Saving Students Money With Free Online Textbooks

The University System of Georgia has been a nationwide leader in helping students save money through free online textbooks. UGA has been at the forefront of those efforts, helping its students save more than $2 million in textbooks since 2013.

USG was named the No. 1 system nationwide by Rice University-based publisher OpenStax at saving students money through adoption of OpenStax free digital college textbooks  in the 2015-16 academic school year. USG institutions helped nearly 36,000 students save $3.5 million. That same year, UGA helped save students over $986,500 through the use of Open Educational Resources. OERs are free teaching, learning and research resources.

"For our faculty teaching online, OERs offer the opportunity to make courses even more accessible to students by providing learning materials at no cost to students," said Deanna Cozart, coordinator of OER at the UGA Center for Teaching and Learning.

"Many of our faculty who teach online utilize these free materials to replace textbooks.  For example, this summer, Dr. Brian Dotts in the College of Education used entirely open materials he created in place of a traditional textbook that cost students around $80 new in his online course,” explained Cozart. “Students who used the materials reported strong feedback that they appreciated both the customized content and that they were free.”

UGA's success with OERs comes from the backing of the USG. The Center for Teaching and Learning has received four USG grants to help fund free textbook implementation, including grants through Affordable Learning Georgia, a USG initiative that promotes the use of lower cost alternatives to traditional textbooks.

There are many types of free educational material on the web, including YouTube videos and Google Books as well as a wealth of materials offered through the UGA libraries. However, the biggest savings come from using free textbooks, especially for large-enrollment introductory courses.

While "free" can be synonymous with low quality, many of these textbooks are written and peer-reviewed by faculty experts. The OER nonprofit publisher OpenStax uses a process similar to for-profit academic publishers for ensuring quality.

This article has been adapted from the original version found on the UGA website.