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University system to test open source textbooks

1 September 2013 By Rachel Eldringhoff, contributing writer No Comments
Free books, professors able to tailor books for specific courses

With textbook prices burdening many students, college affordability is a main factor in a student’s education.

The University System of Maryland Student Council (USMSC) is hoping to relieve some of that burden by starting a pilot program called Maryland Open Source Textbooks (MOST).

“Open source textbooks are created using a variety of media and distributed under an open copyright license for free distribution to anyone who would like to make use of them,” M.J. Bishop, director of the Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching, said.

The pilot program will begin in the spring of 2014. It will take place “across the University System of Maryland institutions as well as others from the community colleges and independent universities and colleges across Maryland,” Bishop said.

“College Board estimates that the average student spends $1,200 per year on textbooks and materials,” according to USMSC.

President of the USMSC James Jalandoni said he believes open-source textbooks are a “comprehension solution for higher education.”

The success of the program depends on the faculty’s ability to be informed about MOST.

“Preliminary research by other institutions who have started open source textbook initiatives indicates that the biggest barrier to adoption is a lack of knowledge among faculty about what is available and where to find the resources,” Bishop said.

A faculty development workshop, sponsored by USMSC, will occur in the fall of 2013. It is important for faculty to understand how to obtain the materials so the students can easily understand the program.

“Teachers are able to tailor the books for specific courses,” Jalandoni said. “The textbooks are created under an open license with a specific publisher.”

However, any quotes taken from the sources have to be attributed to the authors of the textbooks.

If the pilot program is a success, open-source textbooks will not be mandatory. It is the prerogative of the faculty to choose whether they want to participate in the program, Bishop said.

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