AMHERST, Mass. - 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 UMass Amherst will be represented at the first meeting of the Open Textbook Network (OTN) from Aug. 5-7, hosted by the University of Minnesota.
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. Representing UMass Amherst will be Marilyn Billings, scholarly communication and special initiatives librarian, who will attend with funding from the Hewlett Foundation.
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.
“UMass Amherst is a leader nationally in the open education movement, and we are proud to continue our pioneering efforts through the Open Textbook Network,” said Jay Schafer, director of UMass Amherst Libraries.
The OTN, created and run by 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 University of Arizona, Virginia Tech, Purdue University, University of Michigan, and Ohio State University.
“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 University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development and executive director of the Open Textbook Network. “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.