You are here: AU Joins Open Textbook Network

AU Joins Open Textbook Network

By  | 

Open American
American University

A program to help faculty members replace textbooks and other courseware with free, openly licensed materials is underway at American University. AU has joined the Open Textbook Network, a growing collection of colleges and universities across the country taking actionable steps to promote and adopt open educational resources, or OERs, free materials and textbooks available for use in academic courses.

"American University is committed to improving access, affordability and academic success for students," said Jill Klein, interim executive director of AU's Center for Teaching, Research and Learning. "Joining forces with institutions across the country through the Open Textbook Network scales up AU's ongoing efforts to help faculty members make the switch to using quality, free textbooks and other instructional materials in their courses."

The cost of textbooks and materials might seem small in comparison with the other costs of attending college, but it adds up. Students and their families budgeted $1,230 for books and supplies for academic year 2016-17, The College Board estimates. Increasingly, as a way to cut costs or because they can't afford them, many students at AU and other colleges and universities forego buying required course materials.

"Open American" introduced open resources to AU faculty

In 2015, AU launched "Open American," a program to work with faculty members to help them adopt OERs. Since then, 17 professors across campus have saved more than 1,500 AU students an estimated $251,000 in textbook costs.

Now, by joining Open Textbook Network, faculty members at AU have access to a greater supply of high-quality open resources. More than 600 colleges and universities participate in the network to share and peer-review academic course content. Open resources are available in a wide variety of disciplines, academic levels, and formats including textbooks, online quizzes, instructional modules, assignments, articles, interactive simulations, and image, video, and audio files.  

AU professors who've adopted open resources say it's worth it to help their students save on cost of college textbooks, while also allowing them new levels of freedom to customize their curriculum. Stipends help free up time to make the switch, and support from CTRL streamlines the process.

What AU professors say about open textbooks

"I wanted to reduce the cost of the course for students who struggle with textbook affordability, and I liked the opportunity to customize the textbook to fit my course design for HIST 215, 'Social Forces that Shaped America,'" said Max Paul Friedman, history professor. "Textbook prices might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to tuition costs, but students will tell you that these costs matter to them, especially if they are on tight budgets and their loans and aid do not cover books."

Economics Professor John A. Willoughby teaches a large, introductory economics lecture class. Purchasing a used textbook, one way to keep the cost down, was not an option for students. Willoughby encourages faculty to explore the possibility of using open textbooks, while stressing they read materials carefully to ensure they're adequate for the course.

Chemistry Professorial Lecturer Michele Lansigan and Associate Professor of Biology Christopher Tudge, both concerned about the high cost of textbooks for their courses for non-science majors, now use open textbooks.

"The process was generally smooth, as I received a lot of help and support" from CTRL, Lansigan said. She also likes how her open textbook is editable and she can tailor it according to students' needs.

CTRL workshop

This fall, faculty members interested in making the switch can attend a free, two-hour workshop on campus. They'll learn what constitutes openly available content on the internet, how to review the resources, and why textbook costs matter. All participants who attend the workshop and write a public review of an open textbook will receive a $200 stipend. Ideally, faculty who review open texts would then go on to adopt that resource for a course they are teaching but they won't be required to do so.

Visit the Open American website for more details, and to register for the workshop. Questions about this workshop or OER in general should be directed to David Rose, the Open Educational Resource Program Manager, at ext. 1089 or rose@american.edu.