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Alternative Textbooks (Open Educational Resources): Current Situation

This guide is about UK Libraries' Alternative Textbook Program. It also provides an overview of free online peer-reviewed textbooks and offers assistance with finding and adapting them for courses.

Problems Caused by Soaring Textbook Prices

Here & Now on NPR recently had a report about the exorbitant prices of textbooks and the access codes for the accompanying online exercises:

What kind of prices are we talking about for both books and access codes? 

“Both books and access codes we’re talking about $500 per semester.  For just access codes alone it’s probably about $400 of that $500.   Per access code,  it can range from $90 to $100 just for the code.”  

The complete report is available as a podcast

The problems are also revealed by these two short videos:

More about Alternative Textbooks (Open Educational Resources)

More information about alternative textbooks (open educational resources) and open education in general are available from the resources listed below.  University of Kentucky faculty members who have questions about alternative textbooks or would like to create alternative textbooks are welcome to contact UK Libraries

How Have Alternative Textbooks Helped Students

The Open Textbook Network reported in Oct. 2015 that:

"Faculty from nine colleges and universities across the United States have saved their students an estimated $1.5 million in textbook costs to date by adopting open textbooks..."

Additionally, the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs) has published a report about five campus-based OER pilot projects:

"Analysis of these pilots determines that a student saves $128 per course, when their traditionally published textbook is replaced with an open textbook.

By extrapolating average student savings and applying it to larger segments of the student population, we can predict that open textbooks have the potential to save more than a billion dollars each year."

As a matter of fact, the Department of Education announced in late Oct. 2015 the launch of the #GoOpen campaign to encourage educators to "move away from traditional textbooks and toward freely accessible, openly-licensed materials" in order to "ensure that all students – no matter their zip code – have access to high-quality learning resources." 

Impact of Open Educational Resources

The Open Education Group and Lumen Learning have collaborated to create the OER Adoption Impact Explorer to help educators, higher education institutions, and other stakeholders figure out the impact of using alternative textbooks (open educational resources).

David Wiley, an OER advocate and a faculty member at Brigham Young University, discusses the financial potentials of OER in the video below.