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University of Maryland University College was featured last week as an “answer” on the popular quiz show, “Jeopardy!” UMUC’s mention came during a quarterfinal round of the show’s annual College Championship.

Rebecca Rosenthal, a sophomore at Swarthmore College, chose the “College Slashes” category for $600 and up came: “In 2015–16 the University of Maryland University College got rid of these—course materials are now online and free.”

However, quarterfinalist Carsen Smith, a senior at Vanderbilt University, buzzed in first with her correct answer in question form, “What are textbooks?” View a video clip of the winning answer. 

UMUC, indeed, became the first major university in the country to eliminate textbooks and use Open Educational Resources (OERs)—digital materials available on the Internet—in most of its online classes, potentially saving students thousands of dollars over the course of their degree programs.

The transition to OERs began with The Undergraduate School in the fall of the 2014–15 academic year; The Graduate School completed the same process by the end of the 2016–17 academic year.

“Turning such a vast university into a textbook-free zone, though, has been no small task,” said Thomas C. Bailey, now the vice dean of science programs, in an August 2013 article on the UMUC Global Media Center. “It has almost gotten to the point where textbooks are as expensive as the cost of a class. That becomes a barrier when students are shelling out that much money to try to better themselves or get [ahead] in the work world.”

The change was prompted in part by the rising cost of textbooks combined with opportunities now available to find and access peer-reviewed content and information in specialized databases and other digital sources, the article said.

In addition to national media coverage of the move, the higher education community also took notice. The Open Education Consortium recognized UMUC with its 2015 President’s Award, granted to an individual or institution that shows exceptional leadership and commitment to open-source education.