University of Illinois Springfield senior Hailey Hollinshead and Associate Professor Layne Morsch met with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and others this week to discuss the Open Textbook Pilot program at the Department of Education.
The pilot is a $10 million federally funded competitive grant program for higher education institutions to create new and open educational resources and expand the use of textbooks to save students money.
Open college textbooks are textbooks that are freely available under an open license, allowing professors, students, researchers and others to freely access the materials.
Hollinshead was able to use an open, online textbook in her organic chemistry class, taught by Professor Morsch at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Morsch has served an integral role in securing open education resources for students. He is the Organic Chemistry Content Curator under a $5 million FIPSE grant (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education.) He has partnered with LibreTexts, a provider of open educational resources.
“To me, it is an issue of social justice,” said Morsch. “Students with less financial resources shouldn’t be disadvantaged by not having the same textbooks that other students can afford to buy. Before I switched to open educational resources, my organic chemistry textbook cost around $300, now that I use LibreTexts it’s free.”
According to a survey by U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, 65 percent of students in 2017-2018 decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost and 94 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade.
“Open textbooks provide an affordable and effective option for students and faculty," said Durbin. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to build on the federal investment in open textbooks in Fiscal Year 2020.”