunity to customize your courses and get your students more involved in their own learning. Since OER can be remixed and revised, it’s possible to create customized resources that fit your specific course or involve students in the process of creating or adapting them. Additionally, students will have their course materials on day one and won’t have a delay in learning or need to play catch up later.

How do I find OER?

OER can be found in many places, including in repositories where anyone can share or search OER as well as through general web searches. You can find links to helpful places to search in the OER Guide, or you can get help finding OER from UT Libraries by completing this form.

How do I get help with OER?

Instructors can request help from UT Libraries with adopting, adapting, creating OER, and more. See this page for more information on services available, and contact your subject librarian or the open education librarian (see contacts on the LTA main page) to get started.

Contact us

For comments or questions about the LTA program, please contact: David Platt, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

For questions about commercial course materials, please contact: Michael Kiely, Director of Course Materials at the University Co-op.

*You can also contact your publisher rep, who should be familiar with LTA, sometimes referred to as “Inclusive Access.”

For questions about Open Educational Resources (OER), please contact: Ashley Morrison, Tocker Open Education Librarian.