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UNG recognized for efforts to reduce textbook costs

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The University of North Georgia is providing open educational resources for students through a variety of projects, including open-source, electronic textbooks. Providing low-cost and no-cost materials can help students save hundreds of dollars on class materials each semester.

With multiple successful digital textbook projects and as many as 10 more on the horizon, the University of North Georgia (UNG) has been recognized as one of the state's leaders in providing open educational resources for students.

UNG has won an award for Innovation and Early Success in Textbook Transformation from Affordable Learning Georgia, a University System of Georgia (USG) initiative aimed at making college more affordable by encouraging open-source, electronic textbooks. The award honors faculty for their transformations of the textbook to no-cost, open educational resources. Recognized from UNG is Al Walters, associate professor of physics, who saved students an estimated $8,400 by adopting a college physics text by OpenStax College, a nonprofit organization through Rice University that produces free textbooks.

UNG also has produced digital textbooks – a U.S. history text released last year and a world literature book still in production – in projects spearheaded by the University Press of North Georgia (UPNG), led by Dr. B.J. Robinson, a professor of English at UNG. Robinson said UPNG has been asked to develop 10 more open access textbooks for eCore, a USG initiative that provides students the opportunity to complete their core curriculum online.

"In developing these core area textbooks, we will apply the collaborative model that we developed with USG for the U.S. history textbook," Robinson said. "This model comprises such publishing aspects as development, editorial review, open and traditional pre-publication peer review, instructional design, copyright clearance, and production/design templates."

In his budget presentation before state lawmakers in early 2014, USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby highlighted the UPNG-produced history textbook as an example of how the system is working to maintain student affordability and increase effectiveness and efficiency. Some 769 students from across the system's 31 member institutions have used the U.S. history book, for an estimated total savings of $76,900. USG students have saved more than $1 million in the past academic year through the adoption of low- and no-cost materials, according to figures from the USG.

Through a grant from Complete College Georgia, UPNG is working on a world literature book that will be offered free as a digital version and low-cost as a printed edition. UPNG also has produced two low-cost printed textbooks – an American government book and a world history book, both written by UNG professors.

"B.J. is doing an excellent job of growing the press as a leader in open-access publishing," said Dr. Deborah Prosser, UNG's dean of libraries and a partner in the university's work on open educational resources. "The UNG Libraries are partnering with the press on one USG grant-funded textbook for world literature and are embarking on a second publication on information literacy in support of library research courses. We are fortunate to have the press leading the way in such efforts at UNG."

The innovation awards were presented at a two-day symposium "The Future of the Textbook," hosted by Affordable Learning Georgia on Dec. 11-12 that included state and national speakers talking about textbook affordability and emerging and visionary solutions of the future. Sessions included perspectives from students and publishers and discussions of new roles for college bookstores, libraries and presses.

Robinson spoke at the symposium about the changing role of university presses in the future of textbooks, detailing the collaborative model used to produce the U.S. history book.

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