UM System Launches Initiative for Affordable and Open Educational Resources

Effort will reduce costs for students and enhance learning

University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo E. Morton joined UM System President Mun Choi and Chancellors Tom George, Garnett Stokes and Christopher Maples June 21 to announce a plan that will save students significant amounts of money on textbooks and other course materials.

This effort is designed to reduce the cost of attendance and enhance learning for students. The plan takes advantage of Open Educational Resources (OER), or class materials that are free for students, and AutoAccess, which is a program that makes textbooks and class materials available online at a lower cost than traditional learning resources.

“High-quality, affordable education is central to our mission as the state’s public higher education institution,” Choi said. “By providing open-source and affordable textbooks, we are meeting the needs of our students by lowering their costs and increasing their access to the resources that will help them be successful on our campuses.”

To accomplish this goal, a working group of faculty, staff and students, including a team of librarians, bookstore personnel and campus instructional design staff, will be formed to provide input from all four campuses. The group will work collaboratively to develop a system-wide strategy to increase awareness of affordable and open resources, incentivize the transition to those resources, and encourage University-created materials to be shared as open resources. This work will be done in conjunction with campus-specific working groups.

“Some students don’t purchase required textbooks because it’s too expensive; it ends up hurting their academic success,” said Nathan Willett, president of the Missouri Students Association. “Any time we can make textbooks or course materials more affordable, it’s a win for students, and the university is still able to provide the same high-quality education. I’m excited to move forward and work with faculty, staff and administrators on this important initiative.”

Currently, some campuses are already using online resources to reduce the costs of textbooks for students. The working group will review that progress and see how the resources can be shared throughout the system. One example of these online resources is a program known as AutoAccess, which is available to all four campuses within the University of Missouri System.

“The issue of textbook prices is part of a larger national conversation that is happening in universities throughout the country,” said Scott Curtis, learning and research librarian at UMKC Libraries. “As a library at a major research institution, we provide thousands of educational resources to our students, faculty and staff every day, which enhances the educational opportunities available to students. This affordable and open educational resources initiative is a collaborative effort among our faculty, staff, students and librarians across every University of Missouri campus.”

“Faculty who participate in the program also see the benefits,” said Bethany Stone, an associate teaching professor at MU. “Students start the semester with instant access to the book, so there is no delay in learning as they purchase supplies. In a class of over 350 students, I have not had a single complaint nor have I had to troubleshoot any problems with acquiring the textbook. The best part? The price! My students have access to a high-quality biology textbook—with adaptive learning resources—for a third the cost of many other options.”

The system-wide initiative is launching this summer, and the working group is committed to making fast progress toward its goals.

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