Mini-conference at FHSU to support open education textbooks, resources

HAYS, Kan. – Delivering an affordable and accessible education has long been a goal for Fort Hays State University, and the Open Education Mini-Conference for faculty, staff and students, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, is another step toward reaching that goal.

The conference will be in the Memorial Union’s Stouffer Lounge.

Staff from the Open Textbook Network will provide assistance for the mini-conference, which includes a workshop for partners who provide instructional support on open textbooks and open educational resources (OERs) to FHSU faculty.

A separate workshop will be conducted for FHSU students.

Two faculty workshops will increase awareness of the free and openly licensed textbooks that could be adopted as course materials to save students from the rising costs of traditional textbooks.

“The cost of textbooks is rising at a rate of four times inflation,” said Claire Nickerson, learning initiatives and open educational resources librarian for the university’s Forsyth Library. “The average undergraduate student budgets between $1,220-$1,420 each year for textbooks and supplies, which often results in students delaying the purchase of textbooks until they’ve received financial aid or never purchasing the required textbook at all.”

The mini-conference is intended to raise awareness of OERs and of the negative impact high textbook costs can have on student success and retention.

As an OTN member, Fort Hays State is part of a consortium of colleges and universities working to advance the use of open textbooks and practices on their campuses. The network maintains a library of free, peer-reviewed, and openly licensed textbooks called the Open Textbook Library, making open educational resources easier to find and adopt for use in the classroom.

Openly licensed textbooks, said Nickerson, are high-quality texts that can be freely copied and sometimes adapted depending on the license, which is not usually allowed under copyright law.

“The FHSU OER Committee has been exploring options to make open textbooks more easily discoverable,” said Nickerson.

“This membership will help with that goal and provide a great professional development opportunity for our faculty,” she said.

FHSU’s membership in OTN and support of open educational resources can provide faculty with textbooks and course materials that can be customized for their courses while helping alleviate the cost burden for students.

FHSU’s participation in the Open Textbook Network is supported by funding from donors Richard and Dolores Fischli, the FHSU Provost’s office, Forsyth Library and the Department of Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies.

“Adopting open textbooks provides faculty with a tool to make a university education more affordable while maintaining high standards for quality education,” said Deborah Ludwig, dean of Forsyth Library.

“Through OTN, faculty can adopt peer-reviewed textbooks to replace high-cost commercial texts,” she said

Dr. Andrew Feldstein, assistant provost of teaching innovation and learning technologies, has long been an advocate of open educational resources and has published research on the positive effects of OERs on student success.

“While cost is an important aspect of OERs, quality content is essential. OTN textbooks meet that standard,” he said. “In fact, OTN requires that all of their textbooks are either affiliated with a higher education institution, scholarly society, or professional organization, or are in use at multiple higher education institutions.”

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