The University System of Maryland’s (USM) William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation announced the award of 29 mini-grants to faculty at 18 public higher education institutions in Maryland to support the adoption, adaptation and scaling of open educational resources (OER). Funded by the Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T.) initiative’s High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program, the grants represent a mix of high-enrollment courses in mathematics, the sciences, the arts, and the humanities at 2- and 4-year institutions, with a potential to save approximately 6,500 students over $1.2 million in Fall 2018 alone.
“With OER, faculty engage directly and collaboratively in the development of learning materials that can save students money and also have the potential to improve the student learning experience and outcomes,” said Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Joann Boughman. “The M.O.S.T. initiative is one example of the strong history of collaboration between 2- and 4-year institutions in Maryland to increase student outcomes and transfer pathways.”
The M.O.S.T. initiative High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program was launched in February 2017 to support the work of the Kirwan Center to enhance OER efforts by targeting high-enrollment courses with existing quality OER at 2- and 4-year public higher education institutions across the state. The first round of mini-grants supported 21 projects at 12 institutions to adopt and scale OER during fall 2017. In partnership with Lumen Learning, grantees receive professional development, support to adapt and develop OER, technical support to deliver OER to their students, and scaling and sustainability planning services in addition to their grant funds.
“Through the use of OER, my students were able to access affordable high-quality learning materials from the very first day of class,” said Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) biology professor Malathi Radhakrishnan. “The M.O.S.T. initiative High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program not only supports the piloting of my OER work, but also helps sustain OER implementation across all sections of my biology course at BCCC.”
The M.O.S.T. initiative began in August 2013 as a collaboration between the USM Student Council and the Kirwan Center to provide a statewide 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 four years ago, the M.O.S.T. initiative has supported the replacement of traditional textbooks with OER in 89 different courses at 19 public higher education institutions across the state, resulting in over $3.4 million in cumulative 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 a year in textbooks.
“When I register for classes, I have to figure out if I can afford the textbooks I need, or if I will fall behind in my assignments because I won’t have the materials for the start of the class,” said Montgomery College student Jackeline Claros. “With OER, I don’t need to worry about the cost of the textbook. The first time I took a course that used OER, I was able to jump right into the course with the materials I needed on day one.”
“OER changed my perception of how I approached my classes,” said USM Student Regent and University of Baltimore student William Shorter. “I was really engaged and I took control of my learning.”
In spring 2017, the Maryland General Assembly unanimously passed Senate Bill 424, The Textbook Cost Savings Act, which includes $100,000 as a grant to the Kirwan Center to support a statewide OER summit and an additional round of mini-grant funding for fall 2018. The OER summit, held at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in December 2017, convened over 500 faculty, instructional designers, library staff, and administrators to discuss accessibility and quality issues, learn the research on OER’s impact on student cost-savings, access and success, and participate in interactive workshops.
“We started the M.O.S.T. initiative in spring 2014 and were able to tap into those early adopters who were excited about the potential of OER - not just to save students money, but also to help faculty create learning materials to best fit their courses and their students,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of the USM Kirwan Center MJ Bishop. “Now, in the fourth year of the initiative, faculty, staff and administrator interest in OER has broadened dramatically in Maryland.”
The announcement of the 2018 High-impact OER Mini-Grant awardees coincides with Open Education Week 2018, an annual celebration of the global Open Education Movement to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. In addition to supporting faculty adoption of OER, the High-impact OER Mini-Grant Program will support faculty and institutions in developing and implementing plans to sustain and scale OER across Maryland public 2- and 4-year institutions. See the full list of 2018 grantees.