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Reducing Student Textbook Costs: The Open Textbook Initiative
Scott Curtis, OER Coordinator, UMKC Libraries
Support for open education is a UM System priority.
On Wednesday, June 21, surrounded by faculty and staff from the four University of Missouri System campuses, System President Mun Choi and Chancellor Leo Morton announced a plan to save students money on course textbooks and other course materials. At UMKC, the plan seeks to encourage faculty to use Open Educational Resources (OER) in classes, as well as to use the AutoAccess option for textbooks from the UMKC Bookstore.
A system-wide task force began meeting this summer to decide on implementation details and faculty incentives for this program.
While AutoAccess enables students to save significantly on the cost of textbooks, for some courses faculty may be able to choose OER textbooks that eliminate the need for students to buy a textbook. Both AutoAccess and OER textbooks need to be considered to help reduce the economic barriers for students to successfully complete their courses. Currently, the average annual cost of textbooks for a student in the UM System is $1,200, and many students find that they cannot afford the textbooks assigned for their courses. By not purchasing the books, the students increase their risk of performing poorly in the class, and this directly impacts UMKC’s student retention and success rate.
How can you find OER textbooks? With the UMKC Libraries Open Educational Resources research guide, we have identified several sources for materials.
OpenStax is a nonprofit based at Rice University with a track record of providing quality open textbooks. Since 2012, OpenStax has developed a library of 20 peer-reviewed titles, kept up-to-date and freely available online. The subjects involved span the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, and these resources have already been used by hundreds of thousands of students. Faculty can review the textbooks online, and if the textbook is chosen the faculty can let OpenStax know. They will have access to instructor-only materials by creating an OpenStax account and requesting instructor access. System President Choi speaks highly of OpenStax resources, having implemented their use when he was at the University of Connecticut.
Also this summer, UMKC (through its membership in MOBIUS, a library consortium) became a member of the Open Textbook Network (OTN), an alliance of 305 colleges and universities working to advance the use of open textbooks in higher education. OTN manages the Open Textbook Library, an important resource that contains 350 open textbooks across all academic disciplines, along with 700 faculty reviews of the books. Look for more information this fall about how UMKC faculty can leverage our membership in the Open Textbook Network and work toward building a sustainable open textbook program.
Are you in need of tools to help you evaluate OER textbooks? They are available in the UMKC Libraries OER research guide as well, under the tab “Evaluating OERs – Resources.” These tools include rubrics and lessons learned by faculty in evaluating OERs.
Finally, join local and regional colleagues on September 8 for the UMKC Fall Conference on Open Education. Keynote Speaker Mary Lou Forward, Executive Director of the Open Education Consortium, will discuss issues of student success with OER and the impact of Open Education on policy and practice in higher ed. Registration is free and lunch will be provided.