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ETSU joins Open Textbook Network to help students with educational costs
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JOHNSON CITY (Feb. 9, 2018) – East Tennessee State University is a new member of the Open Textbook Network (OTN), a consortium of colleges and universities across the nation working to advance open textbook initiatives.

The OTN, which began at the University of Minnesota as a collaboration between the university’s libraries and the Center for Open Education, hosts the Open Textbook Library.  Through this library, students may access “open textbooks,” which have been funded, published and licensed to be freely used, adapted and distributed.  Students may download the books at no cost or print them at low cost.

The books available through the library have been reviewed for quality by faculty from a variety of colleges and universities.  All of the texts are either used at multiple higher education institutions or affiliated with a specific institution, scholarly society or professional organization.

Using open textbooks can significantly reduce the cost of education for students, who, according to the College Board, spend an average of $1,200 per year for textbooks as undergraduates.

ETSU has joined this network of more than 75 U.S. institutions through the collaborative efforts of the Sherrod Library and Student Government Association (SGA).  Sherrod Library’s Student Advisory Council voted to use funding from the student library fee to pay for the university’s first year of membership.  They also earmarked a portion of next year’s fee to develop a grant program for faculty interested in using or creating open educational resources.

“It’s obvious that the cost of textbooks has increased significantly, and over the years, we have attempted different strategies to try to mitigate the impact of those costs,” said Dr. Bert C. Bach, ETSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.  “We’ve focused on used textbooks and other strategies.

“I believe this opportunity to affiliate with the Open Textbook Network and use the background and experience they have is a genuine chance for us both to address the costs of textbooks for our students, and also to create opportunities for our faculty and others to develop learning materials and textbooks that will be part of this network.  This will benefit their careers along with our students.”

“Book prices negatively affect our student population,” said Keyana Miller, 2017-18 president of the SGA, which passed a resolution during the fall semester in favor of open education resources.  “Depending on their financial needs, students might choose to wait to take a course – or not take it at all – because of the price of supplemental materials like textbooks, access codes (for online content) and more.  Many students aren’t aware of third-party vendors that sell and rent textbooks, and first-year students often don’t know second- or third-year peers they could get textbooks from.

“That’s why we are advocating for open textbooks,” she continued.  “Open textbooks and other open educational resources are easily accessible and either completely free or significantly less expensive than traditional textbooks.  We hope that by changing the educational materials for our students, it will change the climate for our students’ education for the better.”

According to Bach, the University Libraries and the Center for Teaching Excellence, under the leadership of Dean Pat Van Zandt and Director Dr. Amy Johnson, respectively, will collaborate in providing support to faculty who wish to explore open educational resources.

“It’s not enough just to say we’re going to be affiliated with this network,” Bach said.  “We have to have a plan and we have to be committed to making the plan effective, and I believe that Dean Van Zandt, Dr. Johnson and others will commit to that.”

“Membership in the Open Textbook Network is an important first step in creating awareness among students and faculty about alternatives to the often prohibitively expensive textbooks assigned for courses,” Van Zandt said.  “With this initiative, ETSU is positioned to become a leader in the area of open educational resources in Tennessee.  I am very proud of the Sherrod Student Advisory Council for supporting the OTN.  This effort will positively affect the entire student body.”

For more information on ETSU’s involvement in the OTN, contact Van Zandt at 423-439-6988 or .  

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