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CEHD announces open textbook catalog to reduce student costs

ebookkeyboard2.jpgIn an effort to reduce higher education costs for students, the University announced today that CEHD has created a tool to help faculty find more affordable textbook options. The Open Academics textbook catalog is a searchable online catalog of "open textbooks" that will be reviewed by U of M faculty.

Open textbooks are published under a license that enables students to get free or low-cost versions of their textbooks online, electronically, or in print. The Open Academics catalog is the first of its kind hosted at a major research institution. It is available to faculty worldwide.

"The catalog will benefit not only the University of Minnesota but has the potential to help improve access and affordability beyond our institution," says CEHD dean Jean Quam. "That's part of our role as a national leader in educational innovation."

Reducing student costs

College students will spend an average of $1,168 on course materials for 2011-12. Concerns over textbook costs have fueled a growing movement toward open textbooks and other open educational resources. The Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) found that using open textbooks saves students 80 percent on average over traditional textbooks. The Open Academics textbook catalog empowers faculty to bring those savings to U of M students.

"High textbook costs are one of the many factors that are contributing to the increasing financial burden that students are facing," said Lizzy Shay, U of M undergraduate student body president. "Affordable open textbooks would go a long way in relieving that burden."

Faculty review

The catalog currently lists 84 open textbooks that are currently in use in classrooms across the country.

Over the next year, CEHD will work with U of M faculty to review the texts in this collection, making it easier for users to judge textbook quality. CEHD will support faculty who choose to review and adopt open textbooks with $500-$1,000 stipends.

"Faculty share student concerns about high textbook costs and are willing to consider high-quality, affordable alternatives like open textbooks," says CEHD associate professor Irene Duranczyk. "The Open Academics textbook catalog makes it easier by collecting the best peer-reviewed open textbooks in one place."

Nine CEHD faculty members are already exploring open textbooks through the catalog. Replacing their current course materials with open textbooks will potentially save over $100,000 in textbook costs next year.

Leadership in technology and innovation

"The University of Minnesota should be a leader in enabling faculty and students to benefit from open content and electronic textbook options," said Provost Karen Hanson. "This CEHD initiative is one of a number of our initiatives in e-learning that will help students obtain a high-quality education that is also affordable."

The catalog is the latest of several noteworthy educational technology programs at the University of Minnesota. All incoming freshmen in CEHD receive iPads, which will enable students to use the less expensive and free digital formats of open textbooks. The U of M is also participating in a multi-university e-textbook pilot program, which offers e-books at a significantly lower cost in selected courses.

More information

Learn more about the Open Academics textbook catalog on the website or by contacting Dave Ernst, project leader and CEHD director of academic and information technology, 612-624-2760.

Ernst was featured in "U of M opens up to open source textbooks," by Stephen Smith, on Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition show April 23 and in The Minnesota Daily on April 30. A supportive editorial appeared in The Minnesota Daily on May 2. And see this Inside Higher Ed story.

The release is posted on the U news site.

Listen to the Minnesota Public Radio story on the new textbook catalog:

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