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The University of Arkansas at Cossatot is the first college in the state to become a member of the Open Textbook Network, a collective of colleges and universities which provide free online textbooks and educational resources.

In 2015, UA Cossatot became the first two-year college in Arkansas to abandon the traditional campus bookstore and use an internal textbook rental and Open Educational Resource program. Since then, students have saved just under $1.1 million in textbook costs.

Chancellor Steve Cole worked with Relinda Ruth, the director of educational resources and an OER specialist, to develop a program requiring a $30 rental fee per course for all books required in a course. Currently, 40 percent of the college's courses use only OER materials that are free to students and are continuously updated for relevance. The OER academic quality is overseen by a board consisting of faculty members appointed by the chancellor.

"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 stated in a press release. "Joining the OTN helps us ensure student academic success through high-quality resources."

OTN experts also lead on-campus workshops to support faculty adoption of open textbooks. In July, Ruth attended the week-long OTN Summer Institute and Summit in Minnesota. As the college's OER specialist, she will continue training to facilitate future workshops and help OTN collect measurable data on 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."

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