U of M offers first of its kind institute on textbook affordability and open textbooks

David Ernst

Using open textbooks can save students hundreds of dollars per semester. Making faculty aware that they are an option, though, remains a challenge, which is why the University of Minnesota is hosting the first meeting of its Open Textbook Network (OTN), Aug. 5-7.

Leaders representing more than 75 colleges and universities across the country will convene on the Twin Cities campus to develop strategies for advancing open textbook programs on their campuses. Participants will also gain expertise in helping faculty understand the negative impact high textbook costs can have on students’ academic performance.

Published under a Creative Commons license, open textbooks are available to students for free. Faculty can custom edit the textbooks to meet their needs, too. According to the College Board, students can spend up to $1,300 annually on books and supplies. By using open textbooks, students could save hundreds of dollars per semester, which add up during their college years.

The OTN, created and run by leaders at the University of Minnesota, is an alliance of schools committed to improving access, affordability, and academic success through the use of open textbooks. Members include Minnesota State Colleges & Universities, North Dakota University System, University of Arizona, Virginia Tech, Macalester College, and more.

“As many institutions make a commitment to empower and engage their faculty in the potential of open textbooks, they’re also committing their organization’s talent to sustain open textbooks at their campuses or across their systems,” said David Ernst, director of the Center for Open Education at the U of M’s College of Education and Human Development, executive director of the Open Textbook Network, founder of the Open Textbook Library, and a nationally-known expert in the field. “That’s good for students, and the institutions.”

The Open Textbook Library is the first searchable online catalog of open textbooks, many of which are reviewed by faculty at OTN institutions. Currently, more than 185 titles are available for use.

The Summer Institute is being organized in cooperation with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and is supported in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Read more in this Big Ten Network story.

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