Textbook costs play a major role in the cost of a college education, and the high cost of textbooks directly undermines student success, access, and affordability -- central values of UAA’s 2020 mission. While low-cost alternatives to many textbooks exist, adopting affordable textbooks can be challenging for faculty. Worse, students may feel powerless to advocate for affordable textbooks if they believe they have no influence in faculty textbook adoptions.
One way to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for students is to adopt free or low-cost textbooks. Adopting free-to-access materials, or Open Education Resources (OER), has been demonstrated to improve student success. When students have access to their materials from the first day of class, grades improve and withdrawal rates decrease, especially for those students traditionally underrepresented in higher ed (Colvard et al., 2018). Students also take more courses, allowing them to move toward graduation faster (Hilton et al., 2015).
To learn more about free or low-cost textbooks, please see the resources below.
- Learn More About OER
OER 101: What they are, where are they, and why use them?
What does it mean to be “Open”?
“Open educational resources are teaching, learning, and research materials shared under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” – Creative Commons
“OERs are educational materials that can be freely downloaded, edited, and shared to better serve all students.” – Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition/SPARC
Why Adopt OER in the Classroom?
Being able to afford the textbooks should not be a barrier to education.
- Students often skip buying their books due to cost:
- Students may drop (10%), withdraw (10%), or fail (17%) courses due to the cost of texts (Florida Virtual Campus, 2012; Student PIRG, 2014)
Students success improves when they have access to the course materials.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act highlights “openly licensed content” as a resource that can strengthen students’ educational experiences.
- Improve student performance: Students are more likely to be ready for class (Bliss et al., 2013) and perform better when using OER (higher grades, fewer drops & withdrawals, increased credit load; Fischer et al., 2015).
- Increase student enrollment: Students report that textbook costs limited the number of credits they take in a semester (U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 2014).
OERs are customizable, making them the perfect fit for each course.
- Increase student and instructor preference: Students and faculty report a preference for OER textbooks compared to traditional materials (Bliss et al., 2013; Feldstein et al., 2012; Pitt, 2015).
- Increase instructor choice: OER allows endless customization for a course instructor. The perfect content – and only the required content – can be made available to the student.
- Improve accessibility: Editing OER materials helps ensure 100% accessibility for inclusive design well in advance of need. OER materials gives students choice in their preferred format (print vs. electronic).
The Impact of OERs
- Universities adopting open can save their students millions of dollars every year.
- For the first time in over 30 years, the rising cost of textbooks has slowed.
- OERs are being adopted at the same rate as commercial textbooks, and time-saving resources (like homework platforms and ancillary materials) are being developed and shared.
Aren’t you “getting what you pay for” with a free textbook?
- Faculty using OER report their materials to be as good (43.5%) or better (47.8%) quality than as traditional textbook materials (Babson Survey Research Group, 2014).
- Free does not mean that there’s a lack of quality control. High-quality, peer-reviewed materials from a variety of well-respected institutions are available for high-enrollment undergraduate courses.
Where can OERs be found?
- Open textbooks high-enrollment undergraduate sources are becoming easy to find.
- Open textbooks for upper division and specialty courses are increasing, especially when sponsored by universities.
- Some open textbooks include ancillary materials (e.g., test banks, presentation slides).
- Third party vendors are also stepping up to offer learning materials or full LMS platforms (e.g., Blue Sky, Boundless, Sapling Learning).
- See the UAA OER Research Guide for more information!
- UAA/APU Consortium Library Open Educational Resources (OER) Lib Guide
- UAA Teaching Academy, Open Educational Resources (OER)
- Educause, 7 Things You Should Know About Open Education: Content
OER 101 Handout (1.0 Feb 2018)
- Textbook Affordability Events
Textbook Affordability events aim to increase awareness of alternatives to traditional commercial textbooks and methods to reduce textbook costs, as well as encourage students to advocate for no- or low-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks.
- 2019/2020 Textbook Transformation Fellows Learning Community - 3rd Friday of each month, 1p, LIB 214
- 2019 Textbook Transformation Fellows
The following faculty have committed to adopting, refining, and/or creating OER resources for their courses with the aim of reducing cost and increasing quality of education for the students we serve:
2019 Technology Fellows / Textbook Transformation Fellowship
Doug Bourne, Writing, UAA
Dr. Samuel Cook, Mathematics, UAA
Dr. Stefanos Folias, Mathematics, UAA
Dr. Alison Gardell, Biology, KPC-Kenai
Dr. Gregory Hartley, Writing, UAA
Dr. Rachael Hannah, Biology, UAA
Dr. Jeremy Nettleton, Biology, Mat-Su
Solveig Pedersen, Communication, UAA
Dr. Leslie Redmond, Dietetics & Nutrition, UAA
Michelle Scaman, Communication, UAA
Dr. John Sirois, Chemistry, Mat-Su
Sarah Smith, Communication, UAA
Dr. Corrie Whitmore, Health Sciences, UAA
- Textbook Affordability Committee Chairs