Open Textbook Network: The Power of Community

Author Posts Oct 24, 2017

Open education means providing greater access to knowledge and learning. It also means significant institutional change, something that takes time and concerted effort to be successful.

The Open Textbook Network (OTN) is a community of higher education leaders dedicated to advancing open education best practices on their college campuses. Together, we build and share resources, data and expertise focused on open textbooks.

In the U.S., OTN membership now includes 15% of higher education. In the UK, the OTN has recently started working with the UK Open Textbooks project on their research into the viability of importing open academic textbooks into UK colleges and universities.

What We Mean by Open

We define an open textbook as one that has an open license that makes it free for anyone to use and change. It can be print or digital. All open textbooks can be downloaded and adopted for free without additional permissions or paperwork.

The vast majority of open textbooks have a Creative Commons license that allows for editing, adapting and making derivatives of the original work, so that faculty can customize the resource for their needs. This may include regional examples, updates to reflect policy changes, or recent research findings, for example. We believe the ability to make changes to an open textbook is integral to its definition as open.

Open Textbook Library

The Open Textbook Library is an openly available resource that’s supported by the Open Textbook Network. It was started so that faculty could find open textbooks in one place and consider whether or not an open textbook may meet their needs. For those who decide it does, an open textbook adoption creates a measurable, positive impact on student success.

With more than 430 open textbooks (and growing all the time!), the Open Textbook Library is the comprehensive resource for openly licensed academic textbooks. They are published by a variety of authors and publishers, including Open Book Publishers. Many of the open textbooks include faculty reviews, which are provided by members of the Open Textbook Network during in-person workshops. The reviews are just one way the Open Textbook Network supports open educational programming at the local level.

The network has been invaluable; by pooling knowledge and resources, we benefit from the expertise of the growing network and don’t have to go it alone or reinvent the wheel. –  Karen Williams, Dean, University of Arizona Libraries. Former President, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

For the Common Good

In addition to providing professional development and community support, the Open Textbook Network also creates resources available to anyone who wants to move open education forward:

For Open Access Week 2017, we join with our colleagues around the world to celebrate our shared commitment to increasing access to knowledge and facilitating collaboration.
The Open Textbook Network is a Center for Open Education program. It’s located at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. For more information, including about how to become a member, visit the Open Textbook Network.

by Karen Lauritsen