The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development released an open online textbook catalog, allowing faculty from around the world to discuss and showcase online textbooks to help manage textbook costs for students.
University students spend an estimated $1,000 on textbooks and supplies each year. Adding this on top of a hefty tuition and everyday living expenses, the college saw a chance to help students and become a leader in making textbooks cheaper.
The catalog launched a week ago and already has 84 texts available. Dave Ernst, who started the catalog, has been receiving emails from around the world about open textbooks that are available.
An open textbook allows free digital access and low-cost print options, as well as the ability for instructors to customize content. These are quality textbooks with an “open” copyright license, allowing anyone to freely access the text.
The catalog is intended to help faculty members find open textbooks and adapt them to their classroom, said Ernst, the director of Academic Technology Services in CEHD.
Faculty members are urged to review the texts that are offered.
“Faculty trusts each other and trusts each other’s judgment,” Ernst said.
Each text accepted into the catalog has to meet four criteria: It must be under an open copyright clause allowing faculty to reuse and rework content, the textbook needs to be complete, it must be available for use outside of the University and it needs to be offered in print.
There is a common misconception that an open textbook is confined to only digital formats. But all textbooks in the open catalog can be ordered in print, which would cost roughly 20 percent of traditional texts.
“Students have expressed time and again that they prefer print over digital,” Ernst said. “This is a focus on helping students.”
University Bookstores director Bob Crabb said if a textbook isn’t offered in print from an online publisher, the bookstore will help in ordering the text through print on demand.
PSEO student Hailey Colwell was happy to hear about this online source for textbooks.
“As an institution, they are searching for ways to help students financially,” Colwell said. “It confirms my choice in choosing this University.”
As others in academia send CEHD submissions of other open textbooks, faculty will review the inquiries to confirm the quality of the text.
The U.S. Student Public Interest Research Group looks for ways of making college more affordable. One of the group’s main platforms is using the open textbook system. It reports that, on average, students who use the open textbook system will save 80 percent.
Within the first two days of launching, the University’s open textbook site was accessed from more than 40 countries, Ernst said.
“The University wants to be a leader in this,” CEHD Dean Jean Quam said. “It’s our goal to be seen as a resource to other institutions.”