Thursday, June 24, 2010

Federal grant helping UIS make more textbooks available online

The University of Illinois Springfield will benefit from a recently awarded $150,000 federal grant that will provide online textbook access to students at all three U of I campuses.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin helped secure the funding from the Department of Education for the open-source project. Durbin has been a major supporter of lowering textbook costs on college campuses.

“For students here this is important, because it could save hundreds of dollars every semester,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service.

The idea behind open-source textbooks is to allow students to go to a website and download customized material for their course. The material is made up of a mix of resources already available on the web and resources provided by faculty.

“The real benefit of open source materials is it allows faculty to customize their courses and actually produce a better teaching-learning experience for students,” said Charles Evans, University of Illinois associate Vice President for academic affairs.

Evans says open-source material also cuts down on the use of paper. He’s now leading the system-wide push to make more online textbooks available.

Online textbooks are nothing new to many instructors at UIS. Schroeder estimates that about 15 to 20 percent of courses currently offer open-source resources.

“I don’t think I’ve had a formal textbook in a dozen years and yet I’ve been able to use quality materials that have been available on the web,” said Schroeder.

UIS hosted an Open Resources Symposium on June 24, 2010 on campus. Educators from 11 institutions attended the event to learn more about open-source learning.

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