NDUS Open Textbook Institute steps toward new resources

September 30, 2015

An upcoming event packs a lot of potential into a relatively short timeframe. The Open Textbook Institute at Valley City State University Oct. 6-8 will bring faculty, staff, librarians and technologists together from throughout the state. Attendees will hear from experts Dave Ernst, Ph. D. and Sarah Cohen on the topic of Open Educational Resources (OER) and the collection of free, adaptable, openly-licensed textbooks at the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Library.

Tanya Spilovoy, Ed.D., director of distance education and state authorization for the North Dakota University System, has been a top proponent of OER in the state for the past two years. Her research and efforts helped shape lawmakers’ perspectives on the topic during the last legislative session. Spilovoy expanded her knowledge base at the University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Network Summer Institute earlier this year. Set to speak at the upcoming event, Spilovoy notes that OER provides an exciting opportunity for N.D.

“Open textbooks have the potential to lower certain costs for NDUS students while giving faculty more control of their course content,” Spilovoy said. “There is increasing evidence showing that the use of open textbooks results in student outcomes that are equal to or better than commercial textbooks.”

The university system has joined the University of Minnesota Open Textbook Network, which consists of more than 75 institutions including Purdue, University of Arizona, the Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Cal Poly, and others. The Open Textbook Library at the U-M houses a collection of free textbooks that are both openly-licensed and peer-reviewed. Through the utilization of open textbooks, University of Minnesota faculty have saved more than $500,000 in textbook costs for students.

Next week’s Open Textbook Institute is focused on high-enrollment courses with high-cost textbooks to facilitate the largest impact. Spilovoy noted that it is exciting to see so many stakeholders working together to try and reduce the cost of attendance for students.

“In a pilot study conducted at Lake Region State College, Biology 111 Instructor Michelle Murphy replaced a $166.39 textbook with an open textbook she authored, saving $2,828.63 for the 17 students enrolled in the course,” she said. “The numbers say it all.”

The NDUS is providing the training and associated resources to institutions so they are able to have the tools necessary to take ownership of the project in the long-term. The 64th Legislative Assembly appropriated $110,000 to fund the project; Spilovoy is conducting research to show how it will positively impact students. The effort is in line with N.D. House Concurrent Resolutions from the 2013 session and will provide the tools for institutions to create their own foundations to implement free, openly-licensed textbooks and resources.

“Faculty assess the quality and efficacy of instructional resources for their courses,” Spilovoy said, adding that academic freedom was a high priority for many professors. “Faculty that choose OER have the opportunity to review, adopt, modify and author instructional materials. It gives faculty the opportunity to customize their course content.”

A breakdown of the seminar follows.

The Tuesday, Oct. 6 workshop will equip campus leaders to start their own OER campus initiative. This workshop is recommended for librarians, technologists and general education faculty leaders. The Campus Leaders Workshop addresses two areas: affordability in higher education and open as part of the solution to the affordability crisis. Workshop attendees will focus on how open resources can address the financial challenges of students and increase academic success. Participants will learn what open textbooks are, where they can find them, and how they can lead an initiative at a campus level.

The Wednesday, Oct. 7 workshop will guide faculty leaders in the review of materials and open textbook adoption process. It is recommended for faculty who teach courses using textbooks comparable to those found in the Open Textbook Library at http://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/.

The Faculty Development Workshop addresses two areas: affordability in higher education and open as part of the solution to the affordability crisis. Workshop attendees will focus on how open resources can address the financial challenges of students and increase academic success. Participants will learn what open textbooks are, where they can find them, and what benefits they can bring to their classroom and their students. Faculty will be asked to engage with open textbooks by writing a brief review using an easy rubric that contributes to a peer-reviewed, credible online library of open textbooks (open.umn.edu).

The Thursday, Oct. 8 workshop will discuss technology, instructional design and integration of OER. It is recommended for distance education leaders and instructional designers. The Distance Education Workshop addresses two areas: affordability in higher education and open education as part of the solution to the affordability crisis. Workshop attendees will focus on understanding what open textbooks are, technology integration, faculty support and compliance.

Watch the Q & A with Spilovoy below for more information: