The Open Textbook Network: Collectively Helping Institutions and Faculty Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Open Textbooks

David Ernst

University of Minnesota

The use of open textbooks can significantly reduce costs for students, while giving faculty more control of their course content. There is increasing evidence showing that the use of open textbook results in student outcomes that are equal to or better than commercial textbooks.

Also, according to an October, 2014 report (Allen & Seaman, 2014) “When presented with the concept of OER, most faculty say that they are willing to give it a try.” They go on to observe that “OER does not suffer from any strong objections or entrenched opposition groups.” Yet, despite this clear potential, open textbook adoptions are not yet widespread.

David Ernst at the University of Minnesota has spent the last three years engaging with faculty and administrators to discover what barriers to open textbook adoptions they are facing. In April, 2012, he started the Open Textbook Library (http://open.umn.edu) to make it easy for faculty to find open textbooks, and then started running workshops at other institutions. Based on what was learned, the University of Minnesota recently launched a national Open Textbook Network (OTN) that provides programmatic support to help institutions mount local open textbook initiatives to increase open textbook adoptions.

The OTN invites institutional participation in its national programmatic and service development strategy. Engagement in the OTN holds significant potential benefits to participating institutions, especially to those that are considering developing independent programs. These benefits include:
– Access to faculty engagement programming developed at the University of Minnesota that is shown to increase open textbook adoptions;
– Enhanced faculty understanding of open textbook quality through the contribution of open textbook reviews by faculty peers;
– Shared Open Textbook Library and repository technology for easy open textbook discovery and access;
– Aggregated analytics relating to open textbooks adoption behaviors and student cost savings;
– Participation in a network of institutions actively developing strategies and practices for increasing open textbook awareness and adoptions; and
– Increase visibility of open textbooks, and positioning of institutions as national leaders in open textbook expertise, programming, and advocacy.

The OTN provides participants the following opportunities and services:
1. On campus workshops, which includes
– Faculty workshop ­­ designed to address common faculty questions and concerns about open textbooks, and to engage faculty directly with open textbooks by incentivizing them to write a brief evaluative review of at least one open textbook.
– Staff workshop ­­ designed to help library and academic technology staff understand how to engage with faculty about open textbooks.
– Communication templates ­­ for advertising the workshop to prospective faculty.
– Recruitment strategies ­­ for greatest likelihood of adoptions, impact, and local programmatic fit.

2. Impact analytics, including
– Impact on faculty ­­ measures: faculty understanding of “open”; faculty interest in examining, reviewing, adopting, modifying, and authoring open textbooks.
– Impact on student affordability ­­ measures: student savings
– Open textbook quality ­­ measures: faculty reviews of open textbooks

3. Sustainable staff support. Network engagement ­­ increased local capacity to support the adoption of open textbooks by institution staff involvement in a virtual network of institutions, currently including: University of Minnesota, Oregon State University, University of Oklahoma, Purdue University, California Polytechnic State University, and several others

This presentation will describe these features and strategies and how they contribute to the overall goal of helping faculty and institutions overcome barriers to open textbook adoptions.

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014, October). Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/oer.html