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Open Textbook Network Saves Students $1.5 Million, Inspires OER Senate Bill

A bill introduced in the United States Senate this month would encourage colleges and universities to try out open educational resources (OER) by funding pilot programs. One of the sponsors of Senate Bill 2176 was Al Franken, senator from the state of Minnesota, where the University of Minnesota's Center for Open Education recently announced that its Open Textbook Network has saved students an estimated $1.5 million in textbook costs.

The network was created by the university's College of Education + Human Development. Its Open Textbook Library lists nearly 200 open textbooks in subjects ranging from accounting and finance to the social sciences. The site allows faculty to rate and comment on the textbooks, though most selections currently have few if any reviews.

Besides access to OER, the network provides professional development and consulting assistance to member institutions. The costs are $5,000 per institution as a one-time fee, which is then matched by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, as well as a $200 fee per faculty member who attends an on-campus workshop.

In the past year the network has grown from seven to 25 members, representing 84 separate institutions. The savings reported by the center came from a group of "early" members, including California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, Cleveland State, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Ohio State, Purdue, the University of Arizona, U Minnesota, U Northwestern St. Paul, and U Oklahoma.

"Open textbooks eliminate the cost barrier between students and their learning," said David Ernst, executive director of the network, in a statement. "And these are real savings for students and their families."

The Senate bill, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), has been sent to committee for further consideration.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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