March 30, 2017

Mini-Grants Offer Potential to Save More Than 8,000 Students $1.3 Million in Textbook Costs During Fall 2017

Adelphi, MD (March 30, 2017) -- The University System of Maryland's (USM) William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation today announced 21 grantees who will receive support to adopt, adapt and scale the use of open educational resources (OER) through the Maryland Open Source Textbook (MOST) initiative High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program.  The grants will be provided to faculty who are adopting, adapting or scaling the use of OER in Fall 2017 through high-enrollment courses where quality OER exists.  Grants will be spread across 7 Maryland community colleges and 5 Maryland public four-year institutions, with the potential to save over 8,000 students $1.3 million in textbook costs over the Fall 2017 semester.

"The replacement of traditional textbooks with OER has the potential to make higher education in the State of Maryland more affordable and accessible for students," said Kirwan Center director MJ Bishop.  "Through the High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program, our goal is to strategically scale up effective implementation of OER across the state and significantly increase the number of students who are impacted through textbook cost savings."

In the U.S., the cost of textbooks in higher education has risen exponentially.  Since 1978, the cost of textbooks has risen 812%, outpacing even the cost of medical services and new housing. Nationally, students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks.  Within Maryland alone, 2-year and 4-year students spend over $223 million in textbooks.

The Kirwan Center announced the MOST initiative High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program in February 2017 with a call for proposals across Maryland public higher education institutions.  Grantees will receive faculty release time to prepare OER courses, participate in workshops, and collect data.  In addition to receiving a mini-grant, the winners will also receive support from Lumen Learning, including training on effective OER design and scaling strategies, personalized support for OER adoption and delivery, access to a collection of curated OER courses, and a platform to build, edit and deliver their course.

"Community college students are among the most vulnerable to the rising costs associated with higher education," said Community College of Baltimore County President Sandra Kurtinitis. "Although our faculty view textbooks as essential, some of our students see them as a luxury they cannot afford. Having access to open educational resources will provide some financial relief for our students as well as contribute to their academic success."

"BCCC is grateful to the USM William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation for the opportunity and support for open educational resources through the High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program," said Gordon F. May, president of Baltimore City Community College (BCCC).  "Through this grant, our faculty and staff will engage students in innovative teaching and learning practices to increase access and affordability."

The MOST initiative began in August 2013 as a collaboration between the USM Student Council and the Kirwan Center to provide a state-wide opportunity for faculty to explore the promise of OERs to reduce students' cost of attendance while maintaining, or perhaps even improving, learning outcomes.  Since its beginning just three years ago, the MOST initiative has supported the replacement of traditional textbooks with OER in over 60 different courses at 14 public higher education institutions across the state resulting in over $1 million in cumulative cost savings for over 3,500 students.

In addition to saving students money, faculty have gained the ability to adapt and customize their instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with their pedagogical methods to best meet their students' needs. In follow up surveys with students participating in the MOST initiative, 93% reported that the OER content they used was the same or better quality than traditional textbooks.

"The stress or unease students feel when they arrive to class, ready to work hard and learn, only to discover the cost of textbooks for a course are beyond their means is a reality for far too many students," said Fasika Delessa, vice president of Academic Affairs at the University of Maryland Student Government Association.  "OER provides an affordable alternative that can make all the difference for students overwhelmed by rising costs in all aspects of higher education."

The announcement of the High-impact OER Mini-Grant awardees coincides with Open Education Week 2017, an annual celebration of the global Open Education Movement to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.  Through targeted and strategic OER implementation, the High-impact OER Mini-Grant program will build on the success of the MOST initiative to develop a robust and sustainable network of people, technology, and processes at Maryland public 2- and 4-year institutions.  See the full list of grantees.

Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719

Through the High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program, our goal is to strategically scale up effective implementation of OER across the state and significantly increase the number of students who are impacted through textbook cost savings.
February 28, 2017

USM and edX to Launch MicroMasters Programs, Which May Accelerate Path to Advanced Degrees. Non-Degree Programs in Bioinformatics, Cloud Computing, Instructional Design and Technology, and Software Testing and Verification, will be offered by national online education leader UMUC.

Adelphi, Md. (Feb. 28, 2017) -- The University System of Maryland (USM) is partnering with edX, the free online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT, to offer four new MicroMasters® Programs. These programs consist of free, non-credit master's-level courses, which can accelerate the pathway to an advanced degree and save students thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.

The non-degree programs in Bioinformatics, Cloud Computing, Instructional Design and Technology, and Software Testing and Verification will be offered by national online education leader University of Maryland University College (UMUC), a USM member institution.

MicroMasters® programs consist of three or four courses and are an important modular and flexible credential for the digital age, promising to serve as academic currency in a world in which lifelong learning is increasingly important. These programs also support an inverted admissions process, allowing learners everywhere to try master's-level coursework from UMUC before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a full master's degree program.

(More information about the edX national announcement today of its national partners, including USM, can be found here.)

Through UMUC's prior-learning assessment process, those who successfully complete a MicroMasters® program may be able to apply the non-credit courses toward the master's degree program in that subject area at UMUC. Academicians at the university estimate that 20 to 50 percent of a master's degree could be completed through these MicroMasters® programs.

"This next step in the USM partnership with edX reflects the system's emphasis on making our graduates marketable to future employers," said USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret. "The MicroMasters® concept will ease the pathway toward graduate degree completion, another way USM is serving the needs of Maryland employers and students."

"The MicroMasters® programs align perfectly with our mission to provide a quality, accessible, and affordable pathway to an education," said UMUC President Javier Miyares. "Through these programs, we can offer working adults the opportunity to gain a credential at no cost, giving them a leg up with their employers and boosting their careers by speeding their progress toward an advanced degree."

"UMUC's offerings mark an exciting step toward furthering our shared mission to expand access to high-quality education," said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and professor at MIT. "The MicroMasters® programs on edX empower learners everywhere to improve their lives and advance their careers. Signaling the next level of innovation in learning, MicroMasters® programs are designed to meet the needs of both universities and employers by providing learners with the in-demand knowledge and skills needed for success in today's rapidly-evolving and tech-driven world."

In September 2016, edX and 14 international partners launched 19 MicroMasters® programs, offering courses in popular subjects such as artificial intelligence and user experience design.  The USM joins edX and top global university partners in expanding the initiative, offering learners everywhere access to high-quality, career-focused education. UMUC has launched the largest number of MicroMasters programs (4) on edX.

UMUC MicroMasters® programs will be launched in May on the edX platform and are open for enrollment beginning today.


About UMUC

A pioneer in distance education since 1947, University of Maryland University College is a world leader in innovative education models, with award-winning online programs in workforce-relevant areas such as cybersecurity, biotechnology, data analytics, and information technology. UMUC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission-to meet the learning needs of adult students whose responsibilities often include jobs, families, and military service. Today, UMUC is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver high quality education that is accessible, affordable, and valued.

UMUC Contact: Bob Ludwig  (301) 985-7253 


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719

The MicroMasters® programs align perfectly with our mission to provide a quality, accessible, and affordable pathway to an education.
February 9, 2017

The Maryland Open Source Textbook (MOST) initiative is seeking proposals for a new High-impact OER Mini-Grant program to strategically support Maryland public institutions’ efforts to adopt/adapt Open Educational Resources (OERs) or scale OER adoption.  Learn more about how to apply.

Apply for a mini-grant to adopt/adapt OER or scale OER efforts at your institution.