USM Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation Awards Mini-Grants to Increase Use of Open Educational Resources at 12 Maryland Public Higher Education Institutions

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