Astronomy Course Among Earliest Adopters of Open Textbooks at UWM

Instead of having to purchase an expensive textbook or going without, students enrolled in the survey course Astronomy 103 in fall 2017 were offered a no-cost online textbook—OpenStax Astronomy.

At the end of the semester, the instructors asked students about the open resource. Nearly unanimously, their answers were positive. This response was typical:

“I loved having a free online textbook. As a poor college student working two jobs, I dislike having to pay an extra $100 to use a textbook for only four months before having to return it and getting no money back. As a bonus, it was very easy to read on my long commute to school.”

Six years later, UWM Physics Professor Dawn Erb and her fellow Astronomy 103 instructors continue to use OpenStax Astronomy, knowing how much their students appreciate its affordability. Since 2017, more than 4,000 students have saved an estimated total of $312,000.

Erb and her colleagues transitioned from a traditional textbook to the open resource with the assistance of the UWM Open Textbook and OER (open educational resources) Project, a  collaborative effort led by the UWM Libraries and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

The goal of the project is to increase textbook affordability and promote alignment of learning resources with course objectives. Faculty may apply for stipends to help with the transition to open textbooks, OERs, and other course materials that are no additional cost to students in credit-bearing courses.

The Open Textbook and OER Project is offering stipends to faculty and faculty groups at this time. Applications are here:

An introductory open textbook workshop will be held virtually on Thursday, October 26, 2023. Participants in this workshop will be eligible for a $200 stipend when they review an open textbook for their course.

For more information, contact Kristin Woodward, UWM Libraries, or Amy Mangrich, CETL, at

October 23-29 is International Open Access Week. Learn more here.