SUNY partnership encourages use of free online textbooks

Jun 26, 2017

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A new partnership at SUNY colleges and universities is encouraging the use of free, peer-reviewed textbooks.

The cost of textbooks has skyrocketed an estimated 800 percent over the past 15 years, according to Alexis Clifton, executive director of the Open Educational Resources program at SUNY Geneseo. She says that financial burden has taken a measurable toll on students.                       

"About a quarter of students try to buy no textbooks and just rely on borrowing versions or using library resources as a way to try to get by, but of course we understand that they don't have nearly the same chance of success in the class if they don't have consistent study access to the textbook."

A new SUNY partnership with the nonprofit OpenStax will offer mentoring to faculty members, who can work with students to increase the use of openly licensed course materials that are free when accessed on line.

"One nice thing about open textbook materials is that students can actually engage with the process and contribute to the works. We have faculty here at Geneseo that create open textbooks alongside their students and have students help create that material and share it."

Geneseo spearheaded the launch of a similar program for SUNY five years ago called SUNY Open Educational Resources.

Clifton said only about 5 percent of courses across the SUNY system use openly licensed textbooks as their primary resource, but it’s hoped that figure will expand under the new partnership.