University of Houston Libraries has received an anonymous gift of $100,000 to support the expansion of open educational resources (OER).
OER are teaching and learning tools, either in the public domain or released with an open license, that anyone can freely use and re-purpose. As universities across the U.S. have embraced OER, academic libraries have become central to the adoption of open educational materials in the classroom.
Commercial textbook costs have risen more than four times the rate of inflation over the past few decades, which have both financial and academic impact on many University of Houston students. A survey conducted by the UH Student Government Association found that over 37% of UH students reported not purchasing a required textbook due to cost.
While expensive textbooks prevent students from accessing course materials, OER provide free and immediate access to course materials, allowing students to be prepared on the first day of class, earn better grades, and stay enrolled in the course.
To help eliminate this barrier to student success, UH Libraries has created the Alternative Textbook Incentive Program (ATIP) for faculty to adopt OER for their curricula. Co-sponsored by the UH Office of the Provost, ATIP provides awards to faculty who take steps to implement an open or alternative textbook. In the 1st year of ATIP, 16 projects were awarded, resulting in student cost savings of over $203,000 for the 2018-19 academic year. In the 2nd year, 23 projects were awarded, with projected student cost savings of over $757,000 for the 2019-20 academic year.
ATIP is part of the burgeoning OER initiatives at UH. Ariana Santiago, open educational resources coordinator at UH Libraries, facilitates outreach and education for faculty on OER-related topics, and coordinates a growing community of practice on OER.
“This significant gift will allow UH Libraries to expand the OER program to improve the academic experience of our students,” said dean of UH Libraries Lisa German. “With this donation, we’ll be able to increase incentives for faculty who implement OER and increase the opportunity for students to academically succeed.”