NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma Libraries-funded open educational resources initiative, the Alternative Textbook Grant, has saved OU students $1,631,935 in textbook costs to date.
Now in its fourth year, the Alternative Textbook Grant was established to reduce students' textbook costs by supporting OU faculty members in the adoption, modification or creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) – which include teaching, learning and research resources that are free of cost to use and repurpose – as well as affordable course content.
"The ever-increasing cost of textbooks puts a financial burden on our students," said OU President David L. Boren. "I am pleased that the university is able to help students succeed by reducing cost barriers through the implementation of this teaching and learning initiative."
Using OER in the classroom allows faculty to take steps to control the cost of higher education for students by adopting free or low-cost textbooks and digital course materials. To date, the Alternative Textbook Grant has saved more than 10,000 students the cost of a textbook in courses for which a traditional textbook was replaced with OER content, a savings impact that is 36.5 times greater than the amount awarded in grants from the libraries.
"We knew we could help students save money, but we were delighted to discover these grants doing even more – inspiring creativity and collaboration among our faculty and students," said OU Libraries Dean Rick Luce. "Because OER are continuously adaptable and give faculty more flexibility and creativity over their course materials, some instructors involved their students in the creation of the resources themselves. We are proud that we enable OU faculty and students to contribute to a community of collaborative knowledge."
An added benefit is that with each semester an OER is implemented, student impact becomes cumulative.
"The impact of the creation and adoption of OER extends far beyond one semester or one classroom," said Jen Waller, OER and scholarly communication coordinator for OU Libraries. "Each new semester introduces the OER, and the cost savings, to a new cohort of students compounding the impact. We provide a one-time grant, but the resource can be used semester after semester. Where it took four years to reach this significant milestone, our projections suggest that we'll reach a cumulative student savings of $2 million within the next year."
One unique aspect of the OU Libraries' Alternative Textbook Grant is the support across campus.
"Specifically, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Price College of Business have been incredibly supportive," said Waller, "including offering matching grant funds for their respective faculty. Their level of support has modeled a standard for other academic institutions."
The latest grant recipients can be viewed on the libraries' website at vision.libraries.ou.edu. Applications for next year's grants will open in January 2018. More information about the Alternative Textbook Grant and other open access initiatives can be found at open.ou.edu.
The University of Oklahoma Libraries is the largest research library in Oklahoma, containing more than 6 million volumes and over 4 million other digital and physical resources. The library system consists of the Bizzell Memorial Library, the Library Service Center, and branch libraries for fine arts, architecture, engineering and geology. OU Libraries is the intellectual crossroads of the university, representing the collective knowledge of the university and providing research and study assistance to facilitate knowledge creation.