Options for Open Textbook Programs

These Schools Are Already Leading the Way

Open Textbook Workshops

The major obstacle to adopting open textbooks is the lack of widespread awareness among faculty about their availability. To address this, colleges and universities can host introductory seminars or workshops for the faculty and invite an open textbook expert to campus. Campuses can also form working groups to further discuss the potential use of open textbooks on campus.

Case Study: University System of Maryland

University System of Maryland

The Board of Regents at the University System of Maryland created the Maryland Open-Source Textbook (MOST) Initiative, which includes three components: a workshop for interested faculty and staff, taught by textbook experts from the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library; a program to gather and analyze data about textbook use and gauge faculty willingness to switch to open textbooks; and a statewide work group to evaluate potential policies around open textbooks.

Open Textbook Grants

It takes time and resources for a professor to switch their class to an open textbook. Colleges can establish competitive grant programs to help faculty members convert classes to using open textbooks. Ideally, these programs should also incorporate workshops to educate and engage faculty members.

Case Study: University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

In 2011, the University of Massachusetts Amherst launched the Open Education Initiative (OEI), a competitive grant program to help faculty make the switch to open textbooks in their classrooms. Leading up to the first wave of grants, the university held a series of workshops for faculty and offered individual consulting sessions with library staff. After disbursing 40 grants of approximately $1,000 each over the course of four years, the OEI projected student savings at almost $1.5 million. Many experts see the UMass Initiative as the premier
example of a successful open textbook program.

Open Textbook Staff Person

Colleges can commit to assigning a staff person to work directly with faculty and provide the necessary education and training to help them convert to using open textbooks. This person could be housed in the library, the information technology office, or the online learning program.

Case Study: Tacoma Community College

Tacoma Community College

At Tacoma Community College in Washington State, the college hired a full-time staff person to work directly with faculty to help them implement the use of open textbooks. The cost of the position is split between the student government (from their Student Technology Fee) and the college’s E-Learning department. Within the first two years, the program saved students more than $635,000.

Textbook-Free Degrees

Colleges that want to take a major step forward on this issue can transition an entire degree program to only using open educational resources. This involves curating content from existing open textbooks and other open resources and developing that content into the full set of instructional materials needed for all of the courses in that department or degree track. To do so, schools typically contract with an outside organization to manage this process.

Case Study: Tidewater Community College

Tidewater Community College

In fall 2013, Tidewater Community College in Virginia partnered with Lumen Learning, an education nonprofit, to develop a fully textbook-free degree for their business administration program. They used existing open textbooks to create new course materials and replace traditional textbooks. After the first year of implementation, 98% of students said the classes were of equal or better quality than traditional courses, with 58% saying they were better.