University marks Open Education Week with $1.6 million in savings for students

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University marks Open Education Week with $1.6 million in savings for students

University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have saved an estimated $1.6 million in textbook costs using inclusive access and open education resource programs.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have saved an estimated $1.6 million in textbook costs using inclusive access and open education resource programs.

As the world celebrated Open Education Week March 2-6, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln announced its students have saved an estimated $1.6 million in textbook costs using inclusive access and open education resource programs. More than 23,000 students have participated in the programs, with an average savings of about $70 per student.

The university began pilot programs for digital course materials in fall 2018, with $117,836 in savings for almost 2,000 students.

"This dramatic increase is very exciting and shows the great potential of these programs as we implement them across more courses and disciplines," said Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education. "The instructors using these materials have put in a tremendous amount of effort in reworking their courses and classrooms to make their students' experiences successful and affordable."

Inclusive access allows instructors to order from traditional publishers at discounted prices for digital textbooks and supporting class materials. The costs, which can be up to 80% off retail, are billed directly to student accounts at the onset of class, so they don't have additional out-of-pocket expenses during the semester.

Open education resources are open-source materials that are available at no cost, but need to be incorporated into an overall curriculum designed by the teacher. The university has a team of information technology specialists, instructional designers and librarians available to help instructors design their courses around these resources.

There's more than just a cost savings benefit to these programs — they allow course materials to be available on the first day of class. Many students can afford some course materials, just not all of them, and often wait days or even weeks to decide which ones to purchase, causing them to fall behind in their coursework.

"Students should have the opportunity to learn and grow without being burdened with high textbook costs," said Erin Kruger, Nebraska student and member of the ASUN student government academic committee. "Many struggle to afford course materials every semester — with some ending up not buying textbooks, or finding other, less expensive resources. These programs bring about a high level of education and learning in a way that is useful, achieving and cost-effective all at the same time."

Affordability and accessibility are fundamental to Nebraska's mission as the state’s land-grant university. The Center for Transformative Teaching is funding a seed grant to encourage more instructors to adopt, adapt or create OER materials, including textbook alternatives, assessment tools and ancillary materials, for the 2020-21 academic year. Submissions can be made in NuRamp through March 31. The grant will be awarded in mid-April for fall 2020 courses.