Online Textbook Network yields benefits, reduces student costs

BGSU is adding a new option to help students avoid the “sticker shock” of expensive textbooks and the strain that purchasing them can place on their budgets. The University Libraries has joined the Online Textbook Network (OTN), which promotes access, affordability and student success through the use of free, open textbooks.

“BGSU is very concerned about the cost of a university education,” said Sara Bushong, dean of the University Libraries. “Now, faculty will have the opportunity to adopt an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library for use as classroom materials. Because these textbooks are free and open-licensed for anyone to use, this option dramatically reduces the cost of textbooks for BGSU students. There are many general topics applicable for general education and high-enrolled first year courses, for example.”

Using the online network is already saving money for its early adopters, Bushong said. OTN works with 380 campuses around the country (about 10 percent of higher education), and its first nine members alone reported savings of $3.1 million, according to its website.

“Bowling Green State University is committed to making college more affordable for our students,” said President Mary Ellen Mazey. “Having access to online textbooks is an excellent way in which to reduce students’ costs while still maintaining high educational standards.”

In addition to making the peer-reviewed academic textbooks available across the curriculum, BGSU gains other benefits from joining the Open Textbook Network, Bushong said. “BGSU has joined as an institutional member so that we can have the campus workshop led by OTN staff. OTN also provides a dashboard that will keep track of BGSU’s savings for students as our faculty adopt open textbooks. Being a network member also provides the University the opportunity to join with others throughout the country in support of open access. OhioLINK has joined as a consortial member, and we will also partner with them to support state-wide textbook affordability measures.”

Students will primarily connect to these new resources by their faculty member adopting them as course materials, but they can also use the Open Textbook Library themselves for free for supplemental reading, Bushong said.

Assisting with fair use, copyright and open access issues is Emily Gattozi, coordinator of scholarly publishing. She was hired last fall for the newly created position in the University Libraries, where she also reaches out to stakeholders to create partnerships and collaborations around open access initiatives.

Gattozi will be attending the Open Textbook Network Institute in August 2017 to prepare the University for a visit by network staff. During that visit, BGSU faculty will be invited to attend a workshop to learn about open access initiatives and how they support teaching and learning; specifically, how open textbooks can be an impactful solution to the high cost of textbooks for students.

Faculty will receive a $200 stipend for attending the workshop, submitting a review of an open textbook and sharing workshop information with their departmental colleagues. They can also create their own open textbooks and publish them within ScholarWorks@BGSU.