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Scholarly Communication

UMass Amherst Students Reveal the Real Cost of High-Price Textbooks in Open Education Week Video

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In a new video for Open Education Week, March 5-9, 2018, current UMass Amherst students share their experiences with high-cost textbooks–what they do to avoid buying them and the burden they create on their financial lives.

In order to combat these rising costs, the video presents faculty use of Open Educational Resources (OER) as an alternative. These resources are educational materials offered freely and openly for anyone to use and, under some licenses, to remix, improve, and redistribute.

Since 2011, the UMass Amherst Libraries have funded the creation of many such resources through the Open Education Initiative (OEI). Three of the UMass Amherst faculty members interviewed in the video, Anna Branch (Sociology), Brokk Toggerson (Physics), and Robert Maloy (Education), are recipients of OEI Grants and discuss their experiences using OER in the classroom.

The video was produced by Jeremy Smith ’94, Digital Projects Manager in Scholarly Communication and Communication Department Liaison, with the assistance of students Sam Appleman ’19 and Lucas Patenaude ’18.

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UMass Amherst Libraries Announce New Open Textbook: Introduction to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Thanks to a grant from the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Open Education Initiative (OEI) and the Libraries’ recent partnership with the Open Textbook Network and Rebus Community, faculty member Miliann Kang, Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies students Sonny Nordmarken, Laura Heston, and Donovan Lessard have created an updated version of Kang’s 2012 open textbook, Introduction to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies just in time for the 2017-18 fall semester. Since it was first published, this freely available e-book has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

Since 2011, in an effort to address the rising cost of textbooks, the Libraries’ Scholarly Communication office has been offering instructors opportunities to replace expensive commercial textbooks and instead use Open Educational Resources (OER): high quality teaching materials that are openly licensed and free. The Open Education Initiative offers incentive grants to faculty like Kang to adopt, adapt, or create alternatives to these high-cost texts. The Initiative has saved students at UMass more than $1.7M to date.

Using Pressbooks software, Kang and Nordmarken designed a downloadable textbook with dynamic content that was subsequently published by the Libraries with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. This CC-BY license allows anyone in the world with internet access to use and download the book as-is, or to modify the text to suit their local context, i.e. to translate, create, and publish their own version, as long as proper attribution is given to the original author.

Miliann Kang is an associate professor in the university’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and an Advisor for Diversity in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. In addition to their doctoral studies in Sociology, Sonny Nordmarken, Laura Heston, and Donovan Lessard have each received a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. The Pressbooks version of their textbook, Introduction to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, is now available via the Open Textbook Library, or a printable version via the university’s local institutional repository, Scholarworks, hosted by the Libraries.

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Northeast Regional Open Educational Resources (OER) Summit

Tuesday, June 13 & Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The UMass Amherst Libraries will host the Northeast Regional Open Educational Resources (OER) Summit which takes place on the Lower Level of the UMass Campus Center on Tuesday, June 13, and Wednesday, June 14, 2017. For more information, visit:

The Northeast Regional OER Summit is a multi-state collaborative event for new and experienced OER advocates offering the opportunity to learn and share effective practices in awareness building, implementation, collaboration, strategy, and research.

Dr. David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Oregon-based OER company Lumen Learning, is the Summit’s keynote speaker. Dr. Wiley is a prominent and influential thinker in the world of open education and is credited with developing the concept of open pedagogy. His blog, Iterating Toward Openness, explores OER, open licensing, and student success. 

“David Wiley is a visionary thinker on OER issues and it is a real treat to have him here at UMass Amherst where he has been a great influence on our OER efforts since 2011,” said the Libraries’ Digital Projects Manager Jeremy Smith.

The first day of the Summit, June 13, is geared towards campus leaders involved in defining and driving campus strategy around open education initiatives. June 14 is beneficial to all those engaged in higher education-focused open education initiatives, including faculty, librarians, instructional technologists, administrators and other campus leaders.  

“This is the first large-scale regional OER event in the Northeast and really speaks to the maturity and growth of the OER movement across the U.S. in the last five years,” said Marilyn Billings, Head of the Libraries’ Scholarly Communications office and pioneer in the field of OER.

Sessions will address OER-related topics from diverse perspectives: librarians, faculty, instructional designers, administrators, funding agencies, activists, and advocates and will range from introductory to advanced and address relevant and timely topics such as copyright, case studies, challenges, technology, and the future of OER. 

The event is funded in part by a $20 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to a coalition of Massachusetts community colleges. Registration for the Summit is now open, visit:


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Libraries Accepting Applications for Spring 2017 Open Education Initiative Faculty Grants

Deadline is May 3, 2017

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The UMass Amherst Libraries are accepting applications for spring 2017 Open Education Initiative (OEI) faculty grants. Now in its eighth cycle, the OEI is a faculty incentive program that encourages the use of existing, or the creation of new, openly-licensed, low-cost, or free information resources to support UMass Amherst students’ learning. Applications are due by Wednesday May 3, 2017. For details and to apply:

Data shows that the cost of textbooks affects the academic choices and success of students. When required to buy prohibitively expensive textbooks, students will often opt for illegal PDFs online, buy outdated textbooks, or not acquire textbooks at all. To date, the OEI has generated a savings of over $1.6 million for students in classes that utilize open educational resources or free library material and is a model for similar programs across the country.

The OEI aims to encourage the development of alternatives to high-cost textbooks by supporting the adoption, adaptation, or creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). It provides support to faculty to implement these approaches, thereby lowering the cost of college for students, which contributes to their retention, progression, and graduation, as well as encouraging faculty engagement in new pedagogical models for classroom instruction.

The grants will be awarded on four levels of funding; Adopt, Adapt, Create, and Other, and are available based on the scale of the project proposed. Amounts range from $500 for incorporating an existing open textbook or open course content (such as OpenStax, or TED Talk videos); $1,500-$2,500 for combining existing OER with new or existing openly licensed content to bridge gaps in available resources; or $10,000 for creating a new open educational resource, such as authoring a new openly licensed textbook, when there are no sufficient OER currently available to meet learning objectives.

Grant winners will be announced in May 2017, and will be expected to implement their projects by the fall 2017 or winter/spring/summer 2018 semesters. 


OER Global Logo: Jonathas Mello (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons 

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Results of Open Education Initiative survey announced

February 8, 2017


The UMass Amherst Libraries’ Scholarly Communication office surveyed undergraduate students enrolled in classes participating in the Open Education Initiative (OEI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The OEI is a faculty incentive program that encourages the adoption, adaption, or creation of existing low-cost or free information resources to support UMass Amherst students’ learning.

As part of the Initiative, grants are awarded to faculty to explore alternatives to high cost textbooks in an effort to remove cost barriers for students. Faculty are encouraged to create their own course materials, use existing Open Educational Resources (OER) provided by the Libraries, such as journal articles, streaming video, and eBooks, or a combination of all of the above. Seven faculty were awarded grants of $1,000 to $2,500 in the spring of 2016 to transform their classes away from textbooks using OER in fall 2016 or spring 2017 semesters.

The Libraries worked with faculty to survey their students to gather feedback on the alternative materials being used in their classes, as well as student opinions and habits around textbooks in other classes. Four hundred fifty eight students from courses in Physics, Kinesiology, Astronomy, French, German, and Human Development, took the survey.

Eighty-eight percent of the students found the quality of the low cost or free materials in the OEI classes were as good or better than textbooks used in their other courses. Over half of the students agreed that by using the free or openly licensed materials, they were more prepared, engaged, and achieved the learning outcomes of the class. Seventy-eight percent said they would enroll in another course that used low cost or free materials.

In the survey comments, students appreciated the efforts of UMass Amherst faculty to alleviate the burden of high cost textbooks. One student said, “I love this method of textbook requirements. If we had to purchase another $300 textbook, I may have considered dropping French as a minor.”

In addition to the cost benefit, other students said the OER materials made their class experience more enjoyable, “The readings that were presented catered more to a student attempting to understand the material in a way that is more learning-friendly.” … “I was able to better understand the content we were learning, because the best reading possible was selected [by the professor] to explain a concept, as opposed to just following a textbook where some content may be explained more clearly than others.”

When asked about their academic decisions in relation to textbooks, 59 percent said they had not purchased a textbook for a class because it was too expensive, 20 percent said that they had not taken a class because the textbook materials were too expensive, 24 percent said they took a different class because of the cost, and 49 percent said they made different decisions about their education because of student debt.

Additionally, students found a myriad of ways to avoid buying an assigned textbook; 50 percent downloaded an illegal copy online, 66 percent shared a textbook with classmates, and 44 percent “used an earlier edition of a textbook even though the professor told us to use the newest edition.” Sixty-two percent of the students surveyed spend more than $200 each semester on class materials.

The survey found that, contrary to popular assumptions, students prefer print to digital texts; 40 percent said they prefer print, compared to 28 percent for digital texts such as blogs, articles, wiki articles, etc., 17 percent prefer eBooks, and 15 percent prefer video-based materials.

Faculty were supportive of the pedagogical benefits of the OEI program. By using OER, faculty were able to utilize elements from a variety of openly licensed sources and tailor them to their own classes. After completing his grant, astronomy professor Daniel Wang said, “In addition to the benefits to the students, I now can customize the course materials to best fit my teaching and I won’t have the problem with any mismatching between my lecture and an often unnecessary update of a traditional hard copy textbook by the publisher.”

To learn more about UMass Amherst Libraries’ Open Educational Resources and the Open Education Initiative, visit 


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University Libraries and Partners host Open Access Week Events

October 24-30, 2016


The UMass Amherst Libraries, the UMass Graduate School, and the Office of Research will host a series of Open Access Week 2016 events relevant to open access, copyright and fair use, data sharing, and electronic theses and dissertations.  All events are free and open to the public. 

Open Access Week, a global event in its ninth year, will be held from October 24-30, 2016. For the full schedule of events at UMass Amherst, visit:

The theme this year, “Open in Action,” encourages all stakeholders to take concrete steps to make their own work more openly available and encourage others to do the same. From posting pre-prints in a repository to supporting colleagues in making their work more accessible, this year’s Open Access Week will focus on moving from discussion to action in opening up our system for communicating research. For more information about International Open Access Week, visit

Tuesday, October 25
Open Access, Copyright and Fair Use for Theses and Dissertations
12:30-2 p.m., W.E.B. Du Bois Library, Room 2601


This event will give graduate students an overview of open access and the benefits of choosing open access for electronic theses and dissertations. Erin Jerome, Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian, will provide an overview of copyright and fair use as it relates to theses and dissertations. Discussion time will explore graduate students’ thoughts about open access and copyright issues. Refreshments will be served. Co-sponsored by the University Libraries and the Graduate School.

Wednesday, October 26
Wikipedia Wednesday: Edit-a-Thon Workshop 
12-4 p.m., W.E.B. Du Bois Library, Room 1920

Have you ever wanted to use Wikipedia in your classroom? Have you been asked to help instructors with Wikipedia assignments? Do you just think Wikipedia is great and want to help students and/or instructors use it better? Laura Quilter, Copyright and Information Policy Librarian, will include an overview of Wikipedia’s principles, an introduction to the mechanics of editing pages and communicating with others, and an overview of how the Wikipedia Education program works. Following the initial training, there will be an edit-a-thon for hands-on experience. Areas of focus this year include topics relating to sustainability and Native activism, such as the recent DAPL protests. Refreshments will be served.

Thursday, October 27
Open Access and Compliance with Funder Mandates
10-11:30 am., Life Science Laboratories (LSL) S330

This workshop will provide an introduction to the current state of funder mandates and the library resources available to you to facilitate meeting compliance requirements. Thea Atwood, the Libraries’ Data Specialist, will cover the requirements of the top funders (and provide methods to gain information on the requirements for other funding agencies), resources to help you write your data management plan, the benefit of adding a digital object identifier (DOI) to your work, and sharing your scholarly outputs with ScholarWorks – both publications and data. Co-sponsored by the University Libraries and the Office of Research.


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UMass Faculty Senate Passes Open Access Policy

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The UMass Amherst Libraries is excited to announce that the Faculty Senate passed a campus-wide Open Access Policy in April of 2016. This policy, which went into effect on July 1, allows faculty to retain the copyright to their scholarly articles and encourages them to deposit copies into our institutional repository, ScholarWorks. The Libraries will work closely with appropriate groups on campus to assist in implementing the policy.

For more detailed information about the policy and how it will affect faculty publishing, see:

UMass Faculty Senate, Open Access Policy and FAQ
Open Access Initiatives at UMass Amherst
ScholarWorks, the UMass Amherst institutional repository

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communication +1

Indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals

communication plus one NEW

The UMass Amherst Libraries announce that communication+1, the open access journal hosted by the institutional repository for UMass Amherst, Scholarworks, is now being indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the internationally recognized directory of high quality, peer-reviewed open access journals.

The inclusion of communication+1 in the DOAJ will expand its reach into more traditional scholarly communication circles such as Thomson Reuters and Scopus.

“It is a meaningful step forward for communication+1 to be indexed by DOAJ. I see this as a sign of confirmation for the vision we had when we started the project,” says Briankle G. Chang, editor-in-chief.

The aim of communication +1, which has been housed in Scholarworks since 2012, is to promote new approaches to and open new horizons in the study of communication from an interdisciplinary perspective. The journal is particularly committed to promoting research that seeks to constitute new areas of inquiry and to explore new frontiers of theoretical activities linking the study of communication to both established and emerging research programs in the humanities, social sciences, and arts.

Other than the commitment to rigorous scholarship, communication +1 sets no specific agenda. Its primary objective is to create a space for thoughtful experiments and for communicating these experiments. As an open access journal, communication +1’s content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users may read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author.

communication +1 is an excellent example of the partnership that the UMass Amherst Libraries and faculty can engage in to foster open collaborative scholarship,” says Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication and Special Initiatives Librarian. “I applaud the vision that Briankle provided in the creation of this journal and the tenacity that Zachary J. McDowell brought as the managing editor to get this work recognized in the Directory of Open Access Journals.”

DOAJ was founded following the Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication in 2002 and maintained initially by Lund University. The Infrastructure Services for Open Access (IS40A) took over management of the Directory in January of 2013. The goal of the Directory is to increase the visibility and ease of use of open access scientific and scholarly journals, thereby promoting their increased usage and impact.

“This is a tremendous milestone and significant achievement for communication + 1.” Says Erica Scharrer, Chair of the UMass Amherst Department of Communication, “The success of the journal is testament to the hard work and expertise of the editorial staff and clearly demonstrates the demand for and relevance of high-quality Communication scholarship in today’s world.” 

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Open Access Week 2015 Announcements

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Open Education Initiative Grants
Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian Position
Supporting Open Access Research Fund
Libraries Host Open Access Publications
Finding Fair Use Articles and Other Materials
Massachusetts Government Documents Collection Digitized

Since 2006, the UMass Amherst Libraries have been selecting materials to be digitized and uploaded to the Internet Archive. One unique collection that the UMass Amherst Libraries has been digitizing for the past 6 years is the Massachusetts Government Documents Collection.

This 8,000 piece collection contains publications from Massachusetts State Agencies that range in variety and scope from the Journal of the House of Representatives in 1784-1785 to the Seventh Annual 100 Unsung Heroines of Massachusetts, published in 2010.

All Massachusetts Government Documents in the Libraries’ collection have now been digitized: The documents are freely available on the Internet Archive’s website.  In making these materials available digitally to all, the UMass Amherst Libraries continues to support the Land Grant mission on which this public institution was founded on the successful completion of this project.

Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian Position

The Libraries are now accepting applications for the new Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian. The ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst institutional repository is one of the oldest and largest IRs in the Digital Commons BePress system, with nearly 6 million downloads. It is an integral part of open access efforts on campus. For more information on how to apply, visit

Supporting Open Access Research Fund

The Libraries are accepting applications for the Supporting Open Access Research (SOAR) Fund, a pilot program of $25,000 to support researchers who are publishing in open access peer-reviewed venues. For more information, visit

Libraries Host Open Access Publications

The Libraries host open access publications such as the African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter, Communication +1, Journal of Medicinally Active Plants, Landscapes of Violence,mOthertongue, Portuguese Cultural Studies, and Edge: A Graduate Journal for German and Scandinavian Studies. These journals represent a broad range of subject fields and have an international impact. To view them, visit For more information on how to start a new open access journal, contact

Open Education Initiative Grants

The Libraries and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD) will be offering another series of grants to faculty as part of their Open Education Initiative (OEI). Visit the OEI website to find out more and apply. The UMass Amherst Open Education Initiative has saved students over $1.3 million and is a model for similar programs across the country.

Finding Fair Use Articles and Other Materials

Can’t find what you want openly available? The Libraries are here to support fair use of articles chapters and other materials. Connect with our Digital Course Reserves services through the Amazon Textbook Adoption tool (Click the “Add Coursepack” button, then the Learn More link), through the Moodle UMass Libraries Course Materials block or via email at

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Faculty Grants: Open Education Initiative

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Open Access Week 2015: The University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries along with the Center for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD) will be offering another series of grants to faculty as part of their Open Education Initiative (OEI). Visit our OEI website to find out more and apply. The UMass Amherst Open Education Initiative has saved students over $1.3 million and is a model for similar programs across the country.


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