UA Cossatot first in state to join OTN

Updated: September 7, 2018

By Emily Newlin

UA Cossatot Media Relations Coordinator

The University of Arkansas Cossatot is now the first college in Arkansas to become a member of the Open Textbook Network (OTN). OTN membership supports UA Cossatot’s innovative open educational resource (OER) and internal textbook rental program. In the past three years, those programs have saved UAC students just under $1.1 million dollars in textbook costs.

In 2015, UA Cossatot became the first two-year college in Arkansas to abandon the traditional campus bookstore in favor of an internal textbook rental/ OER program. UA Cossatot Chancellor Steve Cole recognized that high textbook costs were not only a financial barrier to students, but also inhibited instructors from teaching courses with the most current and relevant materials. Enlisting the aid of UA Cossatot Director of Educational Resources and OER Specialist Relinda Ruth, the duo developed a program requiring a $30 rental fee per course for all books required in a course. UA Cossatot faculty met the challenge, and currently 40% of the college’s courses use only OER materials that are free to students and are continuously updated for relevance and recency. The OER academic quality is overseen by a board consisting of faculty members appointed by Chancellor Cole.

“We engineered our textbook rental/ OER program with the intention of making college attendance less expensive, but we weren’t willing to sacrifice academic quality,” Cole said. “Joining the OTN helps us ensure student academic success through high quality resources.”

Joining the OTN includes on-campus workshops led by the network’s experts to support faculty adoption of open textbooks. Ruth attended the 2018 OTN week-long Summer Institute and Summit in Minnesota during July. As the college’s OER Specialist, she will continue training to facilitate future workshops and help OTN collect measurable data of open textbooks’ impact for UA Cossatot students.

“UA Cossatot was the first in Arkansas to implement its own textbook rental/ OER program, so it seems only fitting that we become the first institution in the state to join the OTN,” Ruth said. “Being an OTN member puts us in a position to provide continuing leadership in the use of OER.”

The OTN is a rapidly-growing network of colleges and universities promoting access, affordability, and student success by using open textbooks and free open educational resources. The network houses an open textbook library available for faculty review and adoption, and promotes the dual benefits OER offers as it contributes to student academic success as well as allowing faculty to reclaim their courses based on their own expertise.