Home Rodcast 201601

Open Textbooks

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their FREE use and repurposing by others, as noted by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.  One type of open educational resource of particular concern is the college textbook.

The College Board estimates that the average undergraduate student at public four-year colleges spends $1,225 per year on books and supplies.  Adopting open textbooks is one way to reduce the total cost and debt born by students seeking to advance themselves.  The cost of required textbooks causes students to take certain actions and experience certain consequences, as determined in a Florida textbook survey of students at 11 state universities and 22 colleges, community colleges, and state colleges:

In your academic career, has the cost of required textbooks caused you to:

  • 63.6% Not purchase the required textbook
  • 49.2% Take fewer courses
  • 45.1% Not register for a specific course
  • 33.9% Earn a poor grade
  • 26.7% Drop a course
  • 17.0% Fail a course

Open textbooks are licensed in such a way as to allow them to be freely accessed, shared, and adapted by students, teachers, and others.  They are typically distributed online at no cost and can be made available in a print version for a low cost if preferred by students.  In contrast, traditional textbooks whether in print or electronic version may cost hundreds of dollars.  The quality of open textbooks is equal to traditional textbooks in that they are created by educators, reviewed by educators, and selected by individual educators to serve as tools to help students meet learning objectives.

Open textbooks can be utilized through at least two channels. The first is to adopt an existing open textbook from a freely available collection such as the Open Textbook Library.  The second is create a new open textbook if no satisfactory title already exists.

Where should faculty look to find open textbooks and other open educational resources? Several directories exist; these include:

UNI has joined the Open Textbook Network (OTN), a consortium of colleges and universities working to advance open textbook initiatives.  OTN hosts the Open Textbook Library, comprised of complete peer-reviewed textbooks licensed so faculty and students can freely use, adapt, and distribute the material.  Open Textbooks can be downloaded for no cost, or printed inexpensively. The Open Textbook Library is a tool to help faculty find affordable, quality textbook solutions. The institutions in OTN work together to:

  • Help faculty members understand and adopt open textbooks in their classes
  • Increase capacity of institutions to support open textbooks on campus
  • Collects data to show the impact of open textbooks for students

As part of this membership, UNI is hosting an Open Textbook Workshop sometime next fall for faculty, which will offer an introduction to open textbooks and how they benefit students both financially and academically.

Rod Library Scholarly Communication Committee

  • Ellen Neuhaus (Chair); Associate Professor of Library Services, Digital Scholarship Librarian
  • Angela Cox; Assistant Professor of Library Services and Instruction & Liaison Librarian
  • Thomas Kessler;  Associate Professor of Library Services and Bibliographer
  • Stanley Lyle; Professor of Library Services and Instruction & Liaison Librarian
  • Katherine Martin; Associate Professor of Library Services, Head, Collections and Museums
  • Jennifer Waldron; Professor, School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services
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