North Dakota University System to Launch Open Textbook Initiative

In an attempt to lower the financial burden on students, the university system is pushing for the adoption of Open Educational Resources.

by Anna Burleson, Grand Forks Herald / November 4, 2015

(TNS) -- The North Dakota University System will continue to support an open textbook initiative with the hopes of saving students money.

Tanya Spilovoy, NDUS director of distance education and state authorization, said she recently acquired approval from State Board of Higher Education Chancellor Mark Hagerott to form an open educational resource (OER) steering committee made up of members from both inside and outside higher education.

"The next step is that institutions will be able to apply for appropriated dollars to start their own initiatives," Spilovoy said.

A Babson Survey Research Group report released in October shows faculty at the eleven NDUS colleges and universities are more aware of open educational resources than their national counterparts.

The study found surveyed faculty knew about the concept of using OERs—free educational materials for students—though the definition of them varied and judging quality was difficult.

Spilovoy said hurdles to adopting OERs are similar nationwide, so she held a well-attended workshop for faculty in early October and has connected faculty to the University of Minnesota's open textbook library.

"It's difficult to find materials," she said. "It's time-consuming, and what I'm trying to do is break down those barriers by providing the open textbook network, giving workshops and pointing them to the open textbook library."

At UND, textbooks cost students an average of $1,000 annually, according to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Moving forward, Spilovoy said schools will be able to apply for funds from a $110,000 pool of money for open textbook initiatives appropriated by the North Dakota Legislature during its last session.

"It's not a lot of money, but my hope is to see interest in open educational resources and try to be responsible and use it wisely," she said.

Most of all, she wants schools and faculty to come up with their own adoption plans and do what's best to meet their individual needs. The survey found faculty in North Dakota are more autonomous when it comes to the selection of course materials than their peers elsewhere in the country.

"That's a positive because faculty are the keepers of curriculum in North Dakota," Spilovoy said. "They get to make the decisions on the resources they use so it's promising when we present them with options, like free textbooks, they can choose them. Nothing is stopping them."

©2015 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.