The libraries of the UNC system are joining together to reduce textbook costs for students. According to a 2016 U.S. PIRG Report, the cost of a college textbook has increased by 73 percent since 2006 ─ over four times the rate of inflation. Results from a 2016 survey conducted in Florida, Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey, indicated that 66 percent of students do not buy their textbooks, greatly hindering their success in the classroom.
“Academic libraries around the country, including several in North Carolina, are working with their faculty to implement Open Educational Resources (OERs), which are high impact, low-cost or free resources in their courses,” said Kathy Crowe, interim dean of University Libraries at UNCG.
In November 2016 the University of North Carolina’s General Administration (GA) offered “Actualizing Innovations Meant to Scale” (AIMS) grants to the campuses to support their strategic plan. One initiative included OERs under GA’s “Deploying Academic Innovations for Affordability” goal. The University Librarians Advisory Council (ULAC), which includes the library deans and directors from the 17 UNC campuses, applied for an AIMS grant and was awarded $32,750 to provide an OER education and outreach program for librarians and faculty at UNC campuses. Crowe co-wrote the application with Janice S. Lewis, director of Academic Library Services at East Carolina University and Will Cross, director of the Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center at North Carolina State University Libraries.
“The funds will be used to support a system-wide membership in the Open Textbook Network (OTN). The OTN, based at the University of Minnesota, is an alliance of more than 350 colleges and universities advancing the use of open textbooks in higher education,” said Cross. “ULAC will sponsor a day-long training workshop, led by OTN representatives, for North Carolina librarians from each campus in May 2017.”
Membership in OTN also provides funds for four North Carolina librarians to attend OTN’s Summer Institute at the University of Minnesota. These librarians will conduct additional regional workshops across the state. And finally, OTN sponsors a program with incentives for UNC faculty to adopt OERs.
The grant will provide an additional workshop in May for up to 100 librarians and faculty to increase their baseline knowledge of OERs. Librarians and faculty from UNCG, ECU and NCSU, who have been active in promoting open resources, will give presentations and participate in panel sessions. Additionally, Jeff Gallant from the University System of Georgia will present on Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG).
“ALG is a successful statewide effort that has used “textbook transformation grants” to spur the creation or adoption of no-cost and open course materials,” said Crowe. “Since 2015, ALG has saved 266,412 students an estimated $35.1 million.”
Both workshops will be held at the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University. The OER education and outreach program will be coordinated by ULAC’s Textbook Affordability Working Group, which has representatives from several ULAC libraries. The Working Group will also develop online training materials and resources. “We want to implement OERs statewide and reduce educational costs for all North Carolina students,” said Lewis.
Copy courtesy UNCG University Libraries. Writer Hollie Stevenson-Parrish.