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New e-textbook could save students money

An open-source, electronic literature textbook being produced by the University Press of North Georgia could save students money. The textbook will be the second open-source electronic text produced by the University of North Georgia.

In a model that has been touted by University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Hank Huckaby for saving students' money, the University of North Georgia (UNG) is creating its second open-source, electronic textbook that will be available to students and the general public at low or no cost.

Led by Dr. Bonnie Robinson, professor of English and director of the University Press of North Georgia (UPNG), and Dr. Deborah Prosser, dean of libraries, the project uses a $24,929 USG grant to fuel the development of the open-source world literature textbook. Open-source textbooks are licensed under an open copyright license, meaning others can copy or modify the text. The textbook still is being compiled, but the goal is to make it free to access the digital version and low-cost to print, Prosser said.

"Availability of a low- or no-cost text will decrease the cost of taking this course and will increase the likelihood of success in this course and progression to completion," Robinson said. "These positive effects will be available for students throughout the USG, including those who take this course through eCore."

In his budget presentation before state lawmakers earlier this year, Huckaby highlighted an open-source history textbook produced last year by UPNG as an example of how the system is working to maintain student affordability and increase effectiveness and efficiency.

"(USG) staff, working with the University Press of North Georgia, has published an open-source electronic history textbook that potentially saves each USG eCore history student almost $100; similar efforts are underway for other disciplines as well," Huckaby said.

In the latest project, Robinson and Prosser applied for funding to create the world literature textbook through the USG initiative Affordable Learning Georgia, which seeks to create and seek out more open resources to provide cost savings on class resources for students. The initiative arose from the strategic plan developed for Complete College Georgia, a statewide initiative that aims to increase the percentage of Georgia's population with some level of college completion from 42 percent to 60 percent to meet projected workforce needs.

"Open-source textbooks give our students access to a rich resource while lessening the financial strain that traditional textbooks can place on them," said Sheila Caldwell, UNG's director for Complete College Georgia. "Making education more affordable and providing opportunities to increase learning and success is aligned with the mission and goals of Complete College Georgia."

Within the Affordable Learning Georgia initiative, each USG institution has a campus champion and a library coordinator who work together to develop strategies to lower the costs of learning materials. Robinson, serving as champion, and Prosser, serving as coordinator, also present at UNG Faculty Senate meetings to raise awareness and gather ideas.

"In the course sections piloting the new text, lessons will be learned about choosing the appropriate length of selections, making the selections appeal to students and providing appropriate additional resources for insight and context rather than including resources that are more appropriate for advanced level courses," Prosser said. "This no-cost electronic option will replace the costly and underutilized Norton Anthology currently in typical use for this course."

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