WMU Libraries awards nineteen grants for open textbook adoptions

Posted by Sara Volmering on

The University Libraries awarded nineteen, $1,000 grants to twenty-one faculty and instructors to adopt open textbooks and content for their courses in 2019-20. Six Open Textbook grant recipients successfully adopted and used an open textbook in their spring 2020 courses, saving 798 WMU students over $184,000 in textbooks costs. The grants, awarded in December 2019 by the University Libraries, provide support and incentive to instructors interested in adopting open textbooks—low or no-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks.

The six courses were spread across disciplines in three different colleges—College of Arts & Sciences, Haworth College of Business and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Instructors reported that their students were appreciative of not having the extra expense of textbooks. In a follow-up survey, 69% of student participants reported that they felt their class performance was better because they had access to a free textbook. One student commented that "The free textbook provides significant financial relief. It caused me to have a more positive attitude towards the class right away, and I believe this encouraged me to do better in the overall course."

The 13 remaining grant recipients will implement open textbooks in their classes later this year. The courses supported by the grant could potentially save over $800,000 in textbook costs for 4,400 WMU students in 2020-21. The actual total savings will be affected by class enrollment.

"The Open Educational Resources Taskforce was pleasantly surprised at the number of applications we received for the grant. We calculated the potential savings based on the current textbook used in the course and the number of students that were expected to take the course in the coming year," said Maira Bundza, Scholarworks Librarian and taskforce chair.

"In my research for the application, I have found two open-source books that I will use in place of any purchased materials going forward. In addition to saving my students money, these texts also appear to be better pedagogical options," said Leah Omilion-Hodges, associate professor of Communication and open textbook grant recipient. "I want to thank the Library for sponsoring this grant. It was a nice reminder to take the time to consider how to make more student-focused decisions when adopting materials."

Instructors interested in using open textbooks or other educational resources in their courses are encouraged to contact their subject librarian for support. Open textbooks are readily available online for students to access without concerns about shipping or backorders from publishers. The ease of access, low cost and high-quality content are significant benefits to instructors and students using open textbooks, especially for courses delivered fully or partially online. 

2020 Adopt an Open Textbook Grant Recipients

  • Jon D. Davis, Mathematics, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Anthony DeFulio, Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Michael Famiano, Physics, College of Arts and Sciences
  • David Flanagan, Management, Haworth College of Business
  • Guanyue Hong, Computer Science, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Jennifer Klauth, Mandy Cox, and Marian Tripplett, Social Work, College of Health and Human Services
  • Megan Kowalske, Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Anita Li, Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Colin MacCreery, Computer Science, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Adam Matthews, Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Leah Omilion-Hodges, Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Nicholas Padilla, Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Anna Popkova, Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Doris Ravotas, Interdisciplinary Health Programs, College of Health and Human Services
  • John Saillant, History, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Wuwei Shen, Computer Science, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Mercedes Tubino-Blanco, Spanish, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Inna Voytsekhivska, Accountancy, Haworth College of Business
  • Michelle Weemhoff, Social Work, College of Health and Human Service

More about Open Educational Resources and Textbooks

Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license. This permits them to be freely used, changed and shared with others. OER includes everything from images and videos to textbooks and course curriculums.

Faculty at colleges and universities have developed open textbooks and course content in response to concerns about the affordability of traditional textbooks. Textbook prices have risen 1,041% since 1977, higher than medical costs and the Consumer Price Index.

Many students who can't afford their textbooks have found a simple, but concerning solution—they don't buy them. According to research sponsored by Florida Virtual University in 2018, 64% of students did not purchase a required textbook. In addition, 42% of students took fewer courses and 22% dropped a course due to textbook costs. Open education resources, including open textbooks, provide an alternative to expensive textbooks.

Visit the Open Education Resources website to learn more about the open education initiative at WMU.